An article from the Newark Post and on the Newark Police Public Information website revealed that on October 8th, 2021, a University of Delaware student, Brandon Freyre assaulted a female acquaintance. The violence Freyre inflicted upon this woman included striking with blunt objects, death threats, strangling to the point of unconsciousness. Freyre then threw her down the stairs, which was when she was able to make her escape. The following is an interview with two University of Delaware students, Colette Brancaccio and Martina Rexrode, on their thoughts surrounding this tragedy.
UDHC: As a Senior and Junior at the University of Delaware, what emotions have been racing through your minds these past few days?
CB: When I found out I felt stunned, to say the least. Today, I am feeling frustrated and appalled, yet surprised by how quickly students of every gender joined together to protest the lack of news coverage and lack of university statements. However, I sadly knew that this has been the way of the world for a very long time. Since I was in 6th grade I knew that women had to go into the world fearful and cautious of what could happen to them. I was told to cross the street when I thought someone was following me, to call her if I was walking anywhere alone and have some way to protect myself if I found myself in that all too awful situation.
MR: The main emotion that’s been racing through my mind since finding out about what happened is anxiety. I remember scrolling through TikTok just before the start of the semester and watching protests unfold at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln over the Fiji fraternity member who raped a 17-year-old girl at an off-campus party and feeling disgusted but emotional at how quickly the students of UNL gathered around the victim. I never imagined that something similar would happen at my own school, but I can’t say I’m completely surprised either. Overall, it makes me feel even more anxious and scared over the what-ifs and potential dangers for the women and other vulnerable groups on campus.
UDHC: Have there been times when you have felt unsafe on campus? Can you describe what occurred to make you feel this way and what you have done about it?
CB: All my life I have been extremely cautious when it comes to my safety and well-being. When I was in 8th grade, a man followed me when I was biking home from work, and my family took me to the police station to report the issue. In college, I texted 911 when I thought someone was in my apartment. Most recently, I had my parents install an alarm system in my apartment. I have known all my life that women have been taken advantage of, and that I could be one of those women. I’ve looked behind me countless times when walking home, and never look down at my phone for fear that someone will come out of nowhere.
MR: There’ve definitely been times when I’ve felt unsafe on campus, but nothing too serious. Anytime I’m walking back to my place after sunset, it puts me on edge. I like to think that carrying my 32oz water bottle will be my secret weapon, but who knows if I would ever actually use it. There’s been a few moments throughout the years where someone’s walked too close to me or come out of nowhere and startles me, but this was mostly just my own anxiety taking a smaller thing and creating a real fear out of it. I use the app LiveSafe whenever it’s dark and I have to walk more than a few minutes so that I can send my location to my close friends, and I usually just try to be back from whatever I’m doing before it gets too late.
UDHC: How do you feel about the lack of news coverage on this dangerous assault?
CB: I am horrified that there is very little news coverage on the assault, however, the sad statistic is that 1 in 5 female college students are sexually assaulted, and not every victim’s story is presented in the news. I also watched the documentary “The Hunting Ground” in high school, which made me aware that many universities cover up the number of assaults that occur on their campus in order to protect the attacker, and highlighted how many women are even scared to contact the authorities when this occurs to them.
MR: I’m not surprised by the lack of news coverage on this assault at all. I saw earlier today that the TikTok posted the other day from the first protest was at nearly five million views, so that’s something, but still not the kind of coverage things like this deserve. Assaults like this are way too common on college campuses so I know the news can’t cover every single case, but it’s an entirely different feeling when this happens at your own school. I hope the continued protests and social media posts will help this story gain traction and attention in the next few days.
UDHC: How will you keep yourself safe from now on, both on campus and post graduation?
CB: I will continue to call someone during walks, be aware of blue light cameras, lock my doors and keep my loved ones safe by staying in contact with them while they’re out.
MR: To keep myself safe on campus, I’ll continue to use LiveSafe and Life360 so that my loved ones can be aware of where I am at all times and also so that I can keep track of my close friends who might feel unsafe as well. I’ll also call my friends whenever one of us needs that sense of safety and stay vigilant about my surroundings while continuing to put pressure on the University to do something that makes us feel safe.
UDHC: How do you feel about the University’s response to the assault?
CB: While they may be legally obligated to not say anything specific at this time, the university’s Vice President released a very blanket statement. For many students, they feel that their concerns and fears were not addressed, and I feel the same. Due to this, nearly every organization on campus has released some sort of statement that condemns the actions of Freyre and supports assault victims, and protests have been held demanding action. The University of Delaware community has come together in the darkest of times to support the victim and all victims of assault.
MR: I know that the University can’t put out everything we want to hear through one email or a statement on social media, but that doesn’t mean their initial statement wasn’t a slap in the face. I felt like they didn’t make any kind of promise to keep their students safe. They once again laid out a very broad statement that linked us to UD’s “values” and urged us to stay vigilant as a community, but how are we supposed to to adhere to the values if those in power can’t give us a single ounce of reassurance that we’ll be listened to and that our opinions will be heard?
If you have ever been a victim of assault in the past or find yourself in this situation in the future, know that the members of Her Campus believe you, hear you and are there for you. You aren’t alone and we will stand with you.