7/24/2014

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Student sexually assaulted near PSU dorm; police search for suspect

Student sexually assaulted near PSU dorm; police search for suspect

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Police are looking for a man who sexually assaulted a Portland State University student in downtown Portland Monday morning.  

The 27-year-old woman said she was walking to her dorm, the Stratford Residence Hall, near SW 10th and Market Street at about 3:15 a.m. and remembered a man following her.

Then she was hit on the head and woke up in an alley behind her dorm. The woman said she had been sexually assaulted and did not know her attacker. She was taken to a hospital, treated and released, police said.

Police responded and searched the area with a dog but did not locate a suspect. He is described as a white male in his mid-30s with an unshaven face, pronounced cheekbones, shaggy light brown hair and wearing a dark sweatshirt and jeans.

The woman was treated at a hospital. PSU officials said the victim will meet with counselors and the school will work to give her any other care and counseling she needs.

"I was just blown away. Completely blown away," said student Cathy Symes, who lives in the same dorm as the victim. "It isn't something that's specifically, that's ever happened here."

Symes said she and other students have talked about how students should be more aware of their surroundings because of the nature of the PSU campus.

"This is a location at the edge of an urban campus and so there's always concern," said Symes.

The Stratford Residence Hall is coed dorm for students 21 and older.

PSU is the only urban university in the country that doesn't have its own armed police force. Students who spoke with KATU News on Monday had mixed reactions to that possibility.

"I think maybe more security cameras and stuff would make me feel safe," said student Caitlin Smith. "I don't really like the idea of guys walking around looking like they're going to fight someone."

"I think it would provide some benefit, especially at night when some people have night classes, because a lot of classes at PSU are done at night, especially for females who are a little bit more exposed to dangers," said student Ian Hudson.

Oregon lawmakers gave universities the option to add their own police forces last year.

PSU Security Chief Phil Zerzan said right now, any campus investigation has to go through the Portland Police Bureau.

"We can't write search warrants, we don't have community caretaking functions," said Zerzan. "There's a lot of gaps. And I think that's something that the university is taking a critical look at."

PSU Communications Director Scott Gallagher said the school has worked to remind students to be safe around campus by walking with a friend at night.

He said students who have concerns while on campus should "reach out to Portland Police or the Campus Security Office." He also said students were sent an email about the incident.

The security office did not send out a campuswide emergency alert because the suspect was gone and there was no immediate threat, officials said.

Anyone with information about the assault is asked to contact Detective Jason Christensen at 503-823-0894.

Students who spoke with KATU News said they can only hope it was an isolated incident.

"I can't even imagine. It must be horrible," said student Gilla Brooks. "This is supposed to be a place of safety and community, so it's sad."

KATU's Melanie Wingo and Bob Heye contributed to this story.

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