Students on edge after reported rape at Santa Rosa junior college

A community college in Sonoma County is reeling after a student reported being raped in a campus restroom.

Authorities say the alleged assault happened on Thursday, Aug. 20, but was not reported for five days.

"We're glad she did report it, so we can alert the community and try to apprehend the individual," Santa Rosa Junion College President Dr. Frank Chong told KTVU.

Almost 30,000 students are enrolled at the North Bay campus, and about a third of them attend evening classes.

"Today in Anthropology, our teacher told us how to be street smart," 20-year-old Eva Rubin told KTVU.

Staff, faculty, and students received email alerts from President Chong, making them aware of the alleged assault and encouraging discussions of personal safety.

"I walk through the lit areas on campus for as long as I can," explained Rubin. "And I usually have pepper spray in my pocket. Or, if not, I have my keys in my fist, just in case."

Santa Rosa Police are leading the investigation.

The woman, a continuing student, said she entered the restroom in Barnett Hall at about 9 p.m., and was confronted by a man who pushed her against a wall and assaulted her.

He wore a black beanie type mask over his face and all black clothing. The victim described him as about five feet ten with a stocky build.

"You can't predict where an assailant is going to be a predator," noted Dr. Chong. "So we have to make sure everybody's vigilant keeping their wits about them and being aware."

The well-regarded community college has a 100-acre campus as wooded as a park.

In darkness, students are more likely to be wary on paths and in parking lots, not in busy buildings.

"It's so lit up, I've never been afraid to walk anywhere, so it really shocked me, " student Debbie McCulloch told KTVU. "And I was here six to nine last Thursday. It's really scary knowing someone was in the bathroom. I'm not going to go to the bathroom after dark."

The one-story hall where the assault allegedly occurred is in a central part of campus, and an area patrolled by the college police force. But officers can't be everywhere.

The victim didn't report the assault right away, waiting until she was at the health center for something unrelated, five days later.

"I understand that's common, because victims are traumatized," observed Dr. Chong. "So we do the best we can with what we have to work with."

There are also no cameras or surveillance images to help investigate the case. Students seem grateful for the warning and are taking precautions.

"We don't know who it was, or if they'll repeat," said student Kellie Lunsford. "So I'm going to stick close with a classmate on the way to the car and the bathroom."

SRJC provides campus escorts on request.

The administration will also review strategic places to post cadets or install cameras for enhanced safety.

The victim is being offered counseling and support services.