The recent sexual assault of a Goshen College student has forced the college to reconsider security measures on campus. The college initially responded to the attack the college requested that the Goshen Police provide extra patrols on and nearby campus. It is unknown at this point if the police patrol will be permanent, said Bill Born, vice president of Student Life. The security staff also increased and will be available to provide safety escorts at night to locations on campus. The college is still deciding about the permanence of these added security measures.
“The campus isn’t forced to think about safety until something like this happens,” said Patrick Ressler, a senior. “Goshen is such a casual and seemingly safe place to be, and now everyone’s idea of that has changed.”
A Goshen College student was taken to Goshen General Hospital in the early morning on Tuesday, Jan. 18 after being sexually assaulted. She was treated that day and was released from the hospital later Tuesday evening.
The student was walking to her car, which was parked on campus, at around 1 a.m. Tuesday morning when a man approached her. The man displayed a knife and told her to drive to a location off campus, where he assaulted her.
The college is unable to provide further information about the student because of federal privacy laws.
The student described the attacker as a white male with a medium build, short dirty blonde hair, and a longer nose. He was approximately 26 to 27 years old and was last seen wearing a lightweight dark colored jacket with plain black winter gloves.
The Goshen Police Department is continuing to investigate the details of the case.
Born said, “The one true request from the police right now is to be attentive and conscious of your surroundings.”
At 4 p.m. on Tuesday, staff from Student Life, Campus Ministries and the Student Wellness & Health Center hosted a gathering for students, faculty and staff to listen, reflect and respond. Students suggested having a meeting as they provided feedback to administrators.
The meeting revealed concerns about campus security. A task force that was established last year has been considering swipe cards, particularly to access the Res Life halls, and this idea was brought to the surface again at the meeting. Further conversations will be happening about future precautions.
Until then, Student Life suggests walking in groups at night, immediately calling 911 to report any suspicious activity, keeping car doors, rooms and hallways locked, and spreading the word about being cautious, smart and safe.
While some students like the idea of added security measures, others realize there is only so much that can be done.
When thinking about the idea of needing to swipe ID cards in order to get into Res Life buildings, Katie Gencay, a senior, said that she is more worried about times when she’s not in buildings. “I feel safe in the community here,” she said. “It’s more about being isolated.”
Adriel Santiago, a senior, said that building security is pretty standard for most colleges and universities. But even heightened security cannot create total safety.
“Security is more about prevention than protection,” said Santiago. “Continued prayer and standing together as a community in the midst of tragedy is really the strongest protection.”
Later Tuesday evening, Goshen Student Women’s Association (GSWA) organized a gathering open to all female students to process what happened in an open and honest environment. Molly Kellogg, a senior and a member of the steering committee for GSWA, said it was good to have a time to unite and lift others up amidst the reality of the harm in the world.
“It’s unfair that we live in a world where we have to be afraid of where we walk, especially at night and on campus,” said Kellogg. “But as I processed [what happened] more and more, I don’t want this situation to make people afraid of the safety of our campus. Yes, we have to be aware of the possibilities of harm, but also recognize that we do have support through friends and this Goshen community.”