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Thursday, July 30, 2015

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Officials: ‘Rape Trail’ more urban legend than fact

“Short cut to class by day; Rape trail at night,” reads the writing typed on top of a photo posted on Quickmeme.com of MSU’s leaf-strewn walkway next to the Red Cedar River.

Photos, blogs and commentary on the forested walkway along the Red Cedar River and behind dorms such as Holmes, McDonel and Shaw halls flood online searches for the topic of the informally-named MSU “rape trail.”

Although MSU students might fear the nights they walk alone along the banks of the Red Cedar River, the “rape trail” isn’t real, according to MSU officials and the term might be creating a false sense of fear on campus.

Using the term “rape trail” not only gives the wrong impression about the walkway next to the Red Cedar River on campus but about rapes and sexual assaults themselves, MSU sexual assault program coordinator Shari Murgittroyd said in an email.

“I’m not aware of any rapes that have occurred on the ‘rape trail,’” Murgittroyd said.

“It is a myth that rapists are strangers attacking in dark alleys, along wooded pathways or unlit parking lots.”
-Shari Murgittroyd, MSU sexual assault program coordinator

“It is an urban legend that is perpetuated by students and community members who call it that for dramatic purposes and in some cases, to perpetuate a fear-based culture.”

MSU police Sgt. Florene McGlothian-Taylor said she has not known of a single incident during her 23 years at MSU in which there was a rape or sexual assault on the walkway. She said to her knowledge, the last sexual assault on the trail was in the 1970s.

Murgittroyd said about 80 percent of rapes are committed by someone the victim knows and most rapes occur in either the victim or assailants’ home.

“It is a myth that rapists are strangers attacking in dark alleys, along wooded pathways or unlit parking lots,” she said.

No preference freshman Cailin Ashbaugh said although she knows some students are afraid of the “rape trail,” the informal name didn’t even cross her mind when she had to walk the trail alone at night.

“I felt completely safe,” Ashbaugh and several other students walking near the Red Cedar said Wednesday night.

Staff writer RuAnne Walworth contributed to this story.

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