Sexual battery incident causes students to question campus safety
By MADISON PACE
On Thursday, Nov. 16, a sexual battery took place on campus in the parking lot behind the Simpson Library and Pollard Hall around 3:35 pm. According to Marty Morrison in a school-wide email, a male wearing a black sweatshirt and blue sweat pants, approached a female student and grabbed her buttocks. After she confronted the male about the situation, he told her that he was joking with her and ran towards the direction of the Eagle’s Nest located in Woodard Hall.
At the time of the reported situation, the campus police conducted an intense search of the campus to find the male. The suspect was described to be a black male, 5 foot 6 inches in height, 160 lbs., short haircut with slight facial hair. Since the sexual battery incident, the male suspect was identified and interviewed by police investigators.
During the interview, the male perpetrator admitted his guilt. The investigation is still ongoing and charges are pending. The perpetrator has now been banned from coming onto campus property. The University handled the situation professionally by informing the campus community of the recent situation but also pursuing the investigation, which led the police to the perpetrator.
Dean of Student Life, Cedric Rucker said, “Prevention [on these types of situations] is an ongoing occasion as we keep students aware with the ongoing awareness of safety and resources available for proper precautions.”
One way the university helps keep students safe is through the Blue Light System all around campus. This system allows students to call an escort to walk them back to their designated location.
After the recent sexual battery incident, students expressed whether or not they felt comfortable walking alone on campus during the day and night. Freshman Daniela Chacon-Salas was one student who reported her thoughts and concerns on the matter.
“I feel safe walking on campus during the day, because there are other people walking around on campus,” said Chacon-Salas. “As far as walking on campus alone at night, I am not a fan. I do not feel comfortable walking around campus alone at night because even though this situation wasn’t as bad, it reminds me that other situations a bit more grave can occur.”
The Guardian Service app was administered through Mary Washington for extra precaution. The app allows one to set a safety timer which can notify people to check in on you, message and manage guardians whom you choose, and it can send emergency communication. Administration encourages students to use this app for the students safety. The link to download the app is available on the UMW website.
“We encourage more people to join the Guardian Service so people are more aware and take action of safety on campus,” said Rucker. “Unfortunately, we cannot keep everything 100% safe all the time, but we have an active role in student safety and we try to be as educational about it since it is on-going.”
The University plays an active role in student safety which does not go unnoticed. Although this kind of situation did occur, students still feel safe around campus depending on the time of day.
“I have always felt safe walking on campus both at night and during the day,” said freshman Cara Ghaphery. “I usually always call someone if I ever do end up walking alone at night, just to have someone to talk to and to take extra precaution. In no way do I feel unsafe on this campus, even after hearing about the situation.”
While students feel safe, this incident served as a reminder for some that it can be important to be cautious when walking alone.
“I feel safe walking on campus during day or night because of the safe atmosphere that Mary Washington provides,” said McKenzie Dowdy, junior History Special Education major. “I’m always a little more cautious of walking alone at night especially on streets like College Avenue. Since the incident, I’m not that comfortable walking alone, especially at night.”
Situations, such as this, cannot be predicted but Mary Washington provides students and faculty with safety measures that can help someone, individually, feel safer in any situation. Although the campus cannot provide complete safety all the time, there are precautions that students can take advantage of. The University has the Blue Light System, an assessment team, and the administration constantly has ongoing efforts of making the University a place with a safe environment.