University of Montana's Engstrom: Just call 911 

The University of Montana and the City of Missoula last week rolled out a comprehensive campaign to encourage victims of sexual assault to call 911. That effort prompted some to question whether UM administrators feel confident with how UM's Office of Public Safety handled a Feb. 10 report of a male aggressor forcing a female student to get into his car and then providing her with alcohol and drugs.

According to UM's Feb. 10 campus safety crime log, a "female was forced into a vehicle in the Lommasson Center parking lot this morning around 2:28."

UM's student newspaper, the Montana Kaimin, reported that the man took the woman to his residence and forcibly kissed her before she escaped through a window. UM's Office of Public Safety categorized the crime as providing alcohol to a minor. The same male student allegedly raped a woman hours after the first incident.

During a Feb. 28 student forum, UM chemistry major Sarah Hamblock asked UM President Royce Engstrom if he was troubled by Public Safety's response to the Feb. 10 allegations. "I was wondering if you're concerned about the fact that maybe our campus security isn't adequate in this, in regard to sexual assault. I guess I feel it isn't," she said.

In response, Engstrom explained that city and campus law enforcement communicate efficiently. Calling 911, he said, is simply the best means to contact city and campus police in an emergency situation.

When a reporter asked if Public Safety's response was adequate, Engstrom bristled. "I have no reason to believe that our police officers in any way misrepresented what took place," he said.

Engstrom said that the decision to classify the first incident as alcohol-related came after UM Public Safety consulted with the City Attorney's Office.

Prosecutor Gary Henricks responded to UM's inquiry. He says Public Safety did not tell him that the woman was forced into a car, nor did campus police say anything about a forced kiss. "What I was told is she had been offered a ride home," Henricks said. "There was never any allegation of sexual assault."

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