Female students take safety precautions after surge of sexual assaults

Pepper spray and the buddy system are some preferred safety tactics


Peyton Sorosinski

(L-R) First-year biochemistry student Danna Ruiz and first-year criminal justice major Andrea Barriga outside Douglas Hall Tuesday, April 11, 2023. They said since recent reports of sexual assaults on campus, they are more aware of their surroundings and prefer to walk in groups.

Peyton Sorosinski

On the heels of recent sexual assaults reported on and nearby Sacramento State, female students say they are concerned for their safety and are taking precautions to defend themselves. 

Last year, there were several instances of reported sexual assaults on and nearby campus. Over the span of the last three months, there have been four more reported assaults on and nearby student housing, including two at Klamath Hall, one at Hornet Commons, and another at American River Courtyard

As a result, some female students at Sac State, like third-year political science major Devyn Savitch said they still don’t feel safe on campus.

“We come here to learn, we don’t come here to fight off a rapist,” Savitch said. “We come here for that purpose. The university’s purpose is to take care of the students so we don’t have to worry about it.” 

Tessa Irwin, a fourth-year social work major, said when she is on campus late, she stays where there are other people, like The WELL, so she isn’t alone. Irwin said some of the university’s resources are not well known to students who may need them.  

“I don’t really know how the whole escort system works, to be honest,” Irwin said. “I feel like there should maybe be a specific one for the dorms, especially because these [assaults] are happening at the dorms.” 

In order to defend herself, Savitch said she carries pepper spray. Additionally, she said she refuses to take night classes because she feels unsafe walking across campus in the dark after the recent sexual assaults. As a woman, she said she always has to be on alert.

We come here to learn, we don’t come here to fight off a rapist. We come here for that purpose. The university’s purpose is to take care of the students so we don’t have to worry about it.

— Devyn Savitch

“Being a woman I always have to be on alert,” she said. “I feel like a lot of male students don’t feel that fear and don’t recognize why we feel that fear or why [women] have that issue.” 

First-year criminal justice student Andrea Barriga said she and her friend Danna Ruiz, a first-year biochemistry major, use the buddy system while walking around campus at night. They both said they carry pepper spray. 

“I used to take a class at night and, when I would come out, the campus would be dark and empty,” Barriga said. “I always made sure I was with someone.”

Ruiz said though she has always been aware of her surroundings while on campus, her safety is something she worries about more now because of the recent sexual assaults.  

“It is in the back of my mind occasionally when I feel unsafe in an environment where I am alone and there is a guy somewhere near me,” Ruiz said. 

Fourth-year graphic design major Rylee Shiroma said she started taking night classes this year. Her safety precautions consist of parking by her friends, walking to classes with her classmates and carrying pepper spray. 

“I am more aware of my surroundings and gotta watch out for certain areas,” Shiroma said. “Especially compared to when I am home and then coming back to Sacramento. I feel more safe at home.”

The university said they have instilled efforts to combat issues with campus safety. On April 3, the Associated Students, Inc. organized a town hall focused on sexual assault prevention. 

There, a panel of administrators went over a Sexual Violence, Safety and Support Action Plan and other resources like the university’s escort services. At the town hall, Chief of Police Chet Madison, Jr. said he believed Sac State is a “safe campus.”

“This campus is safe,” Madison said multiple times during the forum. “My daughter attends this campus at night and I truly believe this is a safe campus.”

Sac State has recently hired a second confidential advocate, Madeline Hamill, for students seeking survivor resources. However, with the departure of Laura Swartzen, the university is back to just one and said they are still searching for her replacement. 

Students can reach WEAVE by phone at 916-278-5850 and through email at [email protected].