Why is Alert Carolina afraid to say ‘Sexual Assault’?

The only thing that alert made us aware of was that ‘fondling’ is still a word

The wonderful Alert Carolina strikes again. In case you didn’t get the “timely” email from Alert Carolina at 3:42 p.m. this afternoon, the language read as followed:


UNC Police is currently investigating the report of an incident of a male fondling a female victim in UNC’s Davis Library around 11 a.m. today (Thurs., April 27).

The suspect was described as male in his mid-40’s, about 5-8 in height, and weighing around 200 pounds.  He was wearing a fisherman-style hat, a short-sleeved tan shirt with a black collar, dark pants, a gold watch, and carrying a green backpack.

If anyone has information concerning the identity or whereabouts of this individual, please call 9-1-1.

The text message was even less descriptive, suggesting that UNC was “investigating a fondling incident.”

There are a lot of things wrong with how Alert Carolina decided to handle this incident.

First, the idea of Alert Carolina is that it is supposed to issue a timely warning.  Hearing a description of the assailant nearly 5 hours later does not help any victims he may have laid his hands on after the initial attack nor does it increase officials’ likelihood of getting a tip on his whereabouts. He could honestly be in South Carolina by now.

But a bigger issue is that UNC did not clearly state that it was a sexual assault. NO WHERE in the alert were those words used. Fondling is certainly a form of sexual assault. However, using the word “fondling” is in no way okay in cases like this. Many students may assume ‘fondling’ insinuates a consensual hookup that occurred in the library–which is also illegal and would be investigated. That keeps them from understanding the true threat to their safety. It is only in the email that the alert suggests there was an assailant and a victim. If someone just saw the text, they would have no idea.

Using the word “fondling” really downplays the issue in most people’s minds– probably because it makes most of us think of a dad telling a boy “no fondling!” before he takes someone on a date. Why did they not want to say ‘sexual assault’? Is UNC scared to use that word because it would ruin their reputation of being a “safe” school?

After all, how can we be a safe school when our students can’t even use their library safely? I understand that UNC has students, faculty and visitors of all types– but how public should our libraries be? I considered Davis to be a safe place for me to study, but apparently not anymore.  There are so many other places a girl feels scared and vulnerable at: fraternity parties, late night walks to a friend’s house alone, and even Franklin Street during any time of day. Why can’t the damn library be one of the few safe spaces for women not to be worried about being sexually assaulted?

My sympathies are with the victim. She was only trying to use one of UNC’s fine academic resources to study and a creep decided that he was going to “fondle” her. If you are on campus, keep an eye out for this guy and call 9-1-1 to give this lady some justice!