CofC's Office of Victim's Services ready to help
Updated: Dec 6, 2022
by Ada Jenkins
David, a senior at the College of Charleston (not his real name), was walking home from a friend’s downtown house last year when he was attacked by a stranger who pushed him into a brick wall and caused a head injury that required stitches.
“It happened so quick I could barely react,” recalls David, adding that he was then robbed by the attacker. “He took my wallet, my keys, and my phone. I had nothing.”
Left bleeding on the side of the road just off of King Street, David eventually found a call box and alerted the authorities. He was immediately taken to the hospital and treated for his injuries.
“I felt relatively safe walking because I’m a dude,” says David, reminiscing on the confidence he used to have when walking home alone at night. “But now I know it can happen to anyone.”
For victims like David, there’s a place on campus that provides 24-hour support - the Office of Victim’s Services.
Their mission is to not only help students cope with and heal from an incident but to also take care of all outside factors so student victims can focus on recovery.
After his incident, David was concerned about falling behind in school. He was relieved when OVS reached out to his professors for him to inform them of the situation so that accommodations could be made.
“They were so good about that, they talked to all my professors. I didn’t have to do a thing. It was so nice,” said David.
Director Robin LaRocque stresses that they are available to students regardless of incident time and location.
“It doesn't matter where, doesn't matter when,” LaRocque said.
OVS also works with survivors regardless of whether they have reported the incident to the police or not. OVS acknowledges that there are a variety of reasons why someone doesn’t want to file a report.
“I think it's important to note that we're not judgmental. Every reason for not wanting to is valid, just as every reason for wanting to report is valid,” said LaRocque.
Whether the student wants to file a report or not, the Office of Victim’s Services still discusses options with them as well as what their rights are. They tell students that it is important to preserve evidence even if they don’t want to report now in the instance that they change their mind down the road.
The office had a case years ago where a female student was raped by a stranger just off of campus. She was hesitant to file a report but the office advised that she get a rape kit done anyways. She agreed, and it was sent off for testing to identify and arrest the perpetrator.
“My student was a freshman when she first came in and at the end of her junior year, we got a call from law enforcement,” LaRocque said, adding that they found a matching identity to the DNA. “Guy is off the street; he’s in prison.”
While the Office of Victim’s Services helps students with the aftermath of the crime, they can also help with the investigation.
Another student went to OVS after suffering an ongoing abusive relationship. The student had been planning to drop out of college and travel the world with him.
LaRocque researched the abuser’s name online and found some startling information.
“I found out - she did not know this - that he had been arrested on child rape,” LaRocque said. “And he was out on bond and ran.”
The student was shocked and immediately wanted out of the relationship. OVS helped her break it off safely as it can be dangerous leaving an abuser - especially one with that kind of criminal background.
Victim's Services also actively keeps students aware of criminal activity on or near campus. This is done under the Jeanne Clery Act, which requires universities and colleges to report campus crime data to students and staff.
The department also coordinates the College of Charleston’s Annual Security Report, posting it for public access on The College’s official website and updating regularly.
The report lists violent crimes, liquor/drug violations, and hate crimes. The violent crimes category involves reports of sexual assault, armed robbery, domestic violence, stalking, etc.
The school is also responsible for sending out alerts when violent crimes occur within the jurisdiction granted to The College under the Clery Act. These areas include all CofC campuses as well as public property immediately adjacent and accessible to the campus.
LaRocque also points out that because not every victim reports his or her incident, the annual report is not entirely accurate. This is true for campuses nationwide.
However, she wants to create a more inviting environment for students to want to come forward, so OVS is constantly working to let students know they are here for them and that there are options.
“One of us is the captain of a ship, and the other is the Navigator. So you're the captain,” LaRocque says, describing how the victim-to-department relationship works. “I can tell you the points or ports of call we can go to and then you decide which ones you want to go to.”
David definitely felt like OVS let him be in control of how to deal with his situation.
“The school was very empathetic. And Victim’s Services of course,” he said. “They were the only good thing about (the crime). Don’t know what I would’ve done without them.”