A Whitworth student was the victim of assault near the soccer field just before midnight on Nov. 3. The victim, who wishes to remain anonymous, is getting the care and attention needed from Student Life services, said Dick Mandeville, vice president for student life.
“We take the safety and security of our students very seriously,” Mandeville said. “We deeply regret when anything like this happens, and we are very sorry for what happened to the student. We’re doing the best we can to prevent anything like this from happening again.”
Student Life and Security are cooperating with the sheriff’s department to find out who the perpetrator was, and are unable to say whether or not it was a Whitworth student. There is no indication that it was a sexual assault, Mandeville said.
Other incidents related to the assault are part of the ongoing investigation as well, Security supervisor Jacquelyn McCord said. She did not reveal what those incidents were.
“It’s specific to a very small group of people,” McCord said of the incident. “If you’re in that group, you’ll know.”
For victims of assault or violence, Student Life provides many resources, McCord said. If an incident requires a hospital trip, a Residence Assistant or Resident Director and a friend accompanies the victim. Student Life provides counseling, and offers to escort the student to and from classes or help him or her change housing.
If the student is a willing victim, meaning if he or she knows who the attacker is and is willing to give testimony, a friend can be present during the conversation with Student Life, McCord said.
“The victim drives the investigation,” McCord said.
Statistically, sex crimes and assaults go unreported because victims handle it alone or because they are embarrassed or scared, McCord said. Although the Nov. 3 incident has been the only of its kind this year, there is no way of knowing what crimes have gone unreported.
“If you end up drunk, and someone beats you up, don’t be afraid to call for help and report it,” McCord said. “Our concern is your safety.”
McCord’s advice to stay safe: travel in pairs, be aware of your surroundings, keep your cell phone with you and let people know where you’re going and when you’ll be back, especially if it’s late. Use a key chain flashlight in dark parking lots and have your keys in hand before you get to your car.
“If you don’t have to be out at odd hours, don’t be,” she said.
As far as increasing campus safety, Security has a few ideas, some of which are already in the works.
Students participated in an active shooter drill on campus Thursday, Nov. 6, which went well overall, McCord said.
“I was in Dixon and everyone scurried in their classrooms,” she said. “They were super quiet.”
The Bluelight speakers were not as clear as they could be, she said. Chief Information Officer Ken Brown and Director of Communications will search for a solution.
Security will make internal adjustments as well. The location will soon be moved to Graham House, where the marriage and counseling center is, for more room, and the department is in the process of hiring a new officer. This week, a panel of five, including McCord, will decide who out of a pool of about 40 applicants to invite for an interview. McCord said she hopes to have the new officer hired by December.
Other ideas include putting clocks with digital reader boards in all classrooms. They could display emergency messages concerning active shooters, since the RAVE system is not effective if a student’s phone is not turned on. They could also give weather warnings about things like ice or wind storms or power outages.
McCord also hopes to have a representative from security and the crime prevention office from the city or county sheriff to address students during orientation about safety. Such a talk could cover personal safety, navigating online social media safely, advice for off-campus events and protecting personal property.
It is very common for campus police or security to talk with students during orientation at universities, McCord said.
McCord, along with Crime Prevention deputy Travis Pendell, will be leading a Town Hall regarding how to stay safe on campus at 8 p.m. in the HUB MPR.
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