April 23, 2019 | 71° F

U. handling of sexual assault case disheartening, curt

In social environments such as university settings, sexual assaults are committed by intimate partners 61 percent of the time. As a student, sister, friend and military member, I am wary of my safety on campus, and due to recent incidents, I doubt my University’s ability to properly protect its students. Rutgers University is a prestigious institution that is well known for its extensive research facilities and diversified student body. However, with every buzz comes a kill. On March 20, 2015, a Targum article revealed that a female student came forward with evidence in the form of text messages from her boyfriend, admitting that he had raped her. Rutgers has not expelled the male student. I want to express the disappointment I have in donning scarlet red and being associated with Rutgers University after hearing of this decision. I also want to bring light to Rutgers' failure to care for its students.

This spring semester, Rutgers has been caught up with drama concerning its students and their conduct. Fraternities and sororities have been banned from throwing parties due to alcohol-related deaths and hospitalizations. Rutgers was quick to rule this ban on parties, but was lackadaisical in handling this issue of sexual assault. Sexual assault incidents have occurred twice already with the same victim, in October 2014 and February 2014. The victims’ decision not to come forward sooner is known as frozen fright — the female victim was afraid to come forward. Even with two violations of sexual assault, the male ex-boyfriend only received a three-semester suspension, instead of the expulsion he deserved. For this reason, many sexual assault victims are not incentivized to come forward, especially in collegiate settings. As a student, it's frustrating to watch our school be so discouraging to victims. The victim and her ex-boyfriend were in a relationship, but that in no way should excuse him from raping her. In the screenshots attached to the Targum article, her attacker says, “I just destroyed you, I raped you.” The assailant expressed these exact words, and Rutgers still asserts there is no case here. Where is the University's loyalty to the students that wear those big R's on their chest every day?

The Daily Targum published an article, encouraging students to seek assistance in issues of sexual abuse. This is very contradictory and confusing to me, because this victim sought help and did not receive protection from her own University. The article reads, “RUPD treats victims with respect, courtesy and dignity, believing that a victim's safety and privacy are of major importance,” according to Rutgers spokesperson E.J. Miranda. Rutgers' police department repeatedly offered excuses as to why the investigation was not finished, calling it a “long process.” These negative and unsupportive behaviors from officers were more than disheartening to the victim. There should not have even been an investigation, because the victims’ ex-boyfriend had confessed to raping his victim indisputably through his text messages. If the RUPD really valued student safety, they would have expelled him from the University. The University probably thought it mindful to allow the assailant to return after the victim had graduated, however, that is ignorant considering there are many other Rutgers women that could end up possibly falling victim to the same assailant. Rutgers University needs to treat us, the students, as people, and not as pieces of their puzzle.

Many people would say that a well-known university like Rutgers is similar to a large company –– a business that either benefits or loses through its students. But why? Like in any situation, with positive happenings come good publicity, and with bad situations comes bad publicity. Universities like Rutgers cannot afford the bad press, because their prestige comes from admission numbers, and if they have bad publicity, for rape allegations especially, their reputation would suffer, and therein, donations as well. With the recent banning of fraternity and sorority social events, Rutgers has already drawn negative publicity. Although not as serious as the death of a young student, sexual assault is a reoccurring violent crime that demands to be addressed. How can we as students feel safe at school when our own school officials brush these attacks under the rug?

There will never be a true end to sexual assault. As much as consent is advocated for, they still continue to occur in some capacity. Women and men alike both are victims of sexual assault, and there need to be spokespeople that are not Rutgers-affiliated, since Rutgers is not reliable. As a result of inaction in this incident, other victims will now be less likely to come forward and expose their assailants, and that is a major problem. Sexual assaults usually occur at the hands of people known by victims, and are by nature, unexpected. The only person who can report a crime of this nature is the victim themselves. In this case, the rapist clearly expressed his actions to the victim with the words, “I raped you,” and I really do not know how much more of a confession is constituted to expel the student. Please help shed light on this incident, for the sake of college students and victims worldwide.

Jennifer Polanco-Marmolejo is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore double majoring in criminal justice and information technology and informatics.

Jennifer Polanco-Marmolejo

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