by GRACE MONTES
Students who live in Virginia Hall are concerned following multiple
instances of sexual battery that have occurred in the residence hall in
the past several months.
The most recent incident of sexual battery took place in Virginia Hall on Thursday, Sept 19 at approximately 10:20 p.m., according to the UMW police department. A UMW student residing in Virginia entered the building with the perpetrator and together they continued to the student’s room. Upon arrival to the room, an assault took place. The victim and her roommate then left their dorm room together. When they returned the perpetrator had left the premises and was unable to be located.
With the location of the perpetrator unknown, the police and Residence Life chose to conduct a thorough search of all rooms in the building. The students, unaware of the events transpiring, were evacuated by order of a fire alarm.
The first Timely Warning was sent out to the UMW community at 1:27 a.m. on the night of the incident. The warnings described the situation, including a description of the suspect, and assured students that local law enforcement was handling the situation. More emails containing updates on the situation continued to roll into the community’s inboxes throughout the night as more information was gathered.
The description of the perpetrator was given to the community by UMW police as a warning and to allow tips and information to flow in via the student body. Through the use of video surveillance and tips from witnesses, the perpetrator was identified as a student from another university. It is reported that there was no weapon used. The victim has been reported as physically unharmed and is receiving support from UMW offices.
Several residents of Virginia Hall shared their surprise and concern.
“It is definitely not as safe here as I thought it would be. We never really locked our doors because we thought ‘It’s Mary Washington, and nothing really happens here.’ It definitely was a wake-up call, and so now we make sure to lock our doors,” said freshman Hannah Underwood.
Some students, however, were not surprised by the incident and expressed concern about the normalization of incidents of sexual assault on college campuses.
“I understand that we feel uncomfortable with what happened. It is sad when something like this happens, but we now have to take precautions for this. This should not be normalized, but in a college atmosphere, it is starting to become something more normal,” said Grant Dixon, freshman.
Other students felt that the incident opened their eyes to the prevalence of assault on campuses.
“I feel like we should expect anything now….I have started to learn that this is now a possibility,” said freshman Jon Pietrak.
The nature of the incident has fostered a sense of alarm in several students. Those residing in Virginia Hall are taking precautionary actions in order to feel more secure in their living situation and to prevent future incidents.
“Here in Virginia, we usually keep doors unlocked, and so it’s scary to know that someone came in, but I still feel safe here. People definitely lock their doors here now after what happened,” said Kirstin Caish, freshman.
The UMW crime log found at Brent Hall indicates that two reported sexual assault incidents have taken place in Virginia Hall within the last six months alone, outnumbering the amount of incidents that have taken place at other spots on campus.
Residents of Virginia Hall have consistently noted the friendly and open nature of their hall, and have made note of how this could contribute to outsiders entering the building, even after the events on Sept 19.
“People still let other people in that are not usually here. You can figure out if it’s someone’s friend or someone who forgot their key, so that’s a different story. I’ve let in a couple of people before because I know, ‘Oh, okay, I recognize you’ or they tell me they forgot their card to get in,” said Underwood.
This incident has been a wake-up call to UMW students and has made many more aware of the safety, or lack thereof, of the residence halls.
“Mary Washington feels like such a safe campus, where something like this wouldn’t happen. But it is a college, where these things sadly do happen. You just don’t think about this actually occurring,” said freshman Madelyn Decarli