A case of two reports

Published 10:08 am Thursday, September 5, 2019

Hampden-Sydney College (H-SC) police reported having responded to a call involving someone suffering from a possible overdose or alcohol poisoning over the weekend, a call that was reported in an email to the Longwood University campus community as being a report of a possible sexual assault involving a Longwood student.

The following Omnilert email was sent Sunday at 11:31 a.m. to the Longwood campus community:

“Please be aware that last night Hampden-Sydney police responded to a report of a possible sexual assault involving a Longwood student. The report is being investigated.

Email newsletter signup

“Remember to always be aware of your surroundings. If you choose to consume alcohol, never leave your drink unattended.

“For resources and information on sexual assault reporting, please visit www.longwood.edu/titleix.”

To an email request for more details on the incident described in the Longwood email, H-SC Director of Communications & Marketing Gordon Neal emailed the following statement early Sunday evening:

“My understanding is that that email is in reference to a call involving a young woman who was potentially suffering from alcohol poisoning. Our officers responded to this call, and the individual was examined by first responders and declined EMS transport.

“As a precaution, and given the individual’s level of intoxication, campus police encouraged her to go to the hospital for additional care, including further forensic testing, and she agreed. At no point has a sexual assault been alleged.

“We appreciate and share Longwood’s commitment to the safety of our campuses and local community.”

In an email Sunday evening, The Herald presented H-SC Director of Public Safety & Chief of Police T. Mark Fowler with both the Longwood email message and the statement from Neal and asked Fowler how a report of intoxication and possible alcohol poisoning came to be listed in the Longwood email as a report of a possible sexual assault.

Fowler wrote, “The statement you received from Mr. Neal is accurate in its contents. The call we received from Farmville 911 Dispatch was for a ‘possible overdose/poisoning.’ To answer your question of how it became listed as a possible sexual assault, you will have to consult Longwood University. I am not in a position to offer an explanation as to how they reached that assumption.”

Via email, The Herald presented Longwood Assistant Vice President of Communications Matt McWilliams with both Neal’s and Fowler’s statements and asked McWilliams how the report came to be listed in the Longwood email as “a report of a possible sexual assault involving a Longwood student.”

In reply, McWilliams wrote, “Longwood always acts promptly to notify the campus community when we receive information that a possible sexual assault may have occurred, as we did in these circumstances. We can’t comment further at this time.”