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Sexual Assault on Campus

Page history last edited by Naug 6 years, 9 months ago

Number of sexual assault cases at N.J. campuses continues to rise

 

 

Ramapo College, where several students were charged last month in connection with a sexual assault of a female student in a dorm. Reports of sexual offenses at New Jersey colleges and universities are on the rise. (Patti Sapone | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com) ( )

Adam Clark | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com By Adam Clark | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com 
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on December 04, 2014 at 7:30 AM, updated December 04, 2014 at 10:30 AM

 

 

 

 

Sex assaults reported to New Jersey colleges and universities hit a ten-year high last year, amid growing scrutiny into sexual violence on campuses nationwide.

In just the past five years alone, the number of complaints alleging forcible sexual offenses more than doubled—to 94 incidents at 26 public and private schools across the state, from Rutgers University to Princeton—according to a NJ Advance Media analysis of federal data.

Victims’ advocates, however, say such cases remain woefully underreported.

“I think that’s a really low number,” said Sarah McMahon, acting co-director of Rutgers’ Center on Violence Against Women and Children. Many women still remain reluctant to come forward, she said, with research showing as many as one in four women saying they were sexually assaulted while at college.

Nationally and here in New Jersey, where two schools are now reeling over gang rape allegations that led to the arrests last month of ten students at Ramapo College in Mahwah and William Paterson University in Wayne, sexual violence on campus is coming under increasing focus.

Earlier this year, 55 universities and colleges came under investigation by the U.S. Department of Education over the handling of sexual violence and harassment complaints.

The issues, though, can be complex, involving students away from home the first time, difficult emotional conflicts, and situations sometimes fueled by alcohol and drugs. McMahon said students may be reticent pursing charges over feelings of shame, the fear they may get in trouble themselves, or even pulled out of school.

At the same time, sexual assault victims have charged that school officials may sweep problems under the rug, unwilling themselves to properly investigate complaints.

Interviews with administrators at a number of colleges, meanwhile, reveal that there is no set protocol for handling reports of sexual violence in New Jersey—where a number of schools have come under fire in the past over the treatment of alleged victims.

“Every case is different,” said Rose D’Ambrosio, associate vice president for human resources at Fairleigh Dickinson University. “So we have to be very sensitive to the student’s need, the student’s position at the time, whether or not they feel comfortable at the time.”

 

Safety on New Jersey campuses

 

According to the analysis of data reported to the Department of Education, sexual assaults on New Jersey campuses more often are reported at schools with large residential populations.

Those incidents—including allegations of rape, forcible sodomy, and fondling— reflect criminal offenses reported to campus security authorities or local law enforcement agencies, and do not represent prosecutions or convictions for crimes.


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The numbers come from data reported under the so-called Clery Act data, named for 19-year-old Jeanne Clery, who was raped and murdered in her Lehigh University dorm room in 1986. All colleges and universities across the United States are required to annually disclose information about crime on and around their campuses.

The reporting requirements, tied to an institution's participation in federal student financial aid programs, applies to most institutions of higher education, both public and private.

Rutgers University, with more than 48,000 students on its New Brunswick campus—the highest enrollment in the state—reported 21 forcible sexual offenses incidents in 2013. Fairleigh Dickinson in Florham Park had eight reported incidents. Rowan University in Glassboro had seven and Kean University in Union reported six.

Ramapo College, where five students were arrested last month in connection with a sexual assault involving a woman student at a fraternity party, reported five forcible sex offenses in 2013.

William Paterson University, roiled by the arrests of five students on Saturday involving the sexual assault of a woman in a residence hall, reported two incidents last year.

Statewide, 43 public and private institutions have reported incidents of forcible sexual offenses over the past ten years. Rutgers was at the top of the list, with 123 incidents at the New Brunswick campus since 2004, according to the federal data.


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Princeton was second over that period of time, with 114 incidents. The university last month reached an accord with the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights over charges that it failed to “promptly and equitably respond to complaints of sexual violence, including sexual assault,” involving three female students.

The victim in one case did not know that her accuser was allowed to stay on campus during the appeal and left her subject to a “sexually hostile environment” as a result of the university’s failure to provide a prompt response, according to the federal agency.

The university agreed to better track and report of its responses and handling of all sexual assault allegations. It also pledged to take steps to improve communication and coordination with local law enforcement agencies.

“The agreement reaffirms our commitment to address all matters of sexual misconduct in ways that are fair, effective, and transparent,” said university president Christopher Eisgruber in a statement.

While the number of alleged sexual assaults at New Jersey schools dropped to a low of 43 in 2009, they have climbed steadily each year ever since. Experts say the growing tally may be a sign of more victims coming forward, in the wake of a national effort to stem sexual violence at colleges and universities.

Earlier this year, President Obama launched a new public awareness campaign, which the White House said was aimed at “changing campus culture.”

Many colleges are also mandating sexual assault awareness training for students.

“Sexual assault is on the forefront of our minds here as it is all over the country,” said D'Ambrosio of Fairleigh Dickinson. “We are constantly revising our policy.”

 

Campus responses

 

How schools respond to sexual assault complaints differs from campus to campus, according to interviews with officials at New Jersey schools. The response from schools varies depending on the specifics of the case and the alleged victim’s desire to pursue either criminal charges or sanctions from the school.

Rutgers said it notifies its university police of every sexual assault that is reported to the school, even when students have indicated they will not cooperate with authorities, said Jackie Moran, director of compliance for student affairs and Title IX coordinator.

Yet while police have the resources to investigate crimes and the ability to arrest an accused perpetrator, Lt. Paul Fischer of the University Police said students are typically uncooperative.

"I can't drag a reluctant victim all the way through the process," he said.

At the far smaller Fairleigh Dickinson in Florham Park, where eight forcible sex offenses were reported last year, police are not necessarily notified of every sexual assault reported to the school, officials said.

D'Ambrosio said police would be called if a student showed signs of physical abuse and in distress. But she suggested some cases are more complicated, like those that involve students in a romantic relationship involving prior consensual sex. In those instances, the accuser may be adamant that police are not called, she said.

"We may choose not to contact the authorities in a case like that," D'Ambrosio said.

In most reported sexual assaults, students do not want police involved and do not cooperate with the school's public safety officers who attempt to investigate, the university administrator asserted.

For students who opt not to go to police, schools have a litany of alternative actions they may take. They may change the dorm or class schedule of either the victim or the accused, or put no-contact orders in place. In some cases, the accused may be suspended and banned from campus pending an investigation.

Yet not all cases are clear cut.

One student at Drew University in Madison said he was wrongfully banned from campus after a woman student charged him with rape. No criminal charges were ever filed in the matter and he is now suing the university.

According to the federal court complaint, the student said the woman reported their consensual encounter as rape out of fear her ex-boyfriend wouldn't take her back. His suit claims he was discriminated against for being a male and the university's ban ruined his academic career.

Drew has previously said it stands by its actions and is vigorously defending the suit.

“Our process supports both the student who is complaining and also the accused,” said Sara Waldron, dean of campus life and student affairs. 

Rutgers does not have automatic punishments based on certain violations, but a student found responsible for something as serious as a sexual assault would most likely be suspended or expelled, Moran said.

Rutgers hired a full-time investigator for complaints of sexual assault, stalking or relationship or domestic violence.

Separately, the university was invited by the White House this year to pilot a Campus Sexual Assault Climate Survey for the U.S. Department of Education, intended to give a better understanding of how many students experience sexual violence, who perpetrated it, how others reacted and whether the victim was able to obtain needed support.

"We strive to create an environment where students know that they can come forward if a sexual assault occurs and we will provide them with whatever supports and services they may need," said Felicia McGinty, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs.

Staff writer Ted Sherman contributed to this report

Adam Clark may be reached at adam_clark@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on twitter at @realAdamClarkFind NJ.com on Facebook.

 

 

 

 

 

© 2014 NJ.com. All rights reserved.

 

Do you believe that the number of sexual assaults have really gone up or is reporting becoming more accurate?  Are colleges and universities being more "open" about this?  Will this allow for appropriate punishments?

 

Comments (14)

Naug said

at 1:06 pm on Mar 2, 2015

Add comment.

wikiuser0635 said

at 1:22 pm on Mar 2, 2015

I do believe that the number of sexual assaults have really gone up. I believe so because people are not watching what their doing.

wikiuser0626 said

at 9:25 am on Mar 3, 2015

I believe that the number of sexual assaults have stayed the same but the reportings are becoming more accurate. I strongly believe that colleges and universities are not trying to be any more open about this subject than they already are. It's just extremely hard to keep situations such as sexual assault, a private case with the social media. I don't really know how to answer the last question, sorry! :)

wikiuser0640 said

at 1:51 pm on Mar 3, 2015

well back the data or graph its showed that people started to report in 2004 and start decreasing in 5 years i dont know what made made the reports went up in 2013. i cant really say its depends on the colleges status

wikiuser0632 said

at 9:06 am on Mar 4, 2015

I believe that due to the increase in awareness of the definition of sexual assault, the amount of incidents reported has increased, rather than the incidents becoming more frequent. If people are unsure about what is categorized as "sexual assault," they will be less likely to report it. For this reason, universities are attempting to raise awareness in order to help prevent sexual assault, and to provide proper resources and support to those who have been victims. This will likely allow for more appropriate punishments for the offenders.

wikiuser0647 said

at 11:16 am on Mar 4, 2015

Sexual assault existed always and it is just the fact that people are more aware of it that the reports are higher. I think it has come to the attention of Universities but still not enough is being done about it. Hopefully proper punishments for these crimes will happen one day. I don't want to go to a school where you can get kicked out for plagiarizing and not for sexually assaulting someone.

wikiuser0624 said

at 9:49 pm on Mar 5, 2015

I personally think it has gone down over the years. people are more likely to press charges on one another now a days. sexual assaults are more likely to happen because of partys and students are under the influence so they are high risk of being raped.

wikiuser0631 said

at 11:58 pm on Mar 5, 2015

It could just be that more people are reporting it, even if it's not the truth. But then again the number of actual cases could be going up. It's hard to say, it seems it could be either.
I don't know how open colleges have been about this in the past, but it looks to me that they do what they can to respond to the issues.

wikiuser0623 said

at 3:15 pm on Mar 6, 2015

I think that the number of cases reported have gone up but the actual number of cases (reported or not) have pretty much stayed the same. I think that the media as a whole including colleges are becoming more open about sexual assault cases and educating people more on the subject which cause more victims to realize that what is happening to them is wrong and they should report it.

wikiuser0636 said

at 9:49 pm on Mar 6, 2015

Based off of the evidence given from the graph displaying the amount of sexual offenses each year, the amount of reported sexual assaults do not seem to follow an ideal pattern that displays a steady increase in numbers but rather an average amount somewhere around about 75 per year. It is also very possible that this data is not specifically accurate too due to the fact that many sexual assault cases may have gone unreported. Colleges being more open about this is a touchy subject. If they are more open, then the overall reputation of their establishment may decrease among possible applicants. Personally, I believe that colleges would rather not choose to be more open about this almost solely because of this reason. The severity of the punishments seem to be appropriate as of now and should not be changed do to the fact that colleges are more open about.

wikiuser0637 said

at 10:27 pm on Mar 6, 2015

I think that it is both the number sexual assaults and reporting are going up. College are dwfwntly becoming more open to it. and it is hard responding to these incident because it is hard to tell exactly what happened. It is a lot of he said she said.

wikiuser0645 said

at 11:47 pm on Mar 6, 2015

I think that the reports have been more accurate but the number has gone up. I feel like with the amount of resources that are out there now it makes it easier to report and there are so many people that can help you get out of the situation and more women and men are realizing that. I think that Colleges are not being more open about this there are more ways for it to get out in the public eye with so much social media now a days. Social media has made things spread like wildfire and Colleges can't control it at all. This causes issues like rape to be put out in the public eye more especially with Frats and Sororities. This forces more appropriate punishment for students who do sexually assault someone. Colleges could just take the minimum punishment and give it to the given student especially if an athlete as well.

wikiuser0642 said

at 10:35 pm on Mar 8, 2015

I think that the number of reports have gone up and people are finding it easier to report a situation like this because there are so much more open with it. It's hard for a person to talk about this kind of situation because it's hard to say what happen at the time.

Naug said

at 11:31 am on Mar 10, 2015

Thank you all for sharing. No credit will be given past this post.

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