NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) - Old Dominion University students voiced concern about their safety Wednesday due to a sexual assault reported last week close to campus.
Police say a masked man forced himself into a student's home on 41st Street Nov. 21 in the middle of the night and sexually assaulted her.
"It's really scary," ODU senior Carolyn McMullin said. "It's hard to sleep at night sometimes."
Those sleepless nights started after the sexual assault, but haven't gone away.
"We were up at night talking about it for a long time just imagining that if were to happen to any of us," senior Casey Toney said.
Toney lives in a house with eight other girls who all feel anxious about the incident.
Online, students are posting about several break-ins around the off-campus area during the past few days. Some say suspects are targeting sorority girls but McMullin disagrees.
"I don't think it's necessarily sorority girls that they are targeting," McMullin said. "I just think it happens to be girls in general."
"Every time you have the community afraid, it's concerning," ODU Police Chief Rhonda Harris told WAVY.com. "As a police chief, I don't want the community afraid. We're a university. We want people to come here, we want them to feel safe, we want them to get good grades and to have a good experience."
Harris says there is no reason to believe suspects are targeting women, but she is meeting with sorority members to see if she can ease some fears.
"It's the off-campus areas a lot of times where people aren't as conscious about locking their doors and windows," Harris said.
She said her department frequently goes to off-campus homes and reminds students about safety. Toney admits she and her roommates need to take more safety precautions.
"We just need to lock up better," Toney said. "We were never really strict on locking up, [but] we called our landlord and got our windows fixed."
Last week's sexual assault is being investigated by Norfolk police, who say the suspect is still on the loose.
"You never know what could happen," McMullin said. "You think you're safe in your own bedroom. You may not be."
Norfolk police say there have been three other reported sexual assaults in the last week close to ODU. These involved alcohol, a known acquaintance and an unwillingness to prosecute. None of them were break-ins.
ODU police say they will meet with Norfolk police to exchange notes in efforts to keep the community safer. ODU officials say they do post crime reports that happen on and in the area just off campus.
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