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Ole Miss student reports being kidnapped, sexually assaulted after getting in car she thought was a taxi

The University of Mississippi Police Department is continuing its investigation into the alleged kidnapping and sexual battery of a student.

UPD Capt. Jane Tutor said the female victim reported she got into a large SUV or van in the area of Poole Drive and Chucky Mullins Drive on September 17, thinking it was a taxi. Once inside, she says she was held against her will and assaulted inside the vehicle before being released at about 3 a.m. in the area of Rebel Drive and Northgate Drive.

Items belonging to the female were found on the north side of Jackson Avenue in the area of Sorority Row.

The victim described her attacker as a bald, black male in his mid-30s or 40s.

Tutor said no arrests have been made as of Thursday.

“We’re still following up on leads,” Tutor said.

Officials concerned

It was the first sexual assault reported since school started. On Sept. 24, police responded to another reported sexual assault that allegedly took place in the backyard of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity during an event. However, Tutor said since the initial report, detectives determined the crime didn’t fit the statute of sexual assault and is now being investigated as boisterous conduct and that no one physically harmed.

The Sept. 17 incident, however, has law enforcement on alert.

According to the FBI Uniform Crime Statistics, there were four sexual battery incidents reported at Ole Miss during the 2014-2015 school year. Figures for last school year are not yet available.

However, not all sexual crimes are reported to the police. And not all sexual violence crimes are considered rape. Under federal law, sexual violence refers to physical sexual acts perpetrated against a person’s will or where a person is incapable of giving consent — including rape, sexual assault, sexual battery, sexual abuse, sexual harassment and sexual coercion.

At Ole Miss students are encouraged to report the crime to UPD but not all victims do. Some victims choose to keep the investigation in-house, or on campus, and allow the university to deal with the alleged assailant when they are a student at Ole Miss.

Take precautions

Tutor said victims should contact UPD by calling the emergency numbers or by going directly to UPD in Kinard Hall, Wing C on Rebel Drive. She said there are some steps women or men can take to protect themselves by not being alone and always having all of their faculties about them to know if a dangerous situation could be in the making.

“Notify friends of your plans to go out,” she said. “Never attend events alone. Go with at least two other people and keep up with each other. Always be around of your surroundings. Tell your roommates what your plans are and when you expect to arrive back home.”

If a student feels uneasy walking on campus after dark, Tutor suggests using the Rebel Patrol Student Escort Service where escorts, hired by UPD, offer on-campus walk-along escorts for anyone concerned about walking alone. To ask for an escort, call UPD at 662-915-7234.

Tutor said if a victim decides to report an assault, the sooner they do it the better – not just because of evidence collection, but so the victim can get the help they need as quickly as possible.

“We want to make sure they’re safe and then get them the help they need, whether it’s medical or counseling,” she said.

The website UMSafe.olemiss.edu lists resources available to victims of violent crimes. The website provides resources and information for the victim, the accused, faculty and staff, parents and friends.

When the suspect is a student

If the victim chooses to move ahead with an investigation through the campus – regardless of whether they press criminal charges with UPD – the Title IX officer begins the case by making sure the victim has necessary medical and other resources available to him or her through the Violence Prevent Office.

They make sure the student is safe and may recommend steps to make sure the victim is safe from the alleged assailant if they are also a student at the university, which may include a “no contact letter” issued to the accused, changes in course schedules and changes in housing assignments.

Cases of sexual misconduct will be adjudicated within 60 days of the date the complaint is made unless there are extenuating circumstances. The Title IX coordinator will comply with law enforcement during their investigation, as well. If there is sufficient evidence against the accused student, the case goes before the Student Judicial Council. If the officer finds there is not enough evidence, the victim may still request a hearing before the SJC, which must render a decision within 40 days. The accused may appeal the findings if they are found to be in violation.

Sanctions determined by the Student Judicial Council, per the University’s Disciplinary Sanctions policy, may include disciplinary action up to and including suspension or expulsion from the university. These do not include any criminal charges, convictions or sentences if the case is tried through the legal system.