Student reports hate crime

Rebecca Rodriguez

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Feb. 20 at 6:15 p.m. UPDATE — UNF* sent a crime alert to all student emails at 5:50 p.m. on Feb. 20 about the hate crime.

Feb. 21 at 6:30 p.m. UPDATE — Sharon Ashton, Vice President of Public Relations, said UNFPD checked security cameras for the suspect on Feb. 21 in three different areas.

Sharon Ashton, Vice President of UNF Public Relations.
Sharon Ashton, Vice President of UNF Public Relations.

University President John Delaney requested that UNFPD to check the cameras.

Ashton said none of the footage yielded anything helpful to the investigation.

Ashton said UNFPD didn’t go through the initial process of deciding whether or not to put up the Clery alert, and decided to put one up after it was brought to the Public Relations Department’s attention.

Ashton received a copy of the report Feb. 20. She met with the General Council Office and President Delaney, and they decided to issue the crime alert.

Ashton said she thinks there was some initial confusion with the investigation.

The crime was first reported on Feb. 7 by the victim through an anonymous hotline call run by the Women’s Center, and then brought to UNFPD’s attention.

It took a week for the Women’s Center, LGBTRC, and UNFPD to track down the victim.

Ashton said the University is going back through the timeline of the investigation to see both how UNFPD handled everything and if any improvements need to be made.

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A hate crime was reported after a male suspect assaulted and verbally threatened a transgender student in a bathroom on Feb. 6.

The UNF Police Department did not check the few cameras in the area, and the case was suspended.

A UNF Women’s Center victim advocate contacted an officer on Feb. 14 about a hate crime.

The officer met with the victim at the Women’s Center. The victim self-identified as a transgender male in UNFPD’s report.

UNF has some gender neutral bathrooms. The majority of bathrooms on campus, however, are gender specific. Photo by Lydia Moneir.
UNF has some gender neutral bathrooms. The majority of bathrooms on campus, however, are gender specific. Photo by Lydia Moneir.

The victim said he was in the men’s restroom in building 51 around 10:10 a.m. on Feb. 6 when a male, the suspect, approached him. The victim was standing at the sink and the suspect became agitated that the victim was in the restroom. The UNFPD report said the suspect began spewing hateful comments at the victim.

The suspect said the victim was an ugly girl and an ugly guy, and said the victim doesn’t deserve to live. The suspect said he was lying to himself and said he should not be here. The victim tried to ignore the suspect, but the suspect continued with derogatory language. The victim tried to leave the restroom, but the suspect blocked the way and pushed him back.

The suspect then tried to reach under the victim’s shirt to touch his chest, and tried to put his hands in the victim’s pants. The victim tried to defend himself, struck the suspect in the jaw, and ran out of the bathroom.

The victim said he agreed to make the report after speaking to his friends and the victim advocate to bring awareness to this type of crime. The victim was not injured and refused to undergo a medical examination, according to UNFPD records.

The officer gave the victim a Victim/Witness Services Guide, and offered to drive him to the Sexual Assault Treatment Center. The victim declined transportation.

The victim was told to contact the police if the suspect was either located or identified.

The investigation is suspended because the identity of the suspect is unknown. The victim described the suspect as a short, white male with strawberry blonde hair.

“Word is all we have [of the suspect],” UNFPD Chief Bill Strudel said.

Officer Studel of UNFPD. Photo courtesy of UNFPD's website.
Officer Studel of UNFPD. Photo courtesy of UNFPD’s website.

Chief Strudel said a Clery report didn’t go out because there is a very limited number of people that would be affected by the warning.

Clery reports are required to be put up at universities when a crime is considered serious or an ongoing threat to students and faculty.

This was not reported as a sexual assault because UNFPD determined the incident dealt more with orientation than gratification. Strudel said the actions reported aren’t considered sexual assault under state statutes.

“We didn’t check any cameras because we didn’t think it was applicable,” Strudel said.

Strudel said there are a limited number of cameras in building 51. Strudel said this is the first hate crime of this sort that he has heard of, and feels that this is an isolated incident.

Kaitlin Legg, Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Resource Center (LGBTRC) program coordinator, said, “I think that it would be good for all students to be aware that a hate crime happened on campus.”

Legg said this is the first hate crime at UNF she is aware of, but said she was informed that other students also experienced hate crimes. She said not every student knows about UNF’s policies and procedures to help protect LGBT students. Similar incidents have happened, but they haven’t been reported, she said.

Legg said bathroom incidents like this one is a high rate problem in the community. She said as the campus gets bigger, this type of crime could become a bigger issue.

Legg said this incident could pose as a possible ongoing threat for trans students in ways big and small. She said trans students don’t feel safe using bathrooms. Legg said there are gender neutral bathrooms on campus, but UNF doesn’t keep track of all of them.

LGBTRC has a list on their website of all gender neutral bathrooms on campus. Legg said LGBTRC’s main goal is to be an area where students and members feel safe, and can receive some sort of healing or closure.

Kaitlin Legg of the LGBT Resource Center at UNF. Photo by Rebecca Rodriguez.
Kaitlin Legg of the LGBT Resource Center at UNF. Photo by Rebecca Rodriguez.

If a student is ever in a situation similar to this report, Legg said LGBTRC recommends the student get out of the area immediately, and then seek guidance either through LGBTRC, or the Victim’s Advocacy at the Women’s Center.

LGBTRC recommends that trans students take a buddy with them when they go to the bathroom.

Legg said, “It is important to make sure the University of North Florida and the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Resource Center won’t stand for any hate crime…acts like what happened in the police report will not be tolerated.”

Legg said all students should be able to exist on campus in a safe way, and if they want to learn more about LGBTRC to visit the center.

* 21/2/2014 — Correction made to source of crime alert.

Email Rebecca Rodriguez at [email protected]