Castleton holds forum on sexual assaults

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Castleton State College is hosting a community forum today at noon to discuss two recent reports of sexual assault on campus.

Local police have not identified any suspects and say there’s no evidence linking the incidents.

As VPR’s Nina Keck reports, the situation has put students at the small college on edge.

(Keck) It’s lunchtime and the main cafeteria at Castleton State College is packed. A blue flyer, taped to one of the doors, notifies students of the recent sexual assaults and urges caution.

According to police, the first incident occurred late Friday September 7th.

The female student involved did not file a report with local police or the school. But according to campus officials, she did tell a female roommate who notified school counselors.

The second assault occurred last Wednesday evening in a remote campus parking lot. College officials have been keeping students abreast of developments by emails and flyers. Freshman Brandon Barnett says the incidents have definitely affected the mood on campus.

(Barnett) People are more worried about going out at night and usually will travel more in groups – because before people were more independent and now they’ll want to be with more people.”

( Keck) Freshman Michaela Stewart, still considers the college safe, but admits she won’t take any chances.

(Stewart) “I was kind of scared when I first heard about it, but I don’t travel alone. Everywhere I go I’m with at least one other person and I just take extra precautions. If I’m going somewhere at night I know that I should bring somebody with me in case anything happens.”

(Keck) Stewart and fellow freshman Ashley Hess say what’s troubling is so little seems to be known about the attackers.

(Stewart ) “The first one they didn’t give a description – but the second one they said it’s an intoxicated college male with brown hair – which is like half the campus, so every time you walk by somebody, you say, is that it and I feel bad like moving away from him. . . .”

(Hess) “Oh yeah, It makes me look at people – I mean, it didn’t say if they’re long haired or short haired, how tall they were so you try not to, but you kind of think to yourself, well, what if it’s that person?”

(Keck) Gregory Stone, Castleton’s Dean of Students hopes today’s public forum will help answer people’s questions.

(Stone)“Mostly it’s to as best we can reassure people that we’re doing everything we can to protect them that they can do some things themselves. You know, just try to make sure that people know we’re with them, we’re listening to them and maybe even stimulate something that might help us identify any perpetrators.”

(Keck) In the meantime, the college has upped campus patrols, added more lighting and instituted a ride service.

For VPR News, I’m Nina Keck in Castleton.

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