Trigger Warning: The following article contains content pertaining to sexual harassment.
Montclair State University students are coming forward to report sexual harassment once again. Last week, the Instagram account @montclairstateconfessions posted a student’s experience with harassment on campus. The post has over 800 likes and over 100 comments, where more students have come forward with their own stories.
Similar allegations were raised during the fall 2021 semester.
Therese Bailey, a sophomore cinema and media studies major at the University of Maryland, was a freshman at Montclair State last year when she was sexually assaulted, prompting her to transfer schools.
“In February of last year, I was at a small gathering in a dorm in The Heights with some friends,” Bailey said. “My assaulter offered to give me my first kiss and I consented to that. Later in the night, he took me to the bathroom and sexually assaulted me. He did it again a few minutes later and he proceeded to forcefully kiss me without consent.”
After filing a Title IX report the following summer, Bailey feels she did not get the resources or support she needed.
“I decided to report over the summer, but [Associate Dean of Students Yolanda Alvarez] told me I had no evidence,” Bailey said. “The school made me feel so invalidated throughout the process that I transferred out. Having to see him walk free on campus and having him in three of my classes was just too much.”
Bailey’s case got moved to conduct staff over the winter break and her hearing is not until March 1.
A year later, these incidents are still occurring and one of the most recent cases happened two weeks ago in University Hall.
Jon Serrano, a junior political science major, said he was sexually harassed by one of his friends after a study group meeting. He sent his experience to the @montclairstateconfessions Instagram page to create awareness and hopefully prevent others from encountering these types of incidents.
According to Serrano, the alleged predator started to aggressively sexually harass him while he took a break from studying.
“He [kind of] grabs one of my arms and pushes me against the wall and starts making out with me very rough,” Serrano said. “It was rough and I was just, like, ‘I don’t [want] to do this right now.'”
Serrano said even after asking the alleged assaulter to stop, he continued, making him feel more uncomfortable.
“He would not get off of me,” Serrano said. “I have a video of him literally still on top of me after he had stuck his tongue in my ear.”
Serrano also suffers from a panic disorder and after this experience his mental health has been affected.
“I want to be the last one that he does this to,” Serrano said. “Nobody deserves to go through something like this and it has caused me so much mental pain. I’m already suffering from panic disorder and I have panic attacks almost frequently. This was just another thing that has made me so anxious and I just want it to be over.”
Alyssia Rodriguez, a sophomore film and television major, had a similar encounter with the same alleged assaulter via text.
“We were in a GroupMe group chat together and eventually started a group chat with three others on iMessage,” Rodriguez said. “As some time went on, he just started to respond to texts and make weird comments using words that described body parts of mine and other people in the chat, along with endless sexual comments.”
The students did not report the incident to campus police but are considering the idea of filing a Title IX report.
Serrano has a podcast called, “It’s Fine, I’m Fine, Everything’s Fine.” He is currently working on his next episode, “Coming Out,” where he will be sharing how he and his friends were sexually harassed and assaulted by the same person. Serrano wants his voice to be heard and encourage other students on campus to do the same.
Capt. Kieran Barrett of the Montclair State Police Department said if students desire to have their experiences on record they can always file a report.
“Many do not wish to go that route as it can be difficult in the judicial system but [Montclair State] very much actively pursues matters that are reported and where persons are identified,” Barrett said.
Yolanda Alvarez, the deputy Title IX coordinator and associate dean of students, encourages victims to file a report and receive the support they need.
“We encourage reporting and want students to get the resources they need,” Alvarez said. “If the reporting student chooses, they can be connected to resources immediately. Sexual misconduct reporting has historically been underreported and that remains a challenge across all institutions.”
Bailey, who awaits her conduct meeting in March, had words for her former university.
“To Montclair State [administration], I would encourage them to keep their promises to keep students safe on their own campus … I would tell them to believe their victims,” Bailey said. “I would tell [Montclair State students] that what you went through is not your fault at all, no matter what you wore or how much you drank or how you acted. I wish anyone going through something similar to me healing and justice.”