An Instagram story-post stating a woman was pulled into a car and raped went viral among ESU students last week.
What precisely did occur remains unclear, but the post — and the reaction to the post – added to a sense of tension on campus already shaken by a widely reported rape and assault at ESU reported on Oct. 25.
That alleged rape at Hawthorn Hall led to the arrest of Brandon Lee Sheffield, 19, a Lincoln University student who remains in Monroe County Prison faced an array of charges.
The Instagram post states that an individual’s friend who works for campus police overheard an officer say that a woman was pulled into a car at the University Ridge apartments parking lot and raped by two men.
“The girl was walking with a friend and they legit grabbed the one girl, drove off to a remote location, raped her, then drove back to the [R]idge,” the individual wrote in what seemed like a direct message before turning into an Instagram story.
Campus police first caught wind of the incident via an agency in Scranton when a non-ESU student sought medical treatment.
According to William Parrish, ESU’s chief of campus police, that individual stated that she was at an ESU party before an incident occurred and she wasn’t clear on the location of the party exactly because she is not familiar with the campus.
It’s unclear if the party the individual was referring to was at the University Ridge.
Parrish states that the alleged rape of the Instagram story was referring to happened on Oct. 13. They are unclear about what time.
An official ESU campus safety alert was sent last Thursday, on Oct. 31 outlining information about the alleged abduction and rape.
According to the email, the victim stated she was never grabbed or forcefully put into the vehicle, as the Instagram post stated. Instead, she was picked up by “someone whom she was in communication with on a dating app.”
According to Parrish, the victim’s original report indicated that she was not grabbed. Instead, she contacted a young man through an app and he picked her up from wherever the ESU party was and they left together voluntarily.
Parrish stated that the campus safety alert email was sent because the information allegedly came from inside the campus police department.
“This isn’t someone hearing something from an unknown source. This is coming from the [campus] police department,” he said. “The only thing we have that would be close to that would be this incident that I am describing.”
Parrish also stated that the misconduct allegedly happened after the woman was picked up. The nature or location of the misconduct Parrish is unaware of.
“I know that she was initially seen at the hospital [the night of October 13.] I am not at liberty to divulge really where [Stroud Regional’s] investigation is at,” Parrish said. “The true concerning nature for me, because there was such vague information based on that first incident, there was no [need] to put an alert out.”
However, Parrish stated that once the Instagram post came out it created a sense of fear and that students felt as if they were in an unsafe environment, particularly at the Ridge apartments.
“I felt that that needed to be addressed to ensure that Ridge students or any campus students do not feel like someone is driving around abducting females or female students,” he said.
Even before the post, one campus worker said she heard negative things about sexual assault on ESU’s campus.
“People would say ‘Don’t go around the ESU campus because it’s very rapey,” she said. “I remember when I was in high school, my senior year in 2015, there were five in one semester.”
Senior Erin Tamm said she is scared to walk around the Ridge area at night.
“I never used to lock my car doors when [I was] in the car,” she said, “but now I do it all the time because of the stuff that’s been happening. I don’t think there’s enough security at the Ridge and the blue [emergency] lights they have are too far apart.”
According to Parrish, student’s safety is the campus police’s number one priority.
“We’re not only responsible for your safety, but we are also responsible for making sure you feel safe too. If you don’t feel safe there is something that we need to address,” Parrish said.
According to the ESU campus safety email, the location of the incident and the identification of the perpetrator are still being investigated. If anyone knows anything about this incident, they are encouraged to contact University Police at (570) 422- 3604 or Pennsylvania State Police (570) 619-6480.
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