The area surrounding the Davison Art Center is generally considered a safe space for students. However, it was the scene of an unprovoked crime this past Friday night when Claire Staples ’09 and Travis Fitzgerald ’09 were assailed by four youths outside of the building on High Street.
According to a Public Safety (PSafe) Alert released that same night, the assailants fled the scene and the victims were taken by ambulance to the Middlesex Hospital for treatment following the assault, which occurred at approximately 9:45 p.m. The Middletown police have currently detained three suspects, two of whom are juveniles.
Following a gathering at her house on Court Street, Staples and Fitzgerald were traveling up Court Street towards a friend’s house when they noticed four youths loitering ahead. The youths began to follow them, at which point Staples and Fitzgerald crossed High Street and headed towards safety at the CFA, where they both have studios. Staples then tried to flag down a passing PSafe patrol car, but it failed to notice her attempts.
“You know when you can tell that people are looking for trouble?” Staples said. “I was really sketched out by that.”
Within seconds, Staples was severely hit multiples times in the face by one assailant. Fitzgerald, after chasing the attackers, sustained minor injuries to the face and back. No weapons were used in the assault, and theft does not seem to have been a motive.
Following the attack, Fitzgerald called PSafe, and he and Staples, who was heavily bleeding, were taken to the hospital.
The affects of the assault have outlasted the incident itself. Staples, who bore the brunt of the attack, sustained an orbital blowout fracture below her left eye and received multiples stitches for cuts on her chin. Currently on Percocet to numb the pain, she is unable to attend classes or work on her senior thesis.
“I definitely thought that I was invincible,” Staples said. “Now I feel a little vulnerable. It all happened in like twenty seconds.”
According to Director of Public Safety Dave Meyer, such attacks on students are very rare.
“We usually don’t have any assaults on students,” Meyer said. “Usually there is an interaction before the incident. That’s what makes this so different. There is no indication that there were any attempts for robbery.”
Meyer is still actively pursuing the case with the Middletown Police department. Since the attack, he has deployed more PSafe officers to the area.
Friday’s PSafe alert was the first released this semester, and the fourth of this academic year. The prior alerts regarded two different burglaries and the firing of gunshots. PSafe does not yet have statistics for the overall campus crime rate of 2008.
The assault is particularly unsettling for Staples since it appears to be unprovoked and unmediated. Additionally, she feels that it was directed towards her not as an individual, but as a Wesleyan student.
“I was attacked because I was a Wes student,” Staples said. “It didn’t matter that it was me. It’s an isolated incident and yet it’s not an isolated incident. It was just a bunch of fucking punk ass kids.”
Staples, who has lived on the periphery of campus both during the summer and academic year, still considers Middletown a safe place to live. Both she and Fitzgerald do not fault the community for what happened or see this assault as an accurate depiction of relations between the University and greater community.
“It certainly hasn’t changed my opinion of Middletown,” Staples said. “I know that it’s not a good representation of Middletown. It’s still a great place to live.”
Friday night was the second time this year that Staples has been aggressively followed. Still, she and Fitzgerald found the location of the attack to be particularly surprising.
“It was at the Davison Art Center, I walk there everyday,” Fitzgerald said.
Staples wonders whether her attempt to flag down the PSafe car may have aggravated the assailants.
“I think that that was a sign,” Staples said. “Maybe us being intimidated by them made it a little worse.”
Fitzgerald, however, disagreed, noting that the youths were simply searching out trouble.
“They were going to attack us anyway,” Fitzgerald said. “It wasn’t about our stuff.”
Staples plans to hold an art show of photos chronicling her injuries in March at Eclectic. Anyone with further information regarding this case is asked to call Public Safety at 685-2345 or the Middletown Police at 344-3200.