The University is in a very precarious place right now regarding the precedent they’re setting for how to deal with sexual assault and harassment on campus and in the community, according to two former Miss Homecoming candidates whose platforms addressed sexual assault prevention.
“Auburn’s in a spot that they need to say what they’re condoning because right now it looks like they’re condoning a whole lot,” said former Homecoming candidate Kayla Warner.
Auburn police have arrested two adult males, both employees of Tiger Transit operator First Transit, on charges of rape and sodomy related to a sexual assault that occurred Friday on a Tiger Transit Tiger Ten bus.
The victim was an 18-year-old female Auburn student and was not on the scene when police arrived
She was allegedly sexually assaulted in the back of the bus by Patillo, an employee of First Transit, while Don Johnson Jr., 32, who was driving the bus, engaged in actions to perpetuate the crime, police said.
Warner and Nicole Finley, another former Miss Homecoming 2017 candidate, both campaigned for Miss Homecoming 2017 on platforms regarding sexual assault awareness and prevention. Finley has been working through a partnership with WE.auburn, the University’s active bystander intervention program. Warner has been working to make
Warner and Finley said they want to know why an
The University waited nearly 72 hours to say anything – and no AUAlert ever went out.
“We need to say, ‘Hey, this is not okay. You need to protect our students because that’s what you’re here for,’” Warner said. “Parents may have not known about this until Monday at two o-clock. That’s insane.”
Finley raised a question about the safety of students that used that service on Saturday night not knowing what had happened just one night before.
No AUAlert went out about the incident. The Auburn Police Division released a press release detailing the events on Monday morning at about 10 a.m.
“Did we not all have the right to know?” Finley asked.
The University has said it did not send out an
But Johnson, the second suspect, was not apprehended by police until 9:23 p.m. on Saturday — nearly 24 hours after the event occurred, according to Assistant Police Chief William Matthews.
Conversely, Warner said that students all know if something happens on Old Row within six hours.
“Our top concern is the well-being of the victim, and we cannot stress in strong enough terms our shock and distress over this despicable act,” Campus Safety said in a statement. “We immediately provided support and all available resources to the victim and continue to do so.”
Given this First Transit incident, the sexual harassment allegations within the Athletics Department and two of five Miss Homecoming candidates having based their campaigns on sexual violence awareness and prevention, Warner said the administration and the new Auburn University President Steven Leath need to set the tone for what is and isn’t tolerable within this University.
“The University’s come to a place where it needs to decide if the reputation of Auburn University is more important than the safety of the students here,” Finley said.
Finley’s platform focused on
Warner’s campaign was to work with the wider Auburn community and even the state Legislature. Throughout campaign week, not only did Warner ask for votes but also for signatures on a petition to be delivered to the state Legislature asking them to review the state’s sexual education and sexual assault policies. She believes abstinence-only sex education doesn’t cut it, and more comprehensive sex ed will lead to more awareness about sexual violence and how to deal with it if it does occur.
After this weekend’s reported sexual violence, Warner and Finley recognize that their platforms are as important and relevant as ever. The two women originally planned to continue their work with these projects after the Miss Homecoming 2017 election, but since the election is over, they can now do it together.
Both Warner and Finley were open throughout their campaigns that they have personal experience with sexual assault and know first hand the trauma it can cause, making it an issue near and dear to their hearts.
Having gone through their individual experiences, Warner and Finley both emphasized the importance of knowing there’s a community of people out there that have gone through similar things and can offer solidarity.
Warner spoke about how unique each survivor’s process of dealing with trauma is, and how that’s okay. Both women said reaching out to friends and simply talking about what happened can be cathartic and empowering. They also said that they, personally, have had many friends and acquaintances reach out to them after their platforms became public, and they are always open to talk to anyone. Finley talked about how significant belief can be to a survivor.
“It’s so important that survivors are met with belief,” Finley said. “That is a weight on all of us to understand that if someone comes and tells us something, we need to believe them.”