Man charged with sexually assaulting woman on SafePlace campus

Walter James Apple Jr.

AUSTIN (KXAN) — A woman who was staying at SafePlace — a domestic violence shelter and campus in Austin — was allegedly sexually assaulted by a man she was briefly dating.

According to court documents, Walter James Apple Jr., 28, was in a relationship with the woman for about two weeks. On July 4, the two went downtown, and Apple allegedly became physical and violent with the woman. Court records show Apple was upset with the woman because she, “caused him to lose money,” but the woman told police she did not know what he was talking about.

The woman told police she got a ride back with Apple to SafePlace, where she was a tenant at one of their supportive housing units. Police said he followed her back to her apartment and that the woman told Apple he was not allowed inside because of SafePlace rules. However, he became abusive, according to court documents.

The woman told police she opened the pedestrian gate to SafePlace and allowed Apple in because she was afraid of what he would do. That’s when he sexually assaulted her and choked her and put a knife toward her, according to police documents.

Four days later on Wednesday, police say a witness saw Apple pacing back and forth in the parking lot and then break the pedestrian gate. That’s when witnesses called the Austin Police Department.

According to its website, SafePlace provides crisis intervention, prevention, education, long-term support and advocacy services and programs designed to end sexual and domestic violence. The Austin-based agency also has an emergency shelter for people escaping domestic violence.

“Safe Place is a very large campus with multiple types of services, so what’s important to know is that the part of our service that is the most safe, our shelter, was not breached,” said Julia Spann, LIFT Alliance president. LIFT Alliance is the organization that oversees SafePlace.

“The woman, as I understand it, had ended a relationship with a man who wouldn’t hear, ‘No,'” said Spann. “He continued to be abusive with her after the relationship had ended — to the point of assaulting her.”

Spann wouldn’t comment on the facility’s current security procedures or what they’re doing to increase security after the incident — but said they’re constantly reviewing their polices.

“Any time any sort of incident happens with our clients, we study and look at what happened. Nobody needs to be hurt,” said Spann. “What I can promise you is that we look at it, we take it very, very seriously, and for all of the different types of programs we have, there are different layers of security that are appropriate to people who are in there.”

Spann said SafePlace has the shelter, along with 40 units of apartments on the same property. She said despite what happened, they still encourage women in trouble to call for help on their 24-hour hotline at 512-267-SAFE (7233).

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