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Texas A&M warns students after several reports of sexual assaults occurring off-campus

Posted at 4:20 PM, Sep 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-25 11:32:55-04

BRAZOS COUNTY, TX — Texas A&M's Title IX Office is warning students of reported sexual assaults occurring off-campus.

In an email sent to students on Friday, September 18, university officials said they've received anonymous reports of "concerning off-campus behaviors related to the use of incapacitating agents (e.g. rohypnol, ketamine, GHB, large amounts of alcohol)."

It was reported that students are being incapacitated with a drug and then sexually assaulted.

Junior Kelsey Hoppenstedt says she knows sexual assault survivors at the university.

“They’re true. I personally know a few women who have dealt with this problem in the past,” she said.

The office received the tips through the university's anonymous tip lines. Students say these resources are very beneficial.

“Having that resource is probably empowering a lot more people to come forward with what’s happened with them,” said Hoppenstedt.

With a number of resources for survivors on-campus, the Sexual Assault Resource Center (SARC) also works hand in hand with the university and community.

“We provide free counseling services. We provide 24-hour crisis intervention services, case management, referrals, and information, and we also provide education and outreach services, which I think is key in prevention as far as sexual assault on college campuses,” said Lauren Spitznagle, Executive Director of SARC.

In light of the recent warning to students regarding drug-facilitated sexual assault, SARC says its important to not confuse drugs as the reason sexual assaults are occurring.

“Alcohol and substances don’t cause sexual assault and rape. It's the perpetrator that causes rape,” said Spitznagle.

Nationally, universities see an increase in reports of sexual assault at the beginning of the semester and around the holidays.

“Specifically with college sexual assaults, we see a significant increase in September. So, that's where our increase comes and then also around the holidays, so at the end of the semester,” explained Spitznagle.

Hoppenstedt says it’s important to always be with people you trust, especially when going out.

“Just like having that kind of bubble or community of those few people that you are close with that you personally trust is really important,” she says.

The Title IX Office provided these safety tips in the email:

  • Don’t drink from a can or bottle that you didn’t open yourself
  • Avoid punch bowls or drinks that are being passed in a group setting
  • Do use your own cup with a lid and a straw
  • Don't let someone else buy you a drink. Instead, go to the bar to order your own drink and watch it being made
  • Don’t leave your drink unattended. If you leave your drink to dance, talk to friends, or use the restroom, throw it out and get a new one
  • If your drink has unusual taste or appearance, like a salty taste or unexplained residue, throw it out
  • Watch out for your friends and ask them to watch out for you. Have a plan to check in with each other at set times
  • If your friend appears intoxicated, gets sick, passes out, is having trouble walking or breathing, do what you need to do to make sure your friend is safe. Call 911 in case of an emergency

The Texas A&M Police Department is assisting Title IX in their investigation into the anonymous reports.

If you are a survivor of sexual assault and would like to speak with the Sexual Assault Resource Center, you can call their hotline at 979-731-1000.