Thursday, February 9, 2023

Incident prompts safety awareness

August 29, 2001

When Joseph Clark locks the door to his Williams Hall room at night, he wouldn’t be afraid.

The journalism sophomore said although he was surprised to hear about two instances of criminal sexual conduct in his residence hall, he’s not worried.

“I don’t lie awake at night scared,” he said. “I guess if someone is really determined to break into a residence hall they can. Even though it happened here, I’m still in the mindset that it wouldn’t happen to me. ”

An unidentified man entered a bathroom in Williams Hall on Sunday night after 9:30 p.m. and peeked into stalls of showering men.

Later that night, the same man walked into a room and tried to grab another resident’s genitalia.

The suspect is described as a light-skinned black man between 25 and 30 years old. Witnesses say he is about six feet tall, 200 pounds and has a goatee beard.

Grant Woodman, complex director for Williams, Yakeley and Gilchrist Halls, said the man likely entered the building through a door that had been propped open.

“The message we’ve been getting across to students is that we need to not prop the doors,” he said. “We will do our very best to make sure that the buildings are safe and secure, but it’s a hallwide effort.”

Mentors and hall directors have been informing residents of the incident, Woodman said. An investigation is continuing.

“They understand that it was probably an isolated incident,” he said. “If it had been a student, they might feel differently.”

Bethany Slopsema, a pre-nursing sophomore, said she first heard of the incident Tuesday afternoon.

She said the incident hopefully won’t scare people and only make them more cautious instead.

“It’s a good thing to raise awareness,” she said. “I’ve always thought it was kind of an annoyance to have locked doors, but it’s probably a good thing.”

MSU police said although they do not expect to see repeat incidents, there is a lesson on safety for all students to learn.

“We’ve got a brand new school year, and you have a lot of young people coming up here for the first time, and this is a totally new experience,” said MSU Officer Anne Stahl. “The last thing they’re worried about is this type of thing.”

Community police officers such as Stahl are assigned to specific portions of campus to reassure and educate students with concerns.

The officers are available to teach classes on everything from general safety to drugs and alcohol to sexual assault to canine demonstrations.

Stahl said students should lock their doors when they sleep and when showering. Students living in suite-style rooms need to make sure their suitemate’s doors are locked, as well.

But female students aren’t the only ones who need to be aware, Stahl said.

“This type of situation is very uncommon, but there have been incidents where it has happened to guys,” she said. “Just because you’re a guy doesn’t mean it’s okay to walk around alone at night.”

Jim Hines, the administrative coordinator for the Sexual Assault Counseling program at The Listening Ear, 1017 E. Grand River Ave., said sexual assault often occurs where people live - to both men and women.

A December 2000 study by the U.S. Justice Department’s National Institute of Justice and Bureau of Justice Statistics said almost 60 percent of campus rapes occur in living quarters.

Thirty-five of every 1,000 women on campus will experience complete or attempted rape during a school year, while about 5 percent of rape victims are male, the study says.

Hines said men might be less likely to report sexual attacks because they might be embarrassed.

“I doubt that it’s unique,” Hines said. “More than anything, students should be aware that sexual assault can happen to anybody. It’s very scary that it can happen, and then there’s an extra level of shame.”

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