Sexual assault case still under investigation

By Stacey Eyler, Commentary Co-Editor

Just hours before the first day of classes was set to begin, Campus Safety launched a campus-wide email, informing students and faculty of the first serious incident of the school year.

“On Sunday, August 26, sometime shortly after midnight, the Department of Campus Safety (DoCS) was anonymously informed of an unconscious subject in the back yard of a West Main Street home,” the email said.

“DoCS contacted 911 who immediately responded and found a female member of our community. The semi-conscious woman was determined to have possibly been sexually assaulted.”

Since this notification, The Free Press has learned that the assault was by another McDaniel student, a male, and that the case is now being handled by The Carroll County Advocacy Investigations Unit (CCAIC).

This unit consists of several law enforcement and counseling agencies, including the Carroll County State’s Attorney’s Office, the local sheriff’s office, Maryland State Police, Westminster City Police, Department of Social Services, Carroll Hospital Center, and Rape Crisis Intervention Services.

“All groups associated with this specialized unit have agreed to investigate all rapes, sexual assaults, and child abuse cases in the county,” said Lieutenant Phil Kasten of the Sheriff’s Department. “It’s a specialized unit with personnel that has extensive training.”

“The case is being investigated and ultimately a determination will be made,” said David Dagget, the Chief Deputy State’s Attorney and Legal Supervisor.

Anyone who has information regarding the case is encouraged to contact Deputy Doug Epperson of the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office at 410-386-3650.

“McDaniel was founded upon morals of trust, integrity, responsibility, and respect,” said senior Kristin Pavlovsky. “To think that someone violated and betrayed all of these morals is just appalling.”

“The number of sexual offenses at McDaniel is a small number,” said Director of Campus Safety Mike Webster.

According to statistics provided through the Department of Campus Safety’s website, there were only two incidents of rape/sexual assault in 2004. However, both victims declined to participate in the investigations. In 2005 and 2006, there were no reports of sexual assault.

Despite the small number, sexual assault has always been a concern for the college, according to Megan Hearron, a McDaniel College counselor. “It’s discussed at orientation, in ‘Choices,’ and in the handbook.”

And the matter was even addressed at a recent faculty meeting.

“Teachers were encouraged to address the matter in their classes—when appropriate—instead of ignoring it and to discuss how to be safe,” said Dr. Mary Bendel-Simso. “I teach Literature by Women, so it seemed appropriate.”

Learning about the incident came as a shock for some, including Pavlovsky. “This is pretty much a safe campus and community, and you really never hear about anything really severe,” she said.

However, that doesn’t make the College and its residents immune to incidents of sexual assault. In fact, one of the biggest myths about sexual assault and violence is that it only happens in large, populated areas. In truth, Hearron explained that sexual assault can happen in any community.