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More Rapes Reported at New Jersey Colleges and Universities - Potential Reasons and Potential Concerns

Posted by Joseph D. Lento | Dec 06, 2016 | 0 Comments

Colleges and universities across the nation are required to report campus crime under the Jeanne Clery Act, and failing to do so can result in consequences that schools would strongly prefer to avoid; for example, Penn State was recently fined $2.4 million for "chronic violations" in its failure to comply with the Clery Act over a several year period resulting from the Sandusky child sexual abuse scandal.

The Clery Act is a consumer protection law, and was named after Jeanne Clery, who was a 19-year-old Lehigh University student raped and murdered in her campus residence hall in 1986.  Ms. Clery's murder sparked a backlash against unreported crime on college and university campuses across the nation.  In 1990, the Clery Act was passed, and as a result, all colleges and universities who received federal educational funding are required to report information about crime on campus, their effort to improve campus safety, and also inform the public (prospective students and parents for example) about crime statistics on or near campus.  The required information under the Clery Act must be accessible to the public through a school's annual security report.

New Jersey College and University Rape Statistics

As a result of the Clery Act's reporting requirements, federal data provides information regarding the number of rapes reported at New Jersey's four-year colleges and universities.  There is a slight lag in the availability of crime statistics, but in 2014, 84 rapes were reported at New Jersey four-year colleges and universities.  (The following rape statistics are for the year 2014.)

It may not come as a surprise that Rutgers University, New Jersey's largest university with more than 66,000 students across its three campuses, reported the most rapes.  32 rapes were reported at the New Brunswick-Piscataway campus which tied for the seventh highest in the nation. 

Rowan University in Glassboro reported the second most rapes with seven.  Ramapo College, Stockton University,and William Paterson University had the next highest number of campus rapes in New Jersey with each school reporting six in 2014.

17 of New Jersey's four-year colleges and universities reported one rape or more in 2014:

Ten New Jersey school reported no rapes at all in 2014, including New Jersey City University, Stevens Institute of Technology, Rider University, and the Florham campus of Fairleigh Dickinson University.

More Campus Rapes are Being Reported by New Jersey Colleges and Universities

Reporting requirements have changed in the recent past.  Prior to recent changes in federal disclosure laws, colleges and universities were required to report "forcible sex offenses," which included rape and other sex-related crimes.  This is the first year that the U.S. Department of Education has specifically identified how many "rapes" were reported on campus.

The definition of rape in criminal law may vary slightly state by state, but under the federal definition of rape, the definition is more comprehensive and more sexual acts are included.  Rape under the federal definition for purposes of campus crime reporting is "penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim."

Are Campus Rape Statistics in New Jersey Misleading?

Some colleges and universities in New Jersey have asserted that the new federal campus rape statistics are misleading.  Rutgers University for example, with 32 reported rapes in 2014, the highest in New Jersey, also has one of the largest campuses in the nation.  The 32 rapes reported at Rutgers equates to 0.7 rapes per 1,000 students.  When the figures are viewed through this lense, the number of rapes at Rutgers in relation to the number of students at Rutgers is far from the highest rate of reported rapes at colleges and universities nationwide.

Rutgers, like many schools, has increased efforts to encourage students to report rape, sexual assault, and sexual misconduct.  In an official statement, Rutgers notes that it "encourage[s] individuals to report crimes and to use the resources provided by the university."  Rutgers understands that "reporting a sexual assault can be difficult and may seem overwhelming, but the university urges anyone who believes he or she was a victim of a crime to report the incident to the Rutgers University Police Department."

Although it is a laudable  goal, stopping all campus rapes is arguably unrealistic.  There is obviously no excuse for rape, but students, often away from home for the first time, often experimenting with alcohol or drugs, and often with limited or no supervision, find themselves in high-risk situations every semester across campuses nationwide.  A tragic reality is that young people often make poor choices; and sometimes, inexcusable choices.  Not to minimize a true allegation of rape or other sexual misconduct, another tragic reality, however, is that reports of rape or sexual misconduct are not always made in good faith.

Regardless of the circumstances behind an allegation, if it were the case that a New Jersey college or university had no rapes reported, not only would the federal government, which monitors compliance with campus crime reporting under the Clery Act, have reason for concern, but schools themselves would also have reason for concern.  If no rapes are reported at a particular school for example, school officials may regard that as an indication that students do not feel comfortable reporting rape, sexual assault, or sexual misconduct.  In addition, if a particular school reports no rapes, and a another school that has a comparable number of students reports a certain number of campus rapes, this can be a red flag to the federal government, which schools which want to avoid.

Federal Pressure for New Jersey Colleges and Universities to Comply with Title IX Mandates

There has been tremendous pressure for schools to comply with federal mandates; specifically, Title IX policies outlined by the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights (DOE-OCR).  These Title IX policies address how campus sexual misconduct, including rape, is to be handled by colleges and universities for them to remain in compliance.  Most schools have made aggressive efforts to comply because they risk losing significant federal funding otherwise.

Rape or other sexual misconduct is obviously not welcome by Rowan University, or other schools for that matter, but the mere reporting of such incidents at Rowan for example, and in turn, the reporting of such incidents to the federal government, allows Rowan to be in compliance with federal reporting requirements.  Although federal reporting requirements under the Clery Act are separate from DOE-OCR Title IX mandates, they share the overarching theme of the "carrot and the stick." 

Comply with federal government policies (even if it results in diminishing the rights and procedural safeguards afforded to a student accused of campus rape or sexual misconduct) and colleges and universities in New Jersey and nationwide will receive the "carrot" of federal funding.  Do not comply with federal government policies and colleges and universities will receive the "stick" of having federal funding denied.

New Jersey Campus Sex Assault Attorney | New Jersey Attorney for Campus Sexual Misconduct

With the reporting of rape on campus often comes a New Jersey student being accused by the alleged victim.  Criminal charges brought by the State of New Jersey often, but do not always accompany an allegation of campus rape or other sexual misconduct.  For various reasons, including the unfortunate reality of false allegations, some alleged victims prefer to have the matter addressed and resolved at the school alone.  Regardless of the circumstances behind the allegations, when a student is accused, what the student does and does not do early in the process can be critical to the ultimate outcome.  Students, away from home and the support of their parents, often do not take the proper steps when accused of any indiscretion, but when the alleged offense is any kind of sexual misconduct, including sexual assault, sexual violence, sexual harassment, and so forth, the stakes cannot be higher. 

Students and parents should not make the mistake of not taking the necessary steps to protect an accused student's interests.  It is no exaggeration that how an accused student responds to an allegation of campus sexual misconduct can affect the rest of their life.  At a minimum, academic and professionals goals will be placed in serious jeopardy, and the prospect of criminal exposure and civil liability cannot be overemphasized.  A student accused of Title IX sexual misconduct at a New Jersey college or university must have the right attorney in their corner from the start.  Contact attorney Joseph D. Lento today to learn how he can help.

About the Author

Joseph D. Lento

"I pride myself on having heart and driving hard to get results!" Joseph D. Lento has more than a decade of experience passionately fighting for the futures of his clients. Mr. Lento represents students and others in disciplinary cases and other proceedings at universities and colleges across the United States while concurrently fighting in criminal courtrooms in Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania counties, and New Jersey. Mr. Lento has helped countless students, professors, and others in academia at more than a thousand universities and colleges across the United States. He does not settle for the easiest outcome, and instead prioritizes his clients' needs and well-being. Joseph D. Lento is licensed in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, and is admitted pro hac vice as needed nationwide.

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