The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

VUPD reports two sexual assaults and two kidnapping attempts in past two weeks

On April 3, VUPD notified students of another off campus kidnapping attempt of a Vanderbilt student.
Emily Gonçalves
Project Safe at the 2019 Diverse ‘Dores Day. (Hustler Multimedia/Emily Gonçalves)

Editor’s Note: Sexual assault

Over the past two weeks, Vanderbilt University Police Department (VUPD) has alerted students via email of two on-campus sexual assaults and two attempted off-campus kidnappings.

Sexual Assaults

Per an email sent to students on March 28 at 12:01 p.m. CDT, a female Vanderbilt student was sexually assaulted by a male acquaintance in a residential building on the evening of March 27. 

“Sexual assault does not just occur between strangers,” the email read.

Students received a second notice on March 30 at 12:49 p.m. CDT that another sexual assault occurred the night of March 27. The incident was perpetrated by a male Vanderbilt student against a female Vanderbilt student in a residential building. 

Cara Tuttle Bell, director of the Project Safe Center, said in an email to The Hustler that these incidents align with the higher rates of sexual assault cases in April, which is why the month is observed as Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

Among college students, April has historically been a higher-risk month for sexual assault, particularly when connected to social events and gatherings involving alcohol,” Bell said in the email. “Our support hotline is always available 24/7, and we do see an increase of calls both seasonally during this time of year and after security alerts are issued.”

Bell said that the Project Safe Center offers additional programming and support during April for these reasons. She added the Center has seen a recent rise in attendance at these offerings.

“We have seen greater interest in self-defense training in recent weeks, and we’re offering an 8- session empowerment self-defense course, facilitated by Nashville-based ASSERT Empowerment Self-Defense, on Sunday and Wednesday evenings from 7-8 PM via Zoom,” she said.

Kidnapping Attempts

A third email was sent to students on March 30 at 7:56 p.m. CDT detailing a report sent to Belmont University’s Office of Campus Security. A female Belmont student said she had nearly been kidnapped earlier that day by two men off campus while jogging in Edgehill Village. 

“Two men in a white truck called out to her and as she crossed the street, they pulled in front of her,” the email read. “One male reached out the window as if to grab her.”

According to the student, the men were Hispanic, in their mid-30s and wearing orange clothing resembling construction uniforms. She escaped the incident physically unharmed.

“If a stranger does approach, maintain a distance and be observant; if they are in a vehicle, get the license plate number,” the email read.

On March 13, another female Belmont student reported that she had been the victim of an attempted kidnap near Sevier Park in the 12 South neighborhood. She said that two men in an old, dark minivan with tape on its front right headlight approached her while jogging in the area. The passenger in the vehicle opened his door and attempted to grab her. The student escaped without physical harm. 

Vanderbilt students did not receive a notice from VUPD about this incident. According to the Metro Nashville Police Department (MNPD), the attempted Belmont student kidnappings are not related.

A fourth email was sent to Vanderbilt students on April 3 at 10:51 a.m. CDT reporting an off-campus kidnapping attempt of a female student the previous night between 9:00 p.m. CDT and 9:20 p.m. CDT. 

Per the email, the student stated that while she was walking east on Grand Ave, between 18th and 19th Ave when a man yelled to her, “Come here, I want to talk to you.” She ignored the man, who she described to be thin, between ages of 20-30 and heights 6’1-6’4 and wearing a flannel and dark jeans.

The male then ran towards her and lifted her off the ground,” the email read. “The student began screaming and fighting to resist and was able to break free and run from the area.

In an email to The Hustler, VUPD Assistant Chief of Police Rick Burr said that this is an unusual volume of attempted kidnappings. 

There have been three total incidents that were classified as kidnapping reported to VUPD in the last three years,” he said.

Bell said that this spike in reports may be related to the alleviation of COVID-19 restrictions.

As temperatures rise, and as the state and nation open back up, it is possible that we’ll see an increase in reports,” she said. “More people are out and about and more frequently, and that can correspond with the crime rates.” 

Per Burr, Vanderbilt and Belmont are working with MNPD to investigate these reports.

“We maintain close ties with MNPD and share information with them regularly,” Burr said. “We are working to identify possible video evidence and will share that with our area law enforcement partners.”

Staying Safe

VUPD encourages students to be “active participant[s]” in their safety by staying away from dark and isolated areas and not getting into a stranger’s car. He also emphasized the availability of university-sponsored resources such as the Vandy Safe app, VUPD walking escorts and the virtual walk home feature, which allows a VUPD Dispatch to monitor a user’s walk to their destination. 

Burr also said that VUPD’s presence will be heightened on and near campus as a result of these incidents.

Extra patrols and targeted patrols have been increased along the 21st Ave corridor and the surrounding streets leading to locations where our students are living off-campus this year,” Burr said. 

Bell echoed Burr’s statements, encouraging students to “trust your gut—it’s  truly talking to you.” She also commented about the Project Safe Center and VUPD’s efforts to spread awareness of possible threats and how to avoid them, on and off campus.

“We want to offer as much education and share the information we know about reducing risk based on what we know has happened before and what we know about how these crimes occur,” she said. “We’ve learned so much from reports and survivor narratives over several  decades now, which is where these types of tips and strategies come from.”

Burr also emphasized Vanderbilt University Public Safety’s (VUPS) dedication to keeping students from harm.

“VUPS is committed to the safety and security of our students and the Vanderbilt community,” he said. “We will continue to maintain partnerships with area law enforcement, student organization and community leaders in order to make Vanderbilt as safe as possible.”

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About the Contributors
Rachael Perrotta
Rachael Perrotta, Former Editor-in-Chief
Rachael Perrotta ('24) is from Cranston, R.I., and majored in cognitive studies, political science and communication of science and technology and minored in gender and sexuality studies in Peabody College. She was also previously Senior Advisor and News Editor. If she's not pressing you for a comment, she's probably trying to convince you that she's over 5 feet tall, cheering on the Red Sox or wishing Nashville had a beach. She can be reached at [email protected].
Nathan Miao
Nathan Miao, Staff Writer
Nathan Miao ('23) is a College of Arts and Science student studying public policy and economics. You can reach him at [email protected].
Emily Gonçalves
Emily Gonçalves, Former Multimedia Director
Emily Gonçalves (‘20) was the Multimedia Director of the Vanderbilt Hustler. She majored in Mathematics and Economics and minored in Latin American Studies. When she’s not taking photos, you can catch this Jersey girl making puns, singing, advocating for girls’ education and drinking lots of chocolate milk and espresso!
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