Two weeks ago, students received a timely warning email regarding an off-campus incident of sexual assault. It was confirmed that the victim and the assailant knew each other, but LUPD has said that no other case specific details can be provided at this time, since it is an ongoing investigation.
Longwood Police Chief Doug Mooney said, “I will tell you that we take reports of sexual assault very seriously. Students who are the survivors of sexual assault have resources at Longwood available to them, and anyone who reports sexual assault is offered these resources.” Mooney went on to say that since the incident happened off campus, the Farmville Police Department would be handling the investigation.
Mooney then went into detail on what resources are available to survivors and those who report the attackers. “The Longwood Title IX office is located in Lancaster Hall, and the coordinator is Sasha Johnson. Her office not only handles reports of Title IX violations and investigates these reports, but also coordinates Title IX training for the university community. Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) is available to all students who are suffering after a traumatic experience.”
Mooney also recommends to walk with a friend or roommate to and from your residence, let trusted friends know where you will be, checking in regularly, and traveling along well-lit routes, though he stressed that it is not the responsibility of a victim of sexual assault to prevent the crime.
Johnson also provided her input on the incident. “It’s very unfortunate that it continues to happen, that we have to do this.” Johnson gave her advice on how students to prevent sexual assault. “They can better understand consent and make sure that they have consent before engaging in any sexual conduct. I’m talking specifically about healthy relationships. Focusing on the characteristics of healthy relationships and communicating effectively is key. It really is about the person who’s inflicting that crime on someone else. They have the control to stop that.”
Going off of that, Johnson said that her office helps students identify the characteristics of unhealthy relationships and different types of abuse as well.
Johnson then gave tips on what students should do if they are sexually assaulted. “Find a safe place. If you’re in a dangerous situation, call 911 or a trusted friend. Reach out to resources like CAPS or a shelter. We do have a domestic violence shelter for victims and survivors.” Johnson also encouraged victims to report the incidents to the Title IX Office, Campus Police, or the Farmville Police Department. She noted that the reporting processed for the three groups are separate.”
Emma Mancini, a student at Longwood, added her perspective on what it was like to get an email like that. “It was like, again? Are we serious? I feel like we’re getting those all the time where even if we’re not getting the timely warnings we’re hearing it word-of-mouth from our friends. It just feels like there’s this constant thing happening.”
Mancini then gave her thoughts on if the university is doing enough about sexual assault. “No. I mean a lot of it is behind the scenes and is private for legal reasons, so we can’t know a lot of it, which definitely makes it difficult when we get those emails and then receive no follow up whatsoever. It’s almost as if we’re told these things and just expected to deal with it on our own.”
Mancini also said, “Unfortunately, I have experienced situations where I was followed home one night all the way from campus to my apartment and I’ve experienced moments like that where I don’t feel safe. We’re told that these blue lights on campus where you can press a button will keep us safe. I think a lot of it comes down to I make myself personally feel more safe, but as a woman and as a student, I don’t think I’ll ever truly feel safe on campus.”
If you or someone you know is a victim of sexual assault, you can contact the Title IX Office at (434) 395-2751 or Campus Police at (434) 395-2091.