College campuses are filled with young people experiencing freedom for the first time. For many students, life without a curfew and being able to come and go as you please is worth every penny of tuition. However, this new way of living can be accompanied by new pressures and dangers, such as the presence of drugs and alcohol. The ability to meet many new people, mixed with the removal of parental figures, can formulate a recipe for disaster. With that said, it’s the job of academic institutions to step in and make sure students are protected. It’s the school’s responsibility to actively educate its students on the effects and consequences that accompany intimate partner violence (IPV) and sexual abuse (SA). Yet some schools fail to do so. That needs to change, and students at the University of Delaware are striking back.
In the early morning hours of Oct. 8, at an apartment located in the 100 block of East Main Street in Newark, Delaware, 20-year-old Kappa Delta Rho (KDR) fraternity member Brandon Freyre kidnapped a female student. They had briefly dated in the past but had broken up. Angry that she attended a “rival” fraternity’s party, Freyre blinded her with orange spray paint, repeatedly hit her with blunt objects and attempted to smash her cellphone. He then strangled her, rendering her unconscious. The abuse lasted over a period of four hours, and the victim couldn’t escape captivity until she was thrown down a flight of steps.
Freyre’s roommates were in the apartment during the attack. They did not intervene or try to contact authorities. The report also stated that Freyre sent a photograph of the victim in the fraternity group chat; the photo showed the victim unclothed with her hands tied behind her back and a “KDR” paddle placed in her hand. Authorities charged Freyre with second-degree kidnapping, second-degree assault, strangulation, terroristic threatening, third-degree assault, as well as criminal mischief. Police say Freyre was jailed with a bail set at $38,100. He has since been released but is now banned from the University of Delaware’s campus.
As news of the brutal attack at the hands of one of their fellow classmates reached the student body, students flooded the campus to protest in support of the victim. University of Delaware student, Kiera Spann, took to the social media platform TikTok to bring awareness to the violent attack. The viral video of the protest depicts students marching through the Newark streets while chanting for change and wielding signs exhibiting powerful messages. One of the signs read, “Being a victim of violence shouldn’t be a part of the college experience.”
After the video accumulated over 8 million views, the situation received national attention, and the University of Delaware could no longer stay quiet on the matter. Burning up in the hot seat, the University of Delaware finally released a statement. In a letter released on the University of Delaware’s Twitter, the university stated: “We are writing to acknowledge the harm inflicted, denounce the violence, reported, and call for our UD community to come together and advance our goals of a campus climate free of all violence. Including gender-based violence and violence against women.”
"We are writing to acknowledge the harm inflicted, denounce the violence reported, and call for our UD community to come together and advance our goals of a campus climate free of all violence, including gender-based violence and violence against women." https://t.co/AAw7lkSZyR pic.twitter.com/qbjvBu7aKn
— Univ. of Delaware (@UDelaware) October 13, 2021
However, this statement caused outrage among students. Not only was it released over four days after the protest videos went viral online, it did not include any measures to prevent a brutal assault like this from ever happening again.
The world began to weigh in on the University of Delaware’s response, with one Twitter user writing, “Someone was thrown down the stairs and choked. How is this the best you can offer?”
Another Twitter user wrote, “University of Delaware…where leaders disappear and hide.”
And multiple other users reiterated that the University of Delaware needed to “Do better.”
In response to the comments left on the viral video, many expressed concerns about the current state of the victim. The University of Delaware student Kiera Spann posted another TikTok video to address questions and concerns. After speaking with the victim, Spann stated, “She is doing okay. She wanted me to thank everyone for what they are doing and she feels so supported right now.”
The University of Delaware students’ demands for change and their criticism of the administration’s initial handling of the situation led to new training at the school. On Oct. 20, the University of Delaware held a “Teach-In and Learn Session” to open up a dialogue within the UDel community. The session focused on support as well as advocacy for intimate partner and sexual violence.
Additionally, the University of Delaware expanded safety initiatives by including a new evening shuttle to bring students to off-campus residences. They are also providing on-campus safety escorts, which will run seven days a week between the hours of 6 p.m. and 1 a.m. The University of Delaware is also reviewing all campus safety lighting; updates will be made as needed.
These efforts to make the campus safer for its students are a great step in the right direction. However, it doesn’t excuse the university for allowing so much time to elapse before choosing to take action. Within the period of time wasted, more students could have turned into victims. Thankfully, the victim of the Oct. 8 attack is alive and recovering. But if universities continue to approach IPV and sexual violence in this manner, other victims may not be so lucky.