Mile Garcia

Garcia

By Beth Lawrence

 

A Florida man has been arrested in connection with an alleged sexual assault on the Western Carolina University campus.

Miles Joseph Garcia, 18, of Land O’ Lakes, Florida was arrested for one felony count each of second-degree forcible sex offense and second-degree forcible rape.

According to the warrant for arrest Garcia allegedly “engag(ed) in a sex offense with (the victim) by force and against the victim’s will” and “did ravish and carnally know (the victim) by force and against the victim’s will.” The attack occurred in the Allen Residence Hall on Nov. 2. It is one of four reported rapes since the semester began.

Garcia is currently a student at WCU, as was the victim, according to WCU Public Information Officer Geoff Cantrell, who did not comment on whether Garcia would be expelled until the case is resolved.

Second-degree forcible rape is a Class C felony in North Carolina. If convicted Garcia could face between 44 and 182 months in prison. Second-degree forcible sexual offense carries the same penalty.

The Herald has received emails expressing concern over the number of sexual assaults on campus and concern that the assaults seemed to center on Allen Hall.

The Herald reached out to WCU and REACH of Macon County, which also works with sexual assault and domestic violence victims in Jackson, for information and context.

“My review of records and a conversation with University Police Department leadership does not bear out claims of an increase in sexual assaults or particular trouble spots,” Cantrell said. “All reports and potential threats are updated daily.”

WCU received reports of one rape, three second-degree forcible rapes, one second-degree forcible sex offense and two sexual batteries between August and December of this year, Cantrell said. 

The university considers rape and sexual assault on its campus a grave matter.

“When University Police receive a report that a student has been victimized, they conduct outreach and connect the student with a victim advocate,” he said. “If the sexual assault occurred on campus, the WCU Police Department will investigate the incident and pursue criminal charges. When WCU Police receive a report of rape or sexual assault, they also notify the University’s Title IX Coordinator. The Title IX Coordinator ensures that the student receives supportive measures and information about the Title IX process.”

Reports of sexual assault may be made to University Police, the school’s Title IX Coordinator, or to a Campus Security Authority.

Jennifer Turner-Lynn assistant director of REACH of Macon County said the group has not seen an increase in the number of 18- to 24 year-olds reporting sexual assaults in the early months of the semester.

“I did a review of our agency data looking at the same three month snapshot – July to September – comparing 2019, 2020 and 2021,” Turner-Lynn said. “Obviously, COVID has and continues to skew certain data, but in general, I can tell you that our sexual assault numbers in 2021 are actually less than the other two time periods … I’d say it’s at about 50 percent less than the previous year. Sexual assault numbers overall were highest in 2019 but our 18-24 year-olds’ sexual assaults were highest in 2020.” 

WCU provides survivors with resources following an assault including the Counseling and Psychological Center, residential case managers, Student Affairs, the university police, the Title IX Coordinator and Intercultural Affairs. Resources can include counseling, no contact orders; being relocated in university housing and the ability to change classes, schedules and extracurricular activities.

Students may also be referred to off-campus resources such as the Center for Domestic Peace, REACH or spiritual leaders.

“University Police and others who do sexual assault training and programing notify participants of the resources during the program,” Cantrell said. “Additionally, University Police developed a Victim’s Rights packet. The packet is distributed by police and others on campus when a sexual assault is disclosed.”

The number of incidents on campus is lower or on par for recent years, according to statistics gleaned from the school’s Annual Fire Safety and Security Report.

Colleges and universities are required to file the reports under the 1990 Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act. The act is named for Jeanne Clery, a Lehigh University student who was brutalized, raped and killed in her dorm room in 1986. All schools taking part in federal financial aid programs must maintain and report statistics on crimes and fires on and near school campuses.

WCU, whose 2021-22 enrollment is 11,887 students, reported five rapes in its 2020 Annual Fire Safety and Security Report for the year beginning July 2019 and ending June 2020. In 2019 that number was 15, and in 2018 the number was 10. In the 2020 report, there were six acts of dating violence and three reports of stalking.

Schools with similar enrollment report varying numbers of rapes. North Carolina A&T, with an estimated enrollment of 11,600 students, reported four rapes in 2020, five in 2019 and six in 2018. University of North Carolina Pembroke, with a student body of 8,319, reported nine rapes in 2020, seven in 2019, and six in 2018. University of North Carolina Wilmington. whose enrollment is around 18,031, reported eight rapes in 2020, seven in 2019 and 11 in 2018.

Real time campus crime reports spanning the most recent 60 days for WCU can be found at: wcu.edu/discover/campus-services-and-operations/university-police/crime-statistics/daily- activity-reports.aspx.