Three sexual assaults committed by strangers were reported in the same week only days after students began returning to their new apartments to start a new year in Madison.

University of Wisconsin Police Department spokesperson Marc Lovicott said they do typically see an increase in crimes during the beginning of the school year, mainly sexual assaults and robberies.

Lovicott said a few reasons why crime rates are up at the beginning of the school year is because new students are learning to live on their own in a new city and starting to experiment with alcohol.

“Oftentimes, we see smart decision-making decline as folks drink, and as intoxication levels rise, that also sets someone up as an easier target for a crime,” he said.

West Mifflin Street – Aug. 18

A stranger sexually assaulted a 21-year-old woman while she slept in her own home, a police report said. It was unclear whether a backdoor was unlocked at the home after a party in the residence, according to the report. The Madison Police Department released a sketch of the suspect.

Fahrenbrook Court – Aug. 20

A 21-year-old woman was sexually assaulted after she was followed by a stranger down Park Street and pulled into a parking lot at Fahrenbrook Court, police reports said. Marcus T. Boone, 27, was arrested and tentatively charged with first degree sexual assault, the report said. Detectives said the victim reported the incident right away and provided a thorough description of the suspect, allowing officers to immediately start reviewing surveillance footage and identify a person of interest.

21 N. Park St. – Aug. 22

A stranger sexually assaulted a 21-year-old woman in an alleyway near 21 N. Park St. while she walked home from State Street after going out with friends, a police report said. The suspect is described as a white male in his early 20s, approximately 5-foot-11 to 6-foot-2, with a muscular build, brown spiked hair and facial stubble.

These incidents raise concern in the campus community, but it is important to remember that an estimated 60 to 90 percent of sexual assaults go unreported, Kelly Anderson, executive director for the Dane County Rape Crisis Center, said.

That being said, it is atypical to see three consecutive cases where the perpetrator is a stranger, as about 80 to 85 percent of perpetrators target people they know, Anderson said.

“So many of these messages are focused on what women and girls ‘should’ do to avoid rape,” Anderson said. “The bottom line is, what should we as a culture be doing to make rape much less common. We talk about this as if somehow women and girls should avoid being raped without ever having the conversation about who’s doing this.”

Anderson said for students who are new to UW, it is important to be familiar to the perceived threats in a new environment, but prevention and protection should not stop there.

Anderson’s advice on what to do if an assault occurs:

1)   Contact the rape crisis center’s 24/7 crisis line at 608-251-RAPE.

2)  Contact the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner or SANE program at Meriter Hospital to have forensic evidence collected if you’ve been assaulted and want to report it.

3)   Know where the Rape Crisis Center is at 333 E. Campus Mall, room #7901 with any other inquiries.

Madison Police Department spokesperson Joel DeSpain’s advice to students on safety:

1)   Have a plan when you go out. Know who you are going with and how you are getting home. Stay with your friends. Don’t allow them to walk home alone.

2)   Travel in well-travelled, well-lit areas and be attentive. Look up from your cell phone to maintain situational awareness.

3)   Enjoy yourselves, but stay safe and know your limits when drinking.