Alleged hate crime takes place near campus

Oct. 8, 2014

By Alexandria Zamecnik

When Jordan Gittens – a sophomore at UW-Whitewater – left Barbados at age 13, he said he never would have imagined being bullied for being gay in the United States.  He figured the U.S. would be more accepting.

Late at night on Oct. 3, Gittens was walking home with a group of people from a friend’s house. As he walked arm-in-arm with one of his friends, he heard a group of males call him a “faggot,” outside of the Theta House near the 900 block of W. Main St.

Gittens, wanting to avoid a friend getting hurt, told the girl to go on without him.

After a confrontation between Gittens and the group, the situation escalated.

“One guy, he punched me in the lip, and I fell to the ground,” Gittens said. “His three friends started to kick me and punch me.”

When Gittens began to walk home after being attacked, he flagged down a police officer. He said the police did a good job solving the situation.

Twenty-four hours after the attack took place, Gittens said he was not sure if he wanted to continue attending UW-Whitewater. “There was a lot of crying,” Gittens said. “I cried a lot, and I realized that I couldn’t let the situation get the best of me. If I did let it get the best of me, they would win.”

If it wasn’t for the overwhelming support that Gittens received, he said he would have left school by the end of the semester.

“I saw the support I received from the people on campus,” Gittens said. “That made me realize I can’t think badly of the entire campus from the action of four guys.”

Although the City of Whitewater has not released an official report on whether the incident will be classified as a hate crime, Gittens said he believes it should be.

Chief of UW-Whitewater Police, Matthew Kiederlen said based on the public information he has received, and upon the knowledge of the incident, he would rule it as a hate crime.

“This did not occur on campus, so it’s not my decision,” Kiederlen said. “It happened out in the city jurisdiction so it’s up to them to make that classification formally.”

Matthew Kiederlen
Matthew Kiederlen

Kiederlen said students can do two things to help with the situation.

“One is to make sure that our local LGBT community know that they’re supported and that this is something not any of us find
acceptable,” Kiederlen said. “Secondly, which is the more obvious aspect, is that if you know something or saw anything when the assault and battery took place is come forward and let someone know.”

The City of Whitewater police department will take tips anonymously. Students do not need to have direct contact with the police station.

Any tips that lead to new information will help the police department.

With the attack near campus, some students may be worried about their own personal safety.Although students do not need to worry about their safety in the general sense, Kiederlen said the only way to remain safe is to always be thinking about it.

“We need to be cognitive of the situations we place ourselves in to ensure we are being safe as possible,” Kiederlen said. “If someone plans or desires to victimize you, it’s always going to be tough not to be victimized. By being aware of our surrounding, being cognitive of our own personal actions, we help to reduce the potential victimization.”

Students can call 9-1-1 if they are worried for their safety at any time. The university also offers escort services for individuals who are afraid to walk home alone.

“If there is an immediate fear that something is happening, please, call the police,” Kiederlen said.

Gittens said if he could go back in time, he would not have let his friends leave without him.

“Do not go off by yourself,” Gittens said.

Kiederlen said the most important thing the university and community can do with these types of incidents is make sure people understand that it’s something we don’t accept.

“You can’t stop stupid, but we can certainly affect those that want to learn and want to understand and want to be considerate of others,” Kiederlen said. “When we seek to gain understanding, I think we go a long way to getting rid of stupid and really developing a community.”