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USF student, 17, is raped in her dorm room

TAMPA — After a 17-year-old University of South Florida student went to a dorm room party last weekend, two men brought her to her room across the hall and raped her, court records show.

It is the third rape reported on the USF campus so far this year, more than or equal to the annual totals for several recent years. One rape was reported in 2009, three in 2008 and two in 2007.

University police are investigating the rape and have not charged anyone, said police spokeswoman Meg Ross.

The assault occurred about 2:30 a.m. Sunday, Ross said. Investigators believe the perpetrator or perpetrators knew the victim, she said.

"We teach awareness and avoidance, but the victim is not at fault," Ross said. "When we're talking about acquaintance rape, it's really part of our job here on campus to make sure that students are aware of these dangers. The rapist can look like any other guy on campus."

On Sunday, USF police searched the victim's dorm room at the Magnolia Apartments on campus and took used condoms, a search warrant filed Thursday states. On Monday, they searched a man's Tampa home, where they confiscated a pair of boxers and two condoms. They swabbed the 22-year-old man's mouth to get a DNA sample.

Ross declined to discuss specifics of the case, saying it is still active. But court records say two men sexually assaulted the woman as she went in and out of consciousness. According to an affidavit for a search warrant, they ignored her pleas to stop.

She finally was able to push one of the men off, and she ran to a friend to get a phone, the affidavit states. The rape was reported to police at 8:25 a.m. Sunday.

There is no campuswide policy about visitors to dorms. Instead, students in each hall create their own rules, and any visitors must be permitted in by all of the roommates, said Ana Hernandez, USF's dean for housing and residential education.

This past year, USF launched the REAL Men program, which educates men about gender issues and sexual violence.

"Men can be the proactive voices in solving violence against women," said Kevin Banks, USF's assistant vice president for student affairs and dean of students.

Students can also sign up for a recently launched program called the Guardian program. If a student expects a walk from the library to the dorm to take 15 minutes, for example, he or she can set a cell phone timer for that duration.

If the student doesn't call to cancel the timer, university police will be alerted and given critical information. That could include a physical location using a global positioning system, if the cell phone carrier provides it.

"Hopefully we'll have a lot of students who sign up for it," Hernandez said.

Staff writer Alexandra Zayas contributed to this report. Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at jvandervelde@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3433.

Fast facts

USF safety information

• USF Police Department, usfpd.usf.edu

• USF division of student affairs, sa.usf.edu

• Guardian program, mobull.usf.edu

USF student, 17, is raped in her dorm room 07/22/10 [Last modified: Friday, July 23, 2010 5:23pm]
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