Student leaders and Campus Safety expressed relief after Portland detectives arrested a former Portland State student Thursday, in connection with a crime committed near campus. Jason Henry Norton is accused of requesting to photograph a woman as she walked alone on Southwest Montgomery Street during the late afternoon of July 4 and is believed to be involved in the sexual assault of another woman in April 2004.
Campus Safety issued two e-mail alerts to all students last month that included a sketch of two suspects, the other accused of grabbing and exposing himself to a woman in an unrelated incident.
Norton is also being charged on two counts of sex abuse in the second degree, one count of sex abuse in the third degree and one count of contributing to sexual delinquency of a minor, according to Portland Police Bureau documents.
“I’m grateful that they were diligently investigating this and that they’ve found the person,” said Women’s Resource Center Coordinator Aimee Shattuck.
This sort of ‘hands-off’ case where there is no physical contact with the victim is not normally so thoroughly pursued, Shattuck said, adding that the high level of attention the case had received had her worried that there was more to the story than what police were revealing.
“I haven’t seen this level of public notification before, and I was very concerned for women’s safety,” said Shattuck who has been with WRC for five years.
She sees the apprehended suspect’s list of charges as confirmation of her concerns.
Still, she thinks the police handled the matter well. “It’s not like being more explicit with his suspected crimes would have made anyone more safe.”
Campus Safety Director Michael D. Soto said that active PSU community involvement helped lead to the suspect’s apprehension. Although he could not yet comment on the specific details, Soto said he received a phone call from the detective in charge acknowledging Campus Safety’s contributions. “He thanked us for the hard work we put into this. The community effort paid off,” he said.
No arrests have been made in regard to the other case brought to students’ attention by the Campus Alerts, wherein a woman fought off a man who tried to accost her downtown on the night of June 29.
Many students under the impression that these sorts of crimes are common wondered why these two particular cases were receiving so much publicity. However, Soto and Shattuck said that reports of people being threatened by strangers in public are rare. Shattuck advises that while informing people of these unsolved crimes is important, students should be aware that the vast majority of sexual assaults involve acquaintances.
“[These alerts] can send a message that these people are the most dangerous and you’re safer at a party,” she said, adding that she was disappointed though not at all surprised that Norton had been part of the PSU community at one time.
She hopes that continued efforts by groups like WRC will create a safer environment for students. According to the National Institute of Justice, one in four college women have been raped by the time she graduates, and Shattuck says that at least one man per year comes to WRC saying he was assaulted. “We don’t want to scare people, we want to change the culture of what’s okay. For instance, if you’re at a party, it’s not okay to have sex with someone who’s falling down drunk.”