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Drink linked to UH attacks


An attack on a University of Hawaii student in her dormitory room Wednesday night was the fourth sexual assault reported at the Manoa campus since August, a UH official said.

The Manoa campus typically gets reports of one or two sexual assault cases a year, said Capt. Donald Dawson, of the Campus Security Department.

Three of the assaults took place in dormitory rooms, and the fourth took place on the lower campus. But Dawson and another campus official said the cases are unrelated and occurred under different circumstances.

They noted that in at least three of the cases, the victims knew their alleged assailants.

Officials said that in at least two of the cases, the new caffeinated alcoholic beverage, Four Loko, may have played a role.

Containing 12 percent alcohol along with a heavy dose of caffeine, the beverage is popular among college students across the country and has been nicknamed "blackout in a can." The drink has been banned in Michigan and Washington, and other states might follow suit. A ban is in place or is being considered on several college campuses as well.

Four Loko, with its potent punch, has been a topic of discussion among Manoa campus officials.

"It’s not available on campus. That’s not to say it’s not available just off-campus," said Gregg Takayama, university spokesman.

Campus residence halls are working on an alcohol education program aimed at the nearly 4,000 dormitory residents.

"They’re most vulnerable because they live with other students, and in that kind of atmosphere, drinking becomes part of social behavior," Takayama said.

Wednesday night’s incident was reported at Hale Wainani dorm. A student resident told authorities she was sexually assaulted in her dorm room during the night by a man she had met on the Internet.

The suspect has been identified and is not believed to be a UH student, campus security said. Honolulu police are following up on leads, campus security said.

The university issued a campuswide e-mail alert to students, faculty and staff because no suspect has been arrested, Dawson said.

In an Oct. 24 incident, a Hale Noelani resident reported to police and campus security that she was sexually assaulted in her dorm room. The assailant was someone she knew, she said.

The suspect in that case is also believed to be a nonstudent. The university also issued a campuswide alert at that time. While police had a suspect, the case was dropped after the woman declined to cooperate, Dawson said.

In a September incident a resident of Frear Hall reported that an intoxicated acquaintance forced his way into her room and fondled her against her will, Dawson said.

The suspect in that case was arrested shortly thereafter, he said.

The fourth case occurred in August but was only recently reported, Dawson said. An employee walking to her car late at night from her lower campus office was followed by two males who forced her back to her office and assaulted her, he said.

Dawson urged students, faculty and staff to observe several guidelines.

"First and foremost, don’t abuse alcohol," he said, noting that the caffeinated alcoholic beverage may have been a contributing factor in some of the cases.

Dawson also advised that anyone meeting someone face to face for the first time should bring a friend and hold initial meetings in a public place. That includes someone whom a person may be talking to over the Internet for some time. "The person may be totally innocent and wonderful initially, but you have no way of checking things out," he said.

Finally, "just be aware of where you’re at and what’s going on around you," Dawson said.

At the first sign of trouble, people should try to call 911 or, on campus, 956-6911. Better yet, program those numbers into cell phones, he said. Emergency call boxes are also available across the campus, he said.

Takayama said people should be aware of the people they are drinking with. "Be conscious of your surroundings and who you’re with," he said.

About 21,000 students are enrolled at the Manoa campus. Adding in faculty, staff and visitors, the campus population swells to 30,000 people daily.

According to reports required to be filed at all college campuses, there was one reported sex assault at the Manoa campus in 2009, five in 2008 and three in 2007.

Anyone with information on a campus crime is urged to call HPD at 911 or Campus Security at 956-6911.


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