Campus Safety responds to on-campus sexual assault, highlights safety services

safety vehicle
A Campus Safety vehicle parks outside of the Campus Safety building. Campus Safety has confirmed its service of safety escorts on campus. Friday, November 5, 2021.(Photo by: Nicole Sabot)

Written by: Yvanna Hammen-Álvarez and Amanda Blake

On Tuesday evening, November 16, the Collegedale Police Department (CPD) responded to reports of a sexual assault of a female student on Southern Adventist University’s campus, according to a CPD press release. The press also stated that another female victim had a run-in on Monday, November 15, with a vehicle matching the second victim’s description. However, the first victim’s account was reported to Campus Safety and not forwarded to the CPD, according to the press release.

Later in an email to the Accent, Director of Marketing and University Relations (MUR) Isaac James, explained that a Campus Safety officer investigated the first victim’s report that Monday night, but no suspicious vehicle was seen. James stated that Campus Safety had nothing to report to the police because there appeared to be no active threat and little identifiable information available.

“Campus Safety takes every report seriously and investigates each situation,” James wrote in the email. “… Campus Safety involves the police when appropriate or allowed by law.”

James further explained that unless a victim declines police involvement, Campus Safety contacts the police when there is a crime committed, an active threat or damage or injury done. Regarding the November 16 incident, Campus Safety is working with MUR to improve Southern’s notification process and plan more practice exercises, according to James.

James also stated that Southern’s Title IX office has full access to Campus Safety reports, and all incidents reported to Campus Safety that might meet the Title IX standard are referred to the Title IX office. Title IX’s policy can be found at southern.edu/titleix.

Self Defense Classes

Campus Safety Director Kevin Penrod confirmed that the department’s Rape Aggression Defense (RAD) program is currently available on campus after being on hold due to COVID-19 restrictions. 

Campus Safety’s Life Safety and Fire Systems Specialist Josh Fraker is a RAD instructor along with his wife, Jessica. According to Fraker, the RAD program is open to people of all ages in the community, as well as students on campus. While the program is geared toward women, there is also a men’s program called “Resisting Aggression with Defense.” This program educates men on how to deal with the aggression or anger issues they may have and how to defend themselves in negative situations. 

There are three components of the RAD program, which Fraker identified as “the educational component … lower level practical, physical things … and some more of the graphic scenarios.” The program takes place over several days, and the first few classes include informational presentations on potential scenarios and ways to stay safe. The latter classes focus on the physical moves one can perform to stay safe and allow students to practice real-life scenarios. Fraker said in the last class everyone gets into padded suits and participates in a realistic scenario to practice what they learned the previous week. 

Felicia Sanders, sophomore psychology major, took two RAD classes. She said the training was helpful because it focused on using her strengths to fight back against attackers. She appreciated that the classes were free, easily accessible and held in a fun family atmosphere. She also said she goes back to RAD class on the last night of each sequence in order to practice her skills again.

In regard to potential criticism of learning self-defense on a Christian campus, Sanders said, “A lot of us go out to minister and do good in the community, and it’s good to have that in your toolbox because you can’t do good work when you’re dead or missing.” 

Penrod said some religious groups claim nothing tragic or traumatic can happen on a Christian campus, but that mentality actually attracts predators. Fraker added that self-defense is an essential life skill, such as changing a tire.

The next RAD class for men is scheduled for December 6, 7 and 8 from 6 to 9 p.m. The next RAD class for women is set to start at the beginning of January. Dates are still pending, according to Fraker. Sign-up forms can be accessed on Southern’s website

Keeping Students Informed

When Penrod, Fraker and Associate Director of Campus Safety Shawn Haas were asked to provide tips on how to stay safe on campus, they all shared a similar phrase: situational awareness. Haas suggested staying informed with the annual October security report, which discusses how to report criminal actions or emergencies, policies regarding campus security and law enforcement and timely warning notices — something recently utilized on November 16 and 17 regarding the aforementioned sexual assualt. This report was emailed to all students and can be found on Southern’s website

There is also information on the Clery Act on Southern’s website, according to Haas, who is a Clery Compliance Officer. The Clery Act promotes the accessibility of on-campus crime statistics to all students.

Penrod also suggested looking at the daily crime log on Campus Safety’s webpage, becoming familiar with emergency exits and signing up for emergency text messages. 

Safety Escort Services

Penrod also confirmed the department’s safety escort service, despite comments from an anonymous student who said Campus Safety told them in July that this service was no longer available due to COVID-19 procedures. 

“I would really like to know specifics because that is not accurate, ” Penrod said. “… If we [messed up], we’ll be the first to say sorry and make that correction because we’re not perfect.” 

He said a person can call Campus Safety, and an officer will come to their location to escort them to their desired location. In addition, Haas said Campus Safety never shuts down its safety escort service. 

Penrod said his goals for Campus Safety include life safety, to leave students better off than when they first got here and to interact with people to build relationships. He hopes students think of the department as a positive part of their university experience and not just people who hand out parking tickets. He added that Campus Safety will help any student regardless of their past experiences, personal ideas of Campus Safety or mental health status.

“We don’t judge,” Penrod said. “We just try to help.”

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