Experts offer safety advice to ENMU students

Tony Parra: PNT Staff Writer

Eastern New Mexico University police officers, counselors and self-defense experts have spent the last week trying to help students stay alert, safe and aware of their surroundings.

ENMU representatives held personal safety workshops on the heels of a couple of recent alleged sexual assault incidents involving two ENMU female students, according to Brad Mauldin of the ENMU police.

Ty Walker, the university’s director of counseling and career services, said the workshops were intended to help students in prevention of assaults and to address campus safety concerns.

Officials maintain there is no factual information to support a campus flier that warns of a rapist the flier claims has been involved in “two or more assaults.” The person or persons distributing the fliers have not made themselves known.
“We wanted to be proactive and educate our kids about safety precautions,” Walker said.

“It was a wake-up call that this could happen on our campus. These assaults happen nationwide as long as you have people. We wanted our students to be constantly aware.”

According to police reports, one assault took place on Oct. 6, when police officers were dispatched to a residence near the 1600 block of South Avenue G in reference to a break-in. Police talked to a 21-year-old woman who told them she had been sexually assaulted by a man.

The report said she had been attacked in her living room, where she had fallen asleep on the couch.

A second incident is alleged to have occurred at 1 a.m. on Nov. 2 with an 18-year-old female victim. Police said they’ve interviewed four people as potential witnesses and took DNA swabs and scissors with blood on them into evidence.

Portales Police Capt. Lonnie Berry said both of the incidents took place off campus. He said police have received conflicting reports on the location of the Nov. 2 alleged sexual assault and therefore declined to release either location.

Portales police also have declined to release portions of the report detailing the second incident.

The Portales News-Tribune on Thursday delivered to Police Chief Jeff Gill’s office a formal request seeking the documents under the state’s Open Records Act.

Berry maintains the Nov. 2 incident is “under investigation” and therefore not subject to the state’s open records laws.
Police also say they believe the two alleged assaults are not related.

“We don’t believe it is the same person (involved in the alleged rapes),” Berry said on Thursday. “They (sexual assaults) are not related.”

Berry said no arrests had been made in either case.
Mauldin, Stephanie McClary, ENMU director of housing, Steven Blakeley, a martial arts expert, and Susan Larsen of the Counseling and Career Services Office spoke to faculty members and students Thursday in the Pecos Room of the ENMU campus.

Kim Apodaca, an ENMU senior, said she liked the workshop and felt it was informative.

“It was helpful in setting the record straight,” Apodaca said. “There were rumors flying around. I wanted to come out and see what was going on.”

Apodaca said hearing the rumors (about a rapist) made her paranoid.

Mauldin said an objective was to squash the rumors going around campus about the alleged sexual assault incidents.
“We had an issue about spreading out fliers with information that was misleading and incorrect,” Mauldin told those at the workshop.

“We want you to know rape can happen to everyone,” Larsen told them. “Everyone is a potential victim.”

Larsen said workshop organizers don’t want to place blame on sexual assault victims and tell them what they should have done, but the focus of the workshops was to give advice and tips to keep people safe.

Apodaca said she learned from Blakeley’s self-defense tips and demonstrations. Apodaca said she doesn’t fear walking around the campus more than before the incidents.
“There’s going to be crime wherever you go,” Apodaca said. “I think it’s important to stay informed and for people to know what’s going on.”

Mauldin said measures are in place by ENMU police to keep students safe on campus.

“We have an escort service after 5 p.m.,” Mauldin said. “We have increased patrol on night shift.”

Berry said the Roosevelt County Sheriff’s Department and Portales Police Department have increased patrols and increased the visibility of police officers around the community.

“We’re doing several things to make the community feel comfortable and make neighborhoods safer,” Berry said. “If people have concerns or suspicions, call us and we’ll come out and check it out. There will be police officers out there in no time at all.”