Police are investigating allegations made by a Montclair State University student this week both on Twitter and to the authorities that she had been sexually assaulted, that the assault had been recorded and that the video had been seen by several people, including Montclair State students.
On Friday, Lieutenant Kieran Barrett of the University Police Department confirmed to The Montclarion that the student came to them on Sept. 27 to report the incident.
“We received a report of sexual assault,” said Barrett. “An individual came to us and it became apparent very quickly that [the incident] did not happen on campus and was a matter to be handled by the New Jersey Transit Police Department.”
Barrett said that UPD was able to assist the student and facilitate a meeting with the NJ Transit Police Department.
A representative from the NJ Transit Police Department, Lisa Torbic, confirmed that on Sept. 27, the police were notified that an alleged sexual assault took place on Sept. 25 at 12:30 a.m. at the Broad Street Rail Station in Newark. She also confirmed that the NJ Transit Police Department is actively investigating the incident.
The student made her allegations public this week via social media in the form of a text image attached to a tweet on her account. The tweet was widely shared on the social media platform and retweeted by @MontclairProbs, a popular account that retweets student complaints about campus.
Several students and non-students responded to the tweet upon its creation, either retweeting it or tweeting words of support directly to the student.
The student said in the tweet that she had withdrawn from the university. She also alleged in the tweet that the person who attacked her was a Montclair State University student, although she did not name him.
When reached by a Montclarion reporter, the student said in a Facebook message exchange that she had subsequently deleted the tweet because of the criminal investigation of her case. She said that she wants “to have the person who did this to [her] put away and charged.”
The student, whose name The Montclarion is withholding, said she did not want to “confirm or deny anything” because she did not want to jeopardize the case.
Barrett said the authorities were looking into all aspects of the student’s allegations.
“My understanding is that there is a video portion of this assault,” said Barrett. “My assumption is, if there was and it was malicious in nature, that those people may face certain offenses as well.”
Following protocol, Montclair State UPD referred the student to the on-campus services available to her, including the Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) as well as the Center for Advising and Psychological Services. According to Barrett, these outlets are provided to every student involved in a case regarding sexual assault.
“Usually we go with the intentions of the victim because we don’t want to force them to do anything after such an incident. We want to make sure they get the services that they’re entitled to get – not just entitled but, probably that they should get – in terms of recovering from such a vicious crime…Even though it didn’t happen here, we want to make sure the individual gets the services that they want or need when something like that affects them,” said Barrett.
Dr. Karen Pennington, Vice President for Student Development and Campus Life, confirmed to The Montclarion that she had seen the tweet. But, she did not know if any school authority had seen the video.
Pennington said she could not discuss the case, citing privacy issues.
Dr. Shannon Gary, Associate Dean of Students, who serves as the Deputy Title IX Coordinator for Montclair State, confirmed that he is aware of the alleged sexual assault, but said he could not comment.
Speaking generally about how sexual assault allegations are handled at Montclair State, Gary said his job “is simply [to be] a fact gatherer.”
“Based off the information provided [by the alleged victim, the individual accused and any witnesses or people involved], I decide whether there’s enough [information] to go to student conduct,” he said.
Gary explained that he holds in-person interviews with the alleged victim and the person accused, as well as with any people mentioned in conversation with those two individuals. He is responsible for outlining the on-campus services available for sexual assault victims. Additionally, the alleged victim has the option to bring the incident before a panel of students and staff to determine whether the accused person violated the code of conduct in a university hearing.
“It’s a traumatic experience,” Gary said. “A lot of times the reaction is, ‘I just want this to be over.’” Gary made it clear that, even if the alleged victim does not choose to take any action at the time of the incident, they can come back at any time. “We want people to let us know,” Gary said as he expressed the importance of making the campus community aware of the actions to be taken in the case of sexual assault.
Just this week, Montclair State released the university’s Jeanne Clery Act crime statistics for 2014. The report showed that four forcible rapes and one other forcible sex offense occurred on the Montclair State campus in 2014. The statistics also report four forcible rapes for the 2013 school year.
However, UPD’s Lt. Barrett believes the statistics in the Clery Act are slightly misguided. “On any campus, my guess is the number [of sexual assaults] is probably much higher. For any given number of reasons, some people don’t feel comfortable coming forward and that’s their privacy right, too.”
Anyone who has information regarding this incident is urged to call the University Police Station at 973-655-5222 or to submit an anonymous tip either by calling 973-655-8477 or sending a text message to 67283.