University police, fraternity presidents respond to recent sexual battery incidents

Three incidents of sexual battery have been reported to the University Police Department over the past two weeks.

The most recent incident happened late Friday night in the area of West and Poole Drives and is still under investigation.

“This is an ongoing investigation,” said University Police Chief Tim Potts. “We are still trying to identify the suspect, but we feel like we have a good start. If this doesn’t go as planned, we will release physical descriptions to the public.”

According to the Clery Act Report, the incident occurred at the Kappa Sigma fraternity house on campus. In that same report, a warrant was issued for assisting information, which Kappa Sigma gave in the form of house surveillance footage Friday night.

According to Mississippi law, a person is guilty of sexual battery if he or she engages in sexual penetration with another person without that person’s consent, with a “mentally defective,” mentally incapacitated or physically helpless person, a child between the ages of 14 and 16 if the person charged is more than three years older than the survivor, a child under the age of 14 if the person charged is at least two years older than the survivor or a child under the age of 18 if the person charged is in a position of trust or authority over the survivor.

Kappa Sigma Chapter President Noah Richardson gave a statement on the investigation on behalf of the fraternity.

Richardson said a man posed as a band member and trespassed onto Kappa Sigma private property.

“Fortunately, we have surveillance footage of the suspect, and we have provided it to UPD. Our chapter has been in constant contact with both UPD and Ole Miss, and it is an ongoing investigation. We would like to thank the Ole Miss team for their swift response.”

This report comes during a recent spike in sexual offenses on campus. Potts confirmed this was the third incident within the last two weeks.

“This is the third sexual battery case in the span of just over seven days,” Potts said. “Not all of (the victims) want to continue the investigation, and we understand that that’s their decision.”

The other two instances of sexual battery occurred also on campus. Potts said the separate incidents don’t appear to be linked. One occurred at the Chi Psi Lodge on Sept. 8, and the other took place last Thursday at an unspecified place on campus.

Chi Psi Chapter President Philip Katsadouros sent a statement to The Daily Mississippian last Tuesday in response to the earlier incident.

“Chi Psi‘s policies, as well as our philanthropic focus, seek to raise awareness of and eliminate sexual assault in all forms,” Katsadouros said. “We have a zero-tolerance stance. Chi Psi fully cooperated with the investigation into the alleged incident Friday evening, which resulted in the RebAlert that night. It was reported to have occurred during a party in the public area of the Lodge. Other areas of the building were closed to guests. No members matched the description of the suspect. Chi Psi will continue to work with university officials, and any further developments will be managed accordingly.”

Potts said he was discouraged by the frequency of these events and expressed concern for the students.

“It’s infuriating,” Potts said. “I don’t want to put out any more crime prevention tips. If I continue to have to put these out, it means we continue to have these crime reports.  It’s draining.”

Potts advises students to download and use the free mobile app LiveSafe to be safer on campus.

“The ‘walk with me’ button on this app lets your friends see where you are going, depending on where your phone is,” Potts said. “If you see something going on, and you don’t want to be that person to call the police, then you can send an anonymous LiveSafe tip.”

Potts said he will continue to take a hardline stance on sexual crimes.

“Any information you have is good information,” Potts said. “If you think it’s important, it’s probably important.”

Jake Thrasher, president of Rebels Against Sexual Assault, said it’s important to know approximately 80 percent of sexual assaults go unreported.

“One thing that’s real important to keep in mind is that while three sexual assaults in less than two weeks seems like a lot, more than likely, a lot more have happened,” Thrasher said. “If this number and these cases seem surprising, when you take into consideration the actual number that probably has happened, it should be even more appalling and scary.”

He said a majority of these incidents happened at parties, which presents opportunities for bystanders to step in and prevent bad situations from happening.

“The good thing about a party is there are a lot of people there, so there’s a lot of opportunity for people to be active bystanders,” Thrasher said. “With being an active bystander, there’s basically three D’s of the active bystander: It’s direct, distract and delegate.”

Thrasher said RASA teaches these three methods.

The direct method is going up to the people involved and checking in with them, asking if they’re OK or need help. The distract method is approaching the people in the situation and pulling either one of the parties away by shifting attention to something else. Thrasher said that if those methods seem intimidating, active bystanders can use the delegate method and go to someone else who may be more familiar with the environment or people and can help intervene.