Students urged to get home safely after alleged sexual assault

Students are being advised to stay safe whilst enjoying college nightlife following an alleged sexual assault on a 20-year-old female in Dublin’s Phoenix Park last week.

The DCU student claims that she was held against her will by a taxi driver following a night out at Copper Face Jacks nightclub.

After socialising with friends it is thought that the young woman got into the taxi alone. The victim has told Gardaí that she was raped close to the Wellington Monument in Phoenix Park shortly after 1am and then driven to DCU campus accommodation where she raised the alarm.

Gardaí in Cabra Station have spoken to the alleged taxi driver, who is a Dublin native. The man’s car has been seized for further forensic examination.

He has claimed that he had consensual sex with the student and then entered his contact details into her mobile phone with the intention of meeting up again. The student reported these details along with the taxi registration number.

Whether the young woman was in a position to consent to having sex with her alleged attacker is in question, with Gardaí treating the incident as “serious”.

DCU’s Students’ Union President, Aaron Clogher stressed that “travelling in numbers both on and off campus is important for student safety”. He also said to “look after each other and never leave somebody alone on a night out.”

Fiona Neary, Director of the Rape Crisis Network, urges anyone “who feels uncomfortable or that a taxi driver is inappropriate, particularly sexually, to make a complaint.”

In previous years, DCU campus security has also advised students to stay safe in the vicinity and travel in groups following a number of assaults on the college grounds.

A new campaign launched by Hailo and drinkaware.ie has also highlighted concerns for the safety of students around the country as the new college year begins. Both have teamed up to promote the “Get Home Safe” campaign aimed at getting students home safely.

Hailo is a free smartphone app that allows users to flag a taxi from their current location, giving access to a licensed and reputable taxi driver in just two taps.

The app is already available in almost a dozen major world cities, and has now arrived in Dublin, Cork, Galway and Limerick. It ensures optimum safety after nights out as each driver is approved individually, each journey is tracked and students don’t have to roam the streets until the small hours to hail a taxi.

General Manager of Hailo Ireland, Tim Arnold, said “As the college year gets started, it’s a safe bet that students won’t just be focusing on the academic side of things. However, it’s important to stay safe and ensure that you have a reliable way of getting home.”

Drinkaware.ie is using the campaign to promote responsible drinking amongst students. The organisation is offering tips for students to get the most out of the social scene while also being sensible.

Chief Executive of drinkaware.ie, Fionnuala Sheehan, advised that “pacing your drinking will help you enjoy your night for longer and put you in a good position to get home safely at the end of it. Simple things like alternating your drinks with water and eating before you drink are practical ways to help you pace yourself.”

As part of the campaign, both organisations will be giving away free goodie bags at university campuses to those who tweet #SafeHome13 or post it to the Hailo Ireland Facebook page. Goodie bags will include a five euro taxi voucher, a t-shirt and a drinkaware.ie guide to student life.

Ciara Moore and Ruth Marnell

Image Credit: Anne Marie Kelly

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