Two separate and unrelated cases of sexual assault reported on the same day by Montclair State University students are currently under investigation by police.
On Sunday, March 19 a resident student of Blanton Hall reported a sexual assault to university police that occurred in the student’s room. The incident was coupled with “unlawful use of credit cards,” according to the police report. Captain Kieran Barrett of the University Police Department confirmed that the victim of the sexual assault knew the alleged perpetrator.
Another sexual assault was reported to university police that same day, but this one was off campus, in the jurisdiction of the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office Special Victim’s Unit.
“Both cases are active investigations,” said Barrett, “so I cannot share details.”
In compliance with the Jeanne Clery Act, Montclair State University releases crime statistics each year that include the number of reported sexual assaults on campus for the previous year. The most recent statistic, released in May of 2016, show that there were seven cases of forcible rape on campus in 2015, as well as one other forcible sex offense. This number is an increase from 2014, which showed a combined total of five in both categories—four cases of forcible rape and one other forcible sex offense.
“We aren’t afraid of high numbers here,” said Dr. Karen Pennington, vice president of student involvement and campus life. “A lot of people think that schools want to keep the numbers of reports low. We don’t feel that way. I prefer those numbers to be high, because what that says is that students do feel comfortable reporting it.”
In 2012, Montclair State University founded the Sexual Assault Response Team (SART)—the first, and still the only existing, team of its kind on a New Jersey college campus. SART offers services that allow a victim of sexual assault to report the crime, have their forensic examination and receive counseling, all without leaving campus.
“Any student who reports is offered all of our services,” explained Pennington. “The fact is, it does happen, and so we want to make sure that, if it does, people feel like they have what they need.”
In an effort to ensure that the campus climate is supportive of student victims, a faculty research team is currently conducting a survey asking student to share their perspective on sexual assault and harassment on campus. The results will be shared with the administration in order to “help us do better,” according to Pennington.
“The results will help us and the community get a feel for where we are, what we need to focus on, what is successful and what we need to work on,” said Barrett.