Police in London, Ont., Are working with officials at Western University and questioning students after reports that up to 30 young women were drugged and sexually assaulted at a freshman residence over the weekend .
“Let me state at the outset that these are serious and disturbing allegations and were taken seriously from the start,” London Police Chief Steve Williams said at the meeting. ‘a virtual press briefing on Tuesday afternoon.
But police have not received any reports of the drug or sexual assault allegations at Medway-Sydenham Hall over the weekend or in recent days, Williams added, despite thousands of comments on Instagram and the app. of TikTok video sharing claiming that incidents occurred at the residence.
“The allegations have surfaced, at least for us, on social media. We all know how misinformation circulates around social media, and we need to heed it,” Williams said.
These are serious and disturbing allegations and they were taken seriously from the start– London Police Chief Steve Williams
Social networks can be a help and a hindrance in investigations, he added.
“A lot of investigations involve some aspect of social media and our investigators know that. It’s really about knocking on doors and talking to people to get the facts, and that’s exactly what we started doing yesterday. [Monday] and we’ll continue to… see where the investigation takes us. ”
Student arrested, released
Police also dispelled rumors that the death of 18-year-old freshman Gabriel Neil was in any way linked to the sexual assault investigation.
“These two incidents should not be linked in any way, and these types of unfounded comments hurt Mr. Neil’s family,” Williams said.
Neil died after an alleged assault near campus, in Sarnia and Western Roads. A 21-year-old has been charged with manslaughter.
London morning7:14Investigation of several allegations of sexual violence at Western University
Students have expressed fears and concerns over the difficult start to the new school year, as in-person classes returned after months of alternatives to learning due to the pandemic.
Police in London usually do not investigate the allegations made on social media, but have opened an investigation into what may have happened at Medway-Sydenham Hall.
“We are actively working with Western University to identify and support all victims and to ensure that a full investigation is conducted,” said Williams.
London police received three complaints of sexual assault last week involving four female students. A student was arrested in connection with one of the complaints, but has since been released and has not been charged, police said.
“There is currently no information linking the three previous allegations to events which allegedly occurred at Medway-Sydenham Hall, but these incidents are still under active investigation, which will include examination of any possible link. between various incidents. ”
“We believe in survivors”
Western University President Alan Shepard also attended the press conference, saying the allegations on social media are troubling.
“Safety and security on campus is a top priority for us, the highest priority. Recent events do not reflect Western values and they are not the Western experience that we would want for our students, and frankly, it doesn’t reflect Western values. tis not the kind of experience that everyone would want for young people as they embark on this wonderful new chapter in their lives. “
Gender-based violence is “pervasive” in society and on college campuses, and officials are working to combat it, he said.
“I think all universities have work to do when it comes to sexual violence, and I don’t think Western is the only one in this regard,” Shepard said. “We have increased our ability for students to get help when they need it. We have also tried to clarify the process by which people can report. Let’s be clear: we believe and trust the survivors and we work to support them. them.”