Univ. of Vermont Police apologizes for 'problematic' sexual assault alert

The University of Vermont Police Services found itself in hot water after sending an e-mail sexual assault alert including some “problematic” language to the campus.

The original alert, sent on September 28, detailed an incident which took place at the UVM Fall Fest on Sept. 27, where a man alledgidly forcibly groped a woman and placed his hands inside her pants. The alert included a description of the assailant and contact information for any leads.

The following paragraph stated “it is never a victim’s total responsibility to prevent an assault” but nevertheless gave a list of tips to “help you stay safe.” The tips included being aware of one’s surroundings, asking a sober friend for a ride home, avoiding leaving drinks unattended, and keeping an eye on your friends.

The alert posted on the UVM Police Services website on Sept. 30 redacted the paragraph in question and replaced it with two paragraphs including links to a handout on “common myths and facts about sexual assault” and sexual assault resources on the UVM Sexual Conduct & Education website.

A follow-up e-mail from Lianne M. Tuomey, Chief of UVM Police Services, explained the paragraph’s removal, calling its language “significantly inappropriate” for insinuating that “a victim may be partially to blame for not preventing sexual assault or misconduct.”

The e-mail expressed regret and apologized for “any confusion or harm” that may have been done by the “problematic” language. The e-mail further explained that the portion of the alert that was “taken from an outside resource and was meant to be changed before publication” and that its publication was a mistake.

Tuomey took full responsibility for the paragraph’s inclusion, saying she is “deeply sorry for this mistake, and for this critical error.”

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