BLACKSBURG, Va. – One week into the new semester, Virginia Tech junior Tori Walker and sophomore Rebecca Housey said they got an alarming email.
“Reading it was heartbreaking,” said Walker.
“You would never feel any safer after reading a notification like that,” said Housey. “I feel unsafe. I feel like this could have been another girl like me.”
On September 2, Virginia Tech Police notified the campus community of two sexual assaults, both involving rape, and strangulation.
Police said both incidents occurred in the Creativity and Innovation District Living-Learning Community Residence Hall in the 185 block of Kent Street.
One assault happened on Wednesday, August 24 and the other happened on Friday, Aug. 26. In both incidents police said they each knew each other and were described as acquaintances, authorities said, and the offender is a Virginia Tech student.
Police said the incidents meet the elements of rape as defined in Virginia Code 18.2-61 and strangulation as defined in code 18.2-52.6.
Sexual assault is a reality seen across the country. Studies published by the American College Health Association show more than 50% of college sexual assaults occur between Aug. and Nov.
This week, Senator Tim Kaine proposed legislation to address the problem: the Survivor Outreach and Support on Campus Act, or S.O.S. Campus Act, which would require every college and university that receives federal funding to have an independent advocate dedicated to campus sexual assault prevention and response.
The S.O.S. Campus Act would require the independent advocate to conduct public information campaigns on sexual assault prevention and ensure survivors of sexual assault have access to:
- Emergency and follow-up medical care,
- Guidance on reporting assaults to law enforcement,
- Medical forensic or evidentiary exams,
- Crisis intervention, ongoing counseling, and assistance throughout the process,
- Information on their legal rights.
In response to the recent assaults, a Virginia Tech University official released a statement to 10 News that reads in part:
“Providing students and employees with timely access to critical campus crime and safety information is just one example of how Virginia Tech works to enhance safety and security for all those who learn and work at the university. It is also required under the Clery Act. You can read more about our work to build a culture of safety, awareness, and support here.”
Still, Housey would like more transparency.
“We’re not given enough information ourselves on how to avoid such situations. We’re not given any statistics. We’re not given anything more than the very bare basics of what happened,” said Housey.
Walker said more needs to be done to support survivors and raise awareness.
“I actually had a personal experience with this and I honestly think that even though they have all these resources, it’s a very deeply traumatizing event. And it will stay with you for like so much longer, even if you’re talking to people. And if you don’t end up pressing charges, like that haunts you too because you never really get that closure,” said Walker.