It was just after Ally McBeal ended Nov. 16, 1998 when junior Jena Valdetero’s life changed forever.
Walking to the Eastern Market Metro station from a house-sitting job in Southeast D.C., Valdetero and a friend saw two men walking toward them.
She and her friend started to cross the street and one of the men pulled out a gun and told them to get down on the curb.
I knew as soon as I saw them, Valdetero said. I can’t describe the feeling – it was complete intuition.
Attacks on GW students are nothing new.
Most recently, at 9 p.m. Oct. 11, a female GW student walking on Virginia Avenue near the Hall on Virginia Avenue was attacked when two men approached her, took her back pack and fled on foot, said Dolores Stafford, director of the University Police Department.
Both men were black, between the ages of 20 and 30, Stafford said. One man was described as about six feet tall, weighed 180 pounds and wore dark jeans and a jean jacket. The other suspect was about 5-feet 9-inches, weighed about 170 pounds and wore a red bandana, Stafford said.
The night before, at about the same time, a similar incident occurred at 24th and G streets. UPD was notified of the robbery through Metropolitan Police, Stafford said.
UPD crime logs show three other incidents of assaults, robberies or thefts in public places in the area during September.
Since the beginning of the academic year there have been a number of assaults and robberies on and around campus, but totals are not available yet, Stafford said.
GW campus crime statistics from 1997 to 1999 – discounting alcohol violations – show crime incidents are down by about 18 percent.
Overall reported crime in D.C. has decreased by more than 38 percent since 1993, and about 20 percent since 1997, according to the MPD Web site.
At GW, Reported burglaries decreased about 45 percent from 1997 to 1999 and reported larcenies decreased about 15 percent from 635 to 538. During that period aggravated assaults decreased from 10 to zero and robberies decreased from 13 to five, while the number of reported sex offenses increased from five to six.
As far as other schools in our market basket, I would say we’re at least comparable if not safer, Stafford said.
In the most recent attack, UPD responded immediately, Stafford said. The young woman involved requested that UPD contact MPD for assistance. MPD officials arrived with a police dog that was able to track a scent for a few blocks before losing the trail, Stafford said.
Jena Valdetero, the student held up near Eastern Market, said she still remembers how in the cold November air the men made her and her friend lie face down on the curb. The attackers demanded their money.
It was terrifying, she said. I kept thinking `I can’t believe I worked so hard to get to GW and to get to D.C. and after two and a half months my life is going to end on the freaking streets.’ I had this complete sense of shock and disbelief.
Valdetero said it has taken her two years to recover from the incident. She still remembers the moment when one of her attackers asked her for her backpack. She threw it at his feet and pointed to the pocket where her wallet was.
The man with the gun was behind the two women, going through Valdetero’s friend’s back pocket. The man then stuck his hand up Valdetero’s skirt.
Everything was so quiet and so completely shocking, she said. Then I heard a scream. I didn’t realize for a minute that it was me screaming.
The men took off running and Valdetero and her friend ran to the Metro station and called MPD and later UPD.
Later that evening, the police arrested three suspects driving a stolen car with Valdetero’s credit cards inside, she said.
Valdetero said now she does not walk alone after 11 p.m.
At GW, when you’re on campus, you tend to have a very false sense of safety, she said. I think the biggest thing for me was that I felt every sense of safety I had was completely taken away.