BLOUNTVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL) – Police at Northeast State Community College are searching for a suspect at the center of a sexual assault investigation.
This after an alert Monday warned students and staff about an incident of “forcible fondling” inside the Wayne G. Basler library on the Blountville campus.
Students at the Blountville campus tell me it is unfortunate this had to happen in what is supposed to be a peaceful setting. Police said they are still looking for the man.
“Stay alert, be aware of your surroundings. Anytime that you’re not comfortable on campus, whether it be walking to their class or to their vehicle, to contact one of the officers on duty. We’d be more than happy to provide an escort,” campus police Chief Brian Johnson advised.
“I’m more or less just kind of shocked as to where it happened. I’m not condoning anything like that, but nortmally you would think that if something like that were to happen, it would happen in an open space. Not right down in a library,” student Tyler Remy said. “It’s very appaulling that someone would do it in general but to do it right down there in the library, it’s ridiculous.”
While some students are shocked, others explained these types of incidents happen often on campus, but are not reported to police.
“The community puts such a stigmatized belief on what they think it is. Like, if you don’t report it fast enough, or they often ask ‘Well, what were you wearing, were you drinking? That kind of stuff bothers people. It makes them think that it’s their fault. I think that has a lot to do why people don’t report it as often,” student Karah Waller said.
Waller said she is far too familiar with sexual assault, being a victim herself. She commends the student who was able to immediately speak out.
“Talk to people. I know that sounds really cliche, but being comfortable and vulnerable, like opening up just takes this weight off your chest. It doesn’t even have to be a teacher or someone authority. It can be your best friend, your dog. Just talking about it will make you feel so much better,” Waller said.
The police chief tells added that it is unclear what charges the suspect could face once he is caught.
He said anyone who feels unsafe while on campus can call a direct emergency cell phone number that will connect to a campus officer at (423) 677-7927.