Suspect in Sexual Assault at Southern University Also Charged with Stalking Another Student
- Suspect allegedly sexually assaulted a student on campus of Southern Adventist University.
- Suspect also allegedly harassed and stalked a second SAU student.
- Resources for sexual violence survivors can be found at this link from Rainn.org, the United States’ largest anti-sexual violence organization.
14 December 2021 | Police in Collegedale, Tennessee, United States, announced on Dec. 2, 2021, that Claude Abran Finch, recently arrested for an alleged sexual assault on the campus of Southern Adventist University (SAU), also faces charges of stalking a second student.
On Nov. 16, 2021, while police were investigating the alleged sexual assault at SAU that day, police learned a second SAU student had reported two unwanted encounters with Finch that day and the day before.
She told police officers that in the second encounter she was driving through campus trying to get away from Finch, who she says was following her in his own vehicle, and that she was “scared for her life.” She then called campus security for help.
The victim says Campus Safety officers told her to park her car and lock her doors, and wait for them to arrive. After doing so, the student says Finch parked his car right next to hers. Fearing for her safety, she backed out of her parking space and drove off, according to police.
The suspect then sped away when campus security arrived.
The Campus Safety Department did not immediately forward a report of this incident to the police department because of a federal requirement that protects a victim’s right to decline law enforcement involvement.
Under the Clery Act, institutions of higher education who receive federal funds are required to report crime data and provide support for victims of violence. However, a recent addendum to the Clery Act states that campus authorities, or campus security, must inform victims they can notify law enforcement, but that they also have the option to decline notification of law enforcement.
“Basically stated, the new addendum puts the notification power more at the discretion of the victim and less with campus authorities,” said Lt. Jamie Heath, the public information officer (PIO) for the Collegedale Police.
According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, one in five women and one in 16 men are sexually assaulted while in college, but more than 90% of sexual assault victims on college campuses do not report the assault.
“In this case, it was only after encouragement from Southern Adventist University’s Campus Safety personnel that the victim decided to report to the police,” said Isaac James, a university spokesperson.
It was only after the sexual assault that police learned of the stalking incidents. It is unclear why Campus Safety personnel did not encourage the student to report the stalking incidents to the police immediately.
There are a wide range of reasons people don’t report their experiences with sexual harassment and assault to authorities and, oftentimes, even hide them from friends and family members, according to an article from the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy.
Reasons include self-blame, not recognizing sexual violence as such, shame, guilt, embarrassment, confidentiality concerns and fear of not being believed.
“The Collegedale Police Department continues to invite open communication from Campus Safety, as well as anyone else that may be a victim of any crime or may otherwise need our assistance,” said Heath.
“The more communication we have, the sooner we are likely to come to a satisfactory conclusion in cases such as these.”
Collegedale Police charged Finch with stalking, which is a Class A misdemeanor.
Finch also faces sexual assault and evading police charges.
On Nov. 16, 2021, a SAU student was out running when she noticed a red Chevrolet hatchback that seemed to be following her, according to a News Channel 9 article.
Heath says the victim tried to create distance between her and the vehicle.
Stopping to rest at the Collegedale Adventist Church, the victim noticed the vehicle again. As she was going up a set of stairs, the suspect allegedly grabbed her from behind, and groped and fondled her, said Heath.
She hit him, and was able to fight him off and get away, then ran toward the dormitories and called for help. The incident happened around 8 p.m.
Later on that evening a car matching the victim’s description was seen at a roundabout on campus.
Police pulled Claude Abran Finch over outside student housing complexes.
Heath said the officer noticed the driver matched the victim’s description and asked him to step out of the vehicle, but he took off.
Officers later located Finch at a house in the East Brainerd area on Nov. 17, 2021 and arrested him. Finch had no prior connection to SAU or Collegedale.
“We appreciate the quick efforts of the Collegedale Police Department in apprehending the suspect and their ongoing partnership with Campus Safety to keep Southern a safe place,” James said.
Resources for sexual violence survivors can be found at this link from Rainn.org, the United States’ largest anti-sexual violence organization.
RAINN created and operates the National Sexual Assault Hotline (800.656.HOPE, online.rainn.org y rainn.org/es) in partnership with more than 1,000 local sexual assault service providers across the country and operates the DoD Safe Helpline for the Department of Defense.
RAINN also carries out programs to prevent sexual violence, help survivors, and ensure that perpetrators are brought to justice.
(Photo: Students walk along a path on the campus of Southern Adventist University on Dec. 3, 2021. In November 2021, one student was allegedly sexually assaulted and another was stalked. Photo via Southern Adventist University Facebook page)