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In the Spotlight

By Staff | Feb 13, 2015

Following the recent sexual assault on Shepherd University’s campus, questions have been raised about what safety and security measures are in place to keep the universitys student body safe from future harm.

On Feb. 3, 32-year-old Jeremiah Goodwin was arrested and charged with the Feb. 1 sexual assault on a female Shepherd University student.

Since the incident, the university has alerted students to increased efforts by the Shepherd University Police Department to patrol the campus during the investigation.

According to the university’s Campus Security and Safety Report, published in 2014, eight “forcible” sexual offenses were reported on campus in 2013, seven of which took place in residence halls. Between 2010 and the beginning of 2014, 38 offenses were reported on campus. This is compared to two reported robberies, one aggravated assault and three reports of domestic violence on campus in the same time period, based on information available in the crime report.

Interpersonal violence response coordinator and counselor, Rhonda Jackson characterized the Feb. 1 assault as “highly unusual,” in its nature.

Jackson said generally campus assaults take place between students who know each other. Often the victim is impaired and without the ability to consent to sexual congress.

Though there may be limited precedence for nighttime attacks by a stranger, the university released information regarding their precautionary infrastructure.

Shepherd’s campus has 19 Emergency Call Boxes distributed throughout outdoor areas of use, like parking lots and along walking paths.

Additionally, 19 call boxes are located in residence halls and 33 are found in academic buildings.

Valarie Owens, executive director of university communications said.

“The campus has extensive lighting along sidewalks, in parking lots, and at buildings. Whenever a concern is raised about lighting, the area is assessed with both direct observation and with the use of light meters.”

Andrew Smith a freshman computer science student said he feels safe on campus and amongst the Shepherdstown community as a whole, but thinks improvements can always be made.

“I think it could be safer,” he said.

Smith pointed to cut-throughs and pathways on campus that could benefit from more lighting, but said he feels law enforcement is doing its job.

“The police do a tremendous job patrolling,” he said.

Victoria Lihou, a freshman biology major, said she feels safe on campus but is always cautious about traveling alone at night, acknowledging the greater threats female students face.

“I carried a Taser with me last semester,” she said.

“At night I try to take the Pan Tran instead of walk.”

Smith said he’s observed students behaving with more caution when traveling between academic buildings and residence halls since the Feb. 1 incident.

“I walk more with people,” Lihou said of her experience.

Dean of Students, Dave Cole said students are instructed in education about sexual assault and violent crimes during orientation and throughout their academic career through yearlong programming.

Cole said the university encourages the student body to act as a community in protecting each other’s safety.

“The police can’t be everywhere,” he said.

“We really encourage them to look after each other and address things.”

Rhonda Jackson echoed Cole’s remarks and insisted that education on the issue isn’t enough to ensure the continued safety of students.

“The most effective way of stopping these things on a college campus is bystander intervention,” she said.

“We really saw it get played out very sadly when the assault happened,” she said.

“Students mobilized.”

Jackson said the students are trained as part of the campus’s “Stand Up. Don’t Stand By, 3D” program on ways to approach situations that raise red flags.

3D stands for “direct, distract, and delegate,” she said.

Though Jackson couldn’t speak to the specifics of the recent assault victims recovery for confidentiality reasons, Jackson described the protocol in place for victims following the report of a crime.

“They are immediately reached out to,” she said

Jackson also said a full assessment of medical and emotional needs is conducted and safety resources are explored.

According to Cole, an escort program through the university police department is also available to students who may feel uncomfortable traveling alone on campus.

Jackson said the university will continue to focus on the issues of sexual violence and dating violence as part of their weekly ‘3D’ programming, as she continues to speak to various student groups and organizations about the issue each semester.

“We have to keep them (students) thinking about it every single week,” she said. Interpersonal violence resources are available on the university web page, including information about victims right and Title 9 policy, at www.shepherd.edu/safweb/SUIVRC/. Additional questions can be directed at Rhonda Jackson at rjackson@shepherd.edu.