Campus rape report unfounded

By Josie Norris, editor-in-chief.

UNIVERSITY CENTER– Almost a month after an incident of sexual assault was reported on Delta College’s main campus, the Department of Public Safety has determined that the incident did not occur on campus.

On the evening of Feb. 22, the alleged victim reported that an unknown male grabbed her from behind as she was getting into her vehicle at or about 6 p.m. in the J-wing parking lot. At 9 p.m., the alleged victim reported the rape she claimed to have occurred three hours earlier. She could not describe the alleged suspect or the vehicle in which he was said to have fled after assaulting her, according to the alleged victim’s original report.

According to Public Safety Director Robert Battinkoff, the department investigated various aspects of the incident. On Friday, March 17, the woman told police that she was not, in fact, assaulted on campus. It is unclear at this time if the woman is still alleging sexual assault.

“The only conclusion we can draw at this time is that there was no incident on campus,” said Battinkoff.

Battinkoff said that the alleged victim was advised on how to proceed in filing with a different agency and would facilitate that and provide records.

“As far as I know at this time, no other complaint has been made,” Battinkoff said.

According to Battinkoff, it is a crime to file a false police report and is punishable under Michigan law. Battinkoff is unsure whether charges will be brought forth regarding the alleged victim filing a false report.

“It is dependent on the circumstances when we finish everything we have to do to make a determination of how to proceed. No determination has been made at this time,” explained Battinkoff.

A Nixle text alert and email was sent to students, staff and faculty on March 17 saying, “Based upon investigation and a statement given by the victim, Delta College’s Department of Public Safety has conclusively determined that the sexual assault reported on Wednesday, February 22, 2017 did not occur at Delta College nor on any Delta College controlled property.”

The alert went on to say that the earlier warnings that were issued when the assault was first reported were canceled as “there is no on-going threat to the greater Delta College community.”

English professor and organizer of the recent V-week celebrations at Delta, JodiAnn Stevenson, was apprehensive about the wording in the message. “It’s not just safe or unsafe–it’s very complicated,” she said regarding sexual assault.

Stevenson believes that there needs to be better education concerning sexual assault. She went on to say, “People don’t know how to say this happened to them and when it happened to them.”

According to research done by National Sexual Violence Center in 2010, the number of false reporting of sexual violence is somewhere between two and 10 percent of all reported rapes.

Stevenson has heard people speak dubiously when victims come forward with reports of sexual assault. She encourages people to educate themselves on sexual assault and to support victims when they do come forward.

“Understand that this person who said this happened to them went through something,” says Stevenson.

Following the initial report of sexual assault, thousands of Post-it notes saying, “I believe her,” were placed all over campus in support of the alleged victim. Stevenson felt that people who were involved in the effort may now be let down or disappointed–not because the assault didn’t happen, but because the incident was fabricated.

Students also became concerned with campus security following the report. A petition was created by Kevin Riselay to upgrade Delta College’s security system on change.org and was met with ample support. The petition was signed by 437 individuals.

Riselay explained, “Safety should be the top priority of a community college, and adding cameras is the best way to do so.”

Battinkoff said he is certain that security measures will continue to be taken in order to keep Delta’s campus secure. One of these measures is the addition of cameras to campus. Battinkoff also said that there was talk of adding cameras even before the reported incident occurred.

“I think maybe this incident hastened the process a little bit,” Battinkoff said.

Delta currently has security cameras on campus, but none are located in the parking lots.

“They are useful tools in gathering evidence, both if things did or didn’t happen, and I wholeheartedly support having cameras on campus,” said Battinkoff. Cameras may be coming to campus “sooner rather than later,” according to Battinkoff.

“It’s not an overnight thing.. It’s a pretty involved process and it’s a big expenditure,” Battinkoff went on to say.

Public Safety is still encouraging students and members of the public to exercise caution and to be aware of their surroundings.

“We still think people should be aware of their surroundings, try not to be alone in isolated [areas], walk with a friend, use our escort service; those are all good everyday safety tips regardless of whether or not an incident did happen,” said Battinkoff.

According to Battinkoff, there have been 11 requests for safety escorts since Feb. 22. Before then, there were no escort requests made in 2017.

“Just because this particular incident didn’t happen [on campus] doesn’t mean that an incident can never happen,” Battinkoff said.

Stevenson expressed that even though the incident didn’t happen on campus, there’s still more to be done.

“I think our immediate reaction should be, ‘Thank goodness it didn’t happen here. We’re so happy it didn’t happen here!’ But that’s not to say that there isn’t a threat and there is not a discussion that needs to take place,” Stevenson said.

The last reported sexual assault on Delta’s Main Campus was in 2014. Michigan State Police investigated the incident and the case was later taken to court. The prosecution found there was insufficient evidence for a trial and the case was dismissed.

Going forward, Stevenson said, “I would hope that young people would take away from this that things are more complicated than they seem.”

Individuals can learn how to sign up for Nixle emergency alerts by visiting Delta’s Public Safety website at www.delta.edu/services-support/safety.html.

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