The police have confirmed two incidents of sexual assault, but can’t give any specific information.
The committees of several student clubs are warning members not to go out alone at night after female students were assaulted. “We’ve told them to make sure no one goes home alone, to stay in touch with each other via WhatsApp, send their live locations to one another and to walk or bike together to prevent anything from happening”, says Rosalie Klerkx, Augustinus’ President.
“I had already sent out a warning following reports that women were being accosted in the centre of town.” Last week, a man, hiding in a porch, allegedly attacked a student and pressed her up against a wall. She got away by kicking her assailant.
Klerkx sent a longer email after the incident. “We are keeping in touch with the police, the Local Chamber of Clubs and the committees of other student clubs to prevent this happening again.”
ISN, the international student club, have also posted a warning on their Facebook page: “Everyone should stay alert, and do their best to travel home in groups, send your live location to your friends when returning home, and if in danger CALL THE 112!”
“We thought it best to warn people”, says ISN committee member Sebastian Meyjer. “Better safe than sorry.” “I hope it’s a one-off, and that we don’t have an outburst of such incidents”, adds fellow committee member, Alexandra Sima.
“There’s been no increase”, says community police officer Dennis Perdok. “That’s not to say it’s not serious. Incidents are peaking right now, but when we look at the figures, we can’t say it’s happening more often”, he explains. “One newspaper had already mentioned a ‘serial attacker’ but nothing points to that at the moment.”
Nonetheless, more police will be on surveillance in the centre in the coming weeks. Perdok stresses that it is important to report anything that makes you feel threatened. “I’m always shocked by the lack of willingness to report an incident. We always need all the pieces of the puzzle, however small, so we can rid the streets of someone like this. If you think: ‘This isn’t right’, ring the police. Unfortunately, the incidents involved female students, so if you see a bloke waiting in a porch or someone keeps following you on a bike, ring the police. That’s what we’re here for, and here in Leiden, we’ll be there very quickly. Don’t wait, or think that it’s nothing to worry about.”
He recommends that you should “be aware”. “But don’t let the panic get to you, there’s already too much panic in this case.”