Belfast Telegraph

Belfast rape leads to calls for students to be vigilant

BY CHRIS KILPATRICK

Students have been urged to be careful after a young woman was raped in Belfast.

Detectives yesterday appealed for information following the serious sexual assault at Cameron Street in the Botanic area of south Belfast.

Shortly before 2.15am yesterday the 20-year-old woman was attacked by an unknown man.

He is described as being a foreign national and wearing a blue top.

Alliance MLA for south Belfast Anna Lo described the attack as "horrific".

"This was an appalling crime carried out by a despicable individual," she said.

"My thoughts are with this young woman. I hope she will be able to recover from what must have been a terrifying ordeal."

Ms Lo urged those in the area, in particular young people enjoying its nightlife, to be vigilant following the incident.

"This is an area very popular with students and young people working in Belfast," she said.

"I would urge people to be careful and do what they can to protect themselves.

"When out stick with a crowd and if alone make sure you get a taxi or stick to main roads and if you can, get a personal alarm."

It is not known whether the young woman is a student.

Ms Lo said such attacks in the area are rare, however she pointed to a spate of similar incidents in south Belfast in 2008.

The Queen's University Belfast students' union responded with safety advice and a major distribution effort to equip female students with rape alarms.

Police also stepped up patrols at that time.

DUP MLA for South Belfast Jimmy Spratt said: "It is vital that women can feel safe on the streets of our city at night.

"Reports of this despicable attack are of great concern and it is vital that the police can find those responsible."

Police are appealing for anybody with information to contact the Rape Crime Unit on 0845 600 8000.

BACKGROUND

South Belfast has a student population of more than 20,000.

The Botanic area is one of the busiest in that part of the city due to its vibrant nightlife.

In 2008 there were more than 20 reports of sexual assault in a seven-month period in south Belfast, prompting a large awareness-raising campaign which included the distribution of rape alarms to female students.

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