There’s still time to nominate local icons for Best of D.C.
According to D.C. police, a sexual assailant known as the “Cuddler” has been terrorizing dorms and townhouses around Georgetown University since January 13, 2008. But when did that other scourge of the Georgetown campus—-the suspect’s creepily innocuous nickname—-first hit the Hoyas? No one knows for sure. Below, track the moniker’s rise in the campus lexicon. (Suspected “Cuddler” assaults are marked in red).
! January 13, 2008. According to D.C. police officer Helen Andrews, as quoted in Georgetown Voice blog Vox Populi, “The first incident” in the string of sexual assaults “occurred on January 13, 2008 in the 3700 block of R Street, NW.”
* March 4, 2008. University of Maryland’s student newspaper, the Diamondback, attributes two similar sexual assaults near the UMD campus to a “City Cuddler.” Kevin Litten, the Diamondback’s editor-in-chief at the time, sources the nickname to a phone conversation he had with Major Kevin Davis, a commander with the Prince George’s County Police Department. Litten says that Davis called the Diamondback with a tip about a new incident in a series of assaults where a man would enter a female’s residence, lie down next to her, and in some cases, sexually assault her.
“[Davis] called us up, and I recall him saying, ‘Our Cuddler has struck again.’ As soon as I heard him say ‘Cuddler,’ I knew that we were going to be using it in the headline,” says Litten. “I had never heard it around campus before we put it in that headline,” he says. “We expected that we were going to get some criticism for using the name from people who thought it was not appropriate . . . but as soon as I heard the police use the name, I thought, ‘that’s such a perfect descriptor for what this is.'”
Evan Baxter, an officer with the Prince George’s County Police Department, denies that PG County police originated the nickname. “We were not the ones that coined the term, and we’re not particularly fond of the term,” Baxter told me. “My understanding is that it got started by local media.”
! May 16, 2008.According to Officer Andrews, a “second incident occurred on May 16, 2008 in the 2400 block of Huidekoper Place, NW.”
* May 2008. By now, the nickname has hit the Georgetown campus—-having either jumped from the University of Maryland attacks or arisen on its own. According to a column in the Georgetown Voice, a group of Georgetown students named their wireless network the “Club Cuddler” in May of 2008 as an homage to the campus assailant.
View Suspected “Georgetown Cuddler” incidents in a larger map
! June 1, 2008. According to Vox Populi, another sexual assault “took place on the 1900 block of 38th Street, and the MPD has identified it as a crime.”
! June 26, 2008. According to Vox Populi, this sexual assault occurred “in the 2400 block of Tunlaw Road NW.”
* Aug. 20, 2008. A Washington City Paper story on local college newspapers commends the Diamondback for its “Cuddler” scoops. Georgetown newspaper the Hoya is also profiled in the piece, which was widely circulated among undergraduate journos.
! Sept. 5, 2008.According to a Georgetown campus alert: “during the overnight hours of Friday, September 5, an unknown male entered her bedroom, got into her bed, and put his arm around her. She awoke and got out of the bed. The suspect then left her room and exited the apartment.”
! Sept. 25, 2008.According to a Georgetown campus alert: “an unknown hispanic male entered [the victim’s] apartment through an unlocked and ajar door. The suspect took a blanket from a bedroom and put it on top of the complainant, who was sleeping on the couch. He then laid on top of her. The complainant screamed and the suspect immediately left the premises.”
* Oct. 7, 2008. The nickname hits Georgetown newspaper the Hoya‘s Web site, via the comments section. On a news report on the sexual assaults, a commenter writes, “Hall Directors and university officials KNOW about the legend of the creepy cuddler, and yet they do absolutly nothing to ensure the safety and well being of resident after resident over the years.”
* Oct. 28, 2009. The Georgetown Voice employs the “Cuddler” nickname for the first time, in a post on Vox Populi. In the same post, writer Will Sommer kicks around ideas for a more appropriate moniker: “The Voice was bandying around the Crapist (cuddle/rapist) earlier, and while accurate, that’s too close to grapist. Ideas?”
* Oct. 31, 2008. A “Cuddler” Halloween. At least one Georgetown student fashions a costume based upon the sexual assailant. Reports of the disguise’s particulars range from the literal—-pajamas, pillow, and blanket for laying on people—-to the lazy—-a plain, white T-shirt marked “GEORGETOWN CUDDLER.” Anna Bank, who interviewed one “Cuddler” costumer for the Georgetown Voice, says that the “Cuddler” costumes raised a red flag for her. “To go through the process of making a costume—-even a really simple one—-indicates that you’re putting time and effort into belittling and disrespecting a thing that happened to people,” she says. In the interview, Bank says that the student “said something about how he hoped that nobody who was a victim of the cuddling actually saw his costume, because he thought that that might be upsetting,” she says. “I thought that was weird, because if you’re actually aware that a victim might see the costume, maybe you shouldn’t wear it?”
! Jan. 30, 2009. According to a Georgetown campus alert: “[A] student living in the 1200 Block of 35th Street was awakened to find an unknown male in her bed. The suspect left the bed and headed for the bedroom door as the complainant asked, ‘Who is that?’ The suspect did not respond and left the residence.”
* Feb. 17, 2009. The Sexist suggests alternate nicknames for the “Cuddler,” including the “Georgetown Blanketlayer,” the “Georgetown Entrygainer,” and the “Georgetown Rapist.”
! Feb. 26, 2009. According to a Georgetown campus alert: “an unidentified male entered a student’s residence in the 3400 Block of N Street by an unknown means. The suspect crawled into the complainant’s bed while she was asleep. She was startled awake. The suspect subsequently left the bedroom and exited the residence by the front door.”
* Feb 28, 2009. The “Georgetown Cuddler” jumps on the Twitter bandwagon. The first Tweet from @thegtowncuddler:
! March 18, 2009. According to a Georgetown campus alert: “At approximately 4:20 a.m. on Wednesday, March 18, 2009, an unidentified male entered a student’s residence in the 3300 Block of Prospect Street by an unknown means. The suspect lay down on the couch with the student, at which time she was startled awake. The suspect subsequently left the residence.”
* April 1, 2009. The Hoya prints a mock interview with the suspect in its April Fools Issue called “Georgetown Cuddler: Why I Do It.” In the piece, the “Cuddler” character said, “A girl can never reject you when she’s comatose. As I see it, my success rate is 100 percent.”
* April 9, 2009. The Washington Post rejectsadiorama submitted to its annual “Peeps Show” contest inspired by the sexual assault suspect. Peeps Show judge Dan Zak explained why the entry didn’t make the cut: “It was removed at the last minute after editors raised a red flag out of—as Robert Gibbs would say—an “abundance of caution.” We apologized profusely to the dioramist, and she was very understanding.” The diorama, entitled “Peeping leads to cuddling,” was created by Annette Lee, and featured a sunglasses-wearing Marshmallow Peep “Cuddler,” a sleeping Lavender Peep Bunny victim, and a Twilight film poster.
* April 2009. The Georgetown Heckler, a campus humor magazine, publishes a satirical piece on the phenomenon entitled, “Mysterious Georgetown Coddler Leaves Students Shaken, Pampered.” “Obviously, sexual assault itself is not funny,” Heckler editor Jack Stuef wrote in an e-mail. “It’s just a pretty good pun that then derives humor from the weird situation and the nature of some students around here who are not exactly self-dependent.”
* April 24, 2009. The Hoya uses the “Cuddler” in a news story for the first time, in an investigative report dating potential“Cuddler” attacks back to 2005. The paper employs the nickname only once in a story of 1,350 words. Hoya editor-in-chief Kevin Barber says that the question of when to drop the “Cuddler” preceded him. “For a while before I became the editor, the question of whether to acknowledge the use of the nickname was up in the air,” he wrote in an e-mail.” In the end, my decision to mention the nickname in the April 24 story was motivated by my belief that we had an obligation to acknowledge the use of it by members of the campus community—-the use of that term is extremely widespread here at Georgetown.”
! July 25, 2009. According to an MPD report recovered by Vox Populi: “[The victim] was in her bed when an unknown subject entered her room, disrobed from the waist down, leaving his shoes on and climbed into the bed with her ad hugged her. [The victim] never look at [the suspect] because she assumed that it was her male friend that frequents her home. . . . [She] did not realize until an hour or so later that [the man]was not a friend of hers when he attempted to touch [her] while climbing on top of her placing his penis on her inner thigh. [The victim] further states that her male friend is gay so once [the man] started to touch her she instantly knew that it was not her friend in the bed with her.”
* July 30, 2009. The Georgetown Voice publishes a hoax letter from a man claiming to know the true identity of the “Georgetown Cuddler”: University President John DeGioia.
! Aug. 30, 2009. According to a Georgetown campus alert: “On Sunday, August 30, 2009 at approximately 6:30 a.m., an unidentified male entered a student’s residence in the 1200 Block of 33rd Street, NW, and lay down on the couch with her. The complainant was startled awake, at which time she told the suspect to leave, which he subsequently did.”
! Sept. 1, 2009.According to a Georgetown campus alert: “On Tuesday, September 1, 2009, at approximately 4:20 a.m., an unidentified male entered the residence of a student in Village A through a ground floor window. The suspect climbed into the bed of the complainant while she slept. The suspect began to sexually assault the complainant, whereupon she screamed and the suspect left the residence through the front door, fleeing in an unknown direction.”
* Sept. 1, 2009. Women’s blog Jezebel announces that the “man known only as the ‘Georgetown Cuddler'” is officially “even creepier than Edward Cullen,” the stalking-prone vampire hero of the Twilight series.
* Sept. 2, 2009. Feminist blog Feministing tackles the nickname, saying that its continued use “excuses the attacker, dismisses violence as acceptable, and condescends to survivors.”
* Sept 3, 2009. The “Cuddler” hits A1 of the Washington Post—-almost. Reporter Paul Duggan refrains from printing the nickname until after the jump, when the story delves into street interviews with Georgetown students. Their quotes are peppered with “Cuddler.”
“Oh, yeah, ‘the Georgetown Cuddler,’ ” said Clara Zabludowsky, a 21-year-old senior, invoking the commonly used nickname for the assailant or assailants — a moniker that police say is inappropriately cute given the nature of the crimes.
Said Eugenia Sosa, also 21 and a senior: “For April Fools’ Day, my friends knew I’d been thinking about it, so one of my guy friends was going to sneak into my bedroom and cuddle me. That’s how it’s being taken, I think — like it’s not that serious.”
. . . Tuesday’s incident occurred just four days after [Katherine] Everitt moved to Georgetown from her home in Los Angeles. “Before I came, I heard about ‘the Cuddler,’ ” she said. “It sounded like a joke, like some guy comes in and lays down next to you or whatever. . . . Now the whole reality of it comes into effect, and you don’t know if it’s a student or who it is.”
* Sept. 4, 2009. Gawker compares the widely differing descriptions of the suspect to confused racial stereotyping of President Barack Obama.
* Sept. 4, 2009. Georgetown University finally invokes “Cuddler”—-in a campus-wide letter telling students not to use the word “Cuddler.” “Descriptions that refer to some suspects as a ‘cuddler’ can detract from the serious nature of these incidents,” the letter read.
* Sept. 16, 2009. Staffers from the Voice discuss the use of the nickname in campus media—-and why replacement names like the “Crapist” have failed to catch on.
Photo by NCinDC