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Auburn students ‘outraged’ after multiple sexual assault reports

A group of over one hundred students protest at Toomer's Corner after a string of sexual...
A group of over one hundred students protest at Toomer's Corner after a string of sexual assault cases reported on campus.(Source: Abby Hunsinger)
Published: Sep. 15, 2021 at 9:37 PM EDT
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AUBURN, Ala. (WSFA) - Students at Auburn University say they’re outraged over a recent string of sexual assault cases. Three separate incidents have been reported to campus police in just one week, including two alleged rapes.

The frustration over the recent reports sparked a protest at Toomer’s Corner Tuesday night. There were over a hundred students who attended the demonstration, some of them were holding signs that read “Hold him accountable” and “Enough is enough.”

“Everyone was outraged because that was like the third one in a week,” said Auburn freshman Abby Hunsinger, referring to the recent sexual assault reports. She was among the group of students who attended the protest.

“Everyone’s fed up about it and scared and angry,” Hunsinger said. “Auburn students are aware of the issue, and we are angry that there is not change,” adding she and her friends do not feel safe on campus.

“My roommate came home last night and it was pretty late. Like, I was up doing homework, and she walks in and the first thing she says was ‘I am so terrified walking home right now,’” Hunsinger explained.

According to university officials, on Sept. 8, the Auburn University Department of Campus Safety & Security notified students after a woman reported being raped - as define by the federal Clery Act - and physically assaulted a week prior in an on-campus residential facility by an acquaintance.

Two days later, students received another alert. This time a woman reported to the campus safety department that she was fondled by a stranger while walking on War Eagle Way near Aubie Hall. She was walking toward the Village Mail Loop when a male jogged past her and grabbed her buttocks. The subject is described as an Asian male with short dark hair, approximately 5 feet, 10 inches to 6 feet tall, average build and wearing a blue shirt, brown shorts and white tennis shoes.

Video evidence shows that this male subsequently attempted to follow two females into Oak Hall without success, then left campus on foot and headed east on West Magnolia Avenue.

On Sept. 14, a third alert was released to students. This time a woman disclosed to police that she was raped Friday night at a fraternity house. The victim did not recall the details of the incident but disclosed physical injuries consistent with a rape.

Auburn University Department of Campus Safety & Security posted a message on Facebook about this incident that said, “This incident was disclosed to police during response to an unrelated incident off campus. No official report has been made about the rape at this time.”

The name of the fraternity has not yet been released.

“My friends that could be going to these parties could be potentially putting themselves in danger without knowing it,” Hunsinger said.

Auburn police said they are working with Auburn University to investigate these incidents.

“Even though that we have not received an actual report on some of these incidents, the most recent incidents of sexual assault, that we are working with Auburn University personnel to investigate these incidents thoroughly,” said Clarence Stewart, assistant chief of the Auburn Police Division.

“I’d also like to add that I would really highly encourage those that have been a victim of a crime, specifically sexual assault, to report it to us immediately. That way we can forward them to the proper resources that we have available,” Stewart said.

In the meantime, protesters wait for answers.

“We are all terrified to walk alone,” Hunsinger said. “I just want to feel safe on my campus.”

Stewart said police are not disclosing information on any possible suspects, as these are still active investigations.

Auburn University issued the following statement on the incidents:

“The creation and maintenance of a safe environment for our students will always be the highest priority for Auburn. The three cases reported this week – one in a residence hall, one on a campus sidewalk and one in a fraternity house – have only intensified our commitment. Auburn prohibits sexual harassment and power-based personal violence. We take action to prevent it through a variety of sexual assault awareness and bystander intervention programming, as well as safety programs and resources.

When a crime is officially reported by a member of our campus community, the University is able to take even more aggressive steps to help crime victims and hold those responsible accountable. In the current situation, the victims of the three recent incidents chose not to file police reports or formal complaints with the University or local police, and we support their right to do so.

Auburn University issues Clery-required campus safety notices regarding crime on or near the university’s campus when we become aware of such activity, as we did with these three cases. We continuously provide helpful services and resources to our campus community impacted by such issues.

Our safety program includes the following:

  • Auburn Police Division University Precinct officers who patrol the campus 24 hours a day.
  • Auburn employed and contracted security officers after hours.
  • Nearly 200 blue light emergency phones that dial directly to 911.
  • 24-hour on-campus transportation.
  • An extensive security camera system.
  • A free Auburn Safety app, which includes features such as “Friend Walk,” ability to submit a tip, “How to Respond guide” and sexual violence resources.
  • Safe Harbor, a confidential resource, is a university service that supports those experiencing personal violence, including dating/domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking/harassment. A 24/7 crisis phone number (334-844-7233) is available for those seeking help.

Transparency, student outreach and student input are critical components to our approach to campus safety. Student Affairs will host a town hall event Wednesday, Sept. 22, to discuss preventing and reporting sexual assault. In addition to Student Affairs, representatives from Campus Safety and Security, the Auburn Police Division, SGA, Health Promotion and Wellness and Title IX will be in attendance. The town hall will take place 4 p.m. in the Student Activities Center Auditorium. All are invited.”

Below is a list of information and resources sent to student alongside an alert of a sexual assault on campus:

  • Rape is against the law and is a felony.
  • It is important for everyone involved in a sexual act to give consent to all aspects of the act. Consent is an affirmative, knowing and voluntary decision, clearly communicated through words or actions, and applies to all aspects of the act. Consent granted for one act does not mean consent for another.
  • Rape is not a crime of sexual desire. It is a crime of hostility and violence toward the victim/survivor. People often engage in victim blaming as a way to preserve the false belief that they will be safe from sexual assault “if only” they do not do what the victim did. However, rape is never the victim/survivor’s fault. Only the perpetrator chooses to commit sexual assault.
  • It is a myth that it can’t happen to you. Sexual assault can happen to anyone, regardless of age, race, class, religion, occupation, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, educational background, or physical description.

If you are a victim/survivor of sexual assault next steps are your choice. You are encouraged to:

  • Preserve evidence. Do not shower or change your clothing.
  • Dial 911 for emergency assistance or immediately go to the nearest hospital to get medical care and request a sexual assault forensic exam (“rape kit”).
  • Consider reporting it. Notification options include:
  1. Dial 911 or 334-501-3100 to reach the Auburn Police Division. The police are the only entity that can investigate a sexual assault for the means of criminal prosecution. It is important for them to gather evidence as soon as possible.
  2. Dial 334-844-4794 to report the incident to the Auburn University title IX coordinator. The title IX office receives official complaints of violations of the university’s title IX sexual harassment policy.

Rape kits can be collected at the following locations in Auburn:

  • East Alabama Medical Center Freestanding Emergency Department, 900 Camp Auburn Rd., Auburn, AL 36832 (24/7)
  • AU Medical Clinic, 400 Lem Morrison Dr., Auburn, AL 36849 (8 a.m.-2 p.m., Monday-Friday)
  1. A rape kit can generally be collected up to 72 hours after a sexual assault.
  2. Victims/survivors can have a rape kit collected without filing a police report

Sexual assault survivor advocates on and off campus (24 hours a day)

  • Safe Harbor (on campus) – 334-844-7233 or safeharbor@auburn.edu
  • Rape Counselors of East Alabama (community) – 334-705-0510

Resources for survivors: //www.auburn.edu/titleix

All survivors are encouraged to report the assault, but it is always the survivor’s choice whether or not to do so.

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