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Two Sexual Assaults Reported on Campus: Victims Knew Assailants

The vast majority of sexual assaults reported on campus involve individuals who know each other.

Both sexual assault victims reported knowing their assailants. Catherine Dawes

In compliance with the “Timely Warning” provisions of the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Crime Statistics Act of 1998, on Nov. 10, Furman University Chief of Police John Milby, informed the Furman community of a sexual assault that had recently occurred in campus housing.  In the initial announcement, Milby shared that the victim knew the suspect and that the victim was unable to consent due to being “incapacitated by alcohol.” The update also shared that Furman “offered resources to assist the individual involved in this incident and is addressing the allegations and taking actions to maintain the safety and security of the campus community.”

Two days later, a second email clarified that the victim did not report being incapacitated by alcohol, making the original Nov. 10 “Timely Warning” incorrect. The Nov. 12 update also shared that the Furman University Police Department was working alongside the State Law Enforcement Division to initiate a joint investigation into the reported sexual assault.  

Following the Nov. 12 correction, Furman University Chief of Police John Milby explained that “Our initial timely warning was issued based on the limited information initially shared by the complainant/victim with Title IX.” Milby went on to state that the warnings are often time sensitive. He also cited the Department of Education’s position which states that “the intent of a warning regarding a criminal incident is to enable people to protect themselves.” In other words, warnings should be issued as soon as enough relevant information is available, even if all the facts surrounding a case are not clear.  

With that in mind, the Furman University Police Department felt it was important to send a timely warning to the campus community. “When more information became available,” explained Milby “the timely warning was clarified and updated.”

Furman Title IX Coordinator Melissa Nichols echoed Chief Milby’s statement about timely warnings, stating “when we issue timely warnings, we often have not yet had an opportunity to gather much information.” The initial Nov. 10 report came in through the Title IX Office, and “the information shared in the timely warning indicating that the complainant had reported being incapacitated was the result of a misunderstanding during the early stages of this process” shared Nichols. Once the office became aware of this misunderstanding, the university then updated the timely warning and corrected the information in the Nov. 12 update.  

Less than a week after the first timely warning and subsequent correction, the university issued a second timely warning on Nov. 16 about another reported sexual assault on campus. That report indicated that a sexual assault occurred in the early morning hours of Nov. 15, and that the victim reported the suspect was known to them and that force was involved in the assault.  

In both reported cases, the victim knew their assailant. According to national data from the Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network (RAINN) website, college women ages 18-24 are 3x more likely to experience sexual violence. Often, that sexual violence is committed by someone known to the victim. According to RAINN data, 8 out of 10 rape case are committed by someone known to the victim. Data from the National Institute of Justice also supports this, suggesting that roughly 85-90% of sexual assaults reported by college women are committed by a known assailant. This bears true for Furman as well. Nichols shared that “the vast majority of sexual misconduct reports that we receive at Furman involve individuals who know each other.”

Both the Nov. 10 and Nov. 16 updates told the community “you have an obligation to your fellow Furman community members to intervene if you observe a situation that you feel may lead to sexual victimization.” The updates urged students to trust their instincts, and diffuse problem behaviors before they escalate. Details about consent and other safety tips were also provided in the email. More information about Furman’s Sexual Misconduct Policy, procedures and resources, can be found at www.furman.edu/titleix.

If you have experienced sexual assault, you are encouraged to report the incident to Furman University Police Department and/or to Furman’s Title IX Coordinator, Melissa Nichols.

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