Sexual Assault Statistics Double in Recent Crime Report

Photo by Steve Fallon

Ramapo College's annual safety report for 2014 was released Wednesday, indicating a safe campus overall, but showing an uptick in the number of sex offenses year over year. 

In 2014, there were no violations reported regarding murder/non-negligent manslaughter, negligent manslaughter, statutory rape, incest, robbery and arson. There were also no arrests regarding liquor law violations.

However, the number of sex offenses, ranging from harassment to assault, doubled from five to 10 from 2013 to 2014. Included in last year's total were six reports of on-campus rape and four reports of unwanted fondling.

“I’m hoping that the fact that they’re doubling isn’t because there’s more incidents but because there’s more people who are willing to speak out about it because now it’s becoming a little more acceptable to talk about it — but there’s still huge stigma … I’m hoping more people feel comfortable coming out about these things that have happened,” James Perlas, men’s outreach coordinator at the Women’s Center, said.

Other notable changes over the year included the number of liquor law violations that resulted in disciplinary action or a referral. In 2013, there were 350 referrals and one arrest, while in 2014, there were 298 referrals and no arrests.

The College’s annual Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act, also referred to as the Clery Act,  includes three years worth of statistics, gives details of the College safety policies and programs, as well as inventories a variety of crimes reported on campus.

“The Clery Act requires that certain crimes be reported each year,” the report explains, noting that these crimes are placed into defined categories including: sex offenses, criminal homicide, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, motor vehicle theft, arson, hate crimes, liquor law violations, drug abuse violations, the carrying or possessing of weapons, domestic violence, dating violence, stalking and theft.

The report begins with overviews of the College and the Public Safety Department in general. It notes that Ramapo consists of approximately 5,700 students, of which approximately 3,000 are on campus. Looking at the number of Public Safety employees in comparison, it reports 34 employees are working on campus.

“The Public Safety Department maintains orderly conditions and takes measures required to ensure safety and security,” states the report.

The overview establishes and details some important aspects of the officers' jobs, including responding to complaints and maintaining a relationship with the Mahwah Police Department which holds full police authority on campus.

This overview is followed by a series of Public Safety features and tips. Highlights include 43 “Blue Light” phones, professional “on-call” staff members and campus “Timely Warnings,” as well as tips such as being aware of surroundings, looking out for other students and even how to deal with the occasional bear. The report does stress, however, the importance of reporting crimes and emergency situations to the department.

“All crimes, emergencies or matters requiring a response by Public Safety may be made directly to the Public Safety Desk at any time during the day or night,” the report notes in bolded letters.

A section is also designated to the College’s Student Conduct Disciplinary System laying out, in detail, the procedure for dealing with violations.

“If the alleged violation is one for which the student could not be suspended or expelled from the College,” the report states, “the case will likely be heard … in a Residence Life or a College Disciplinary Conference normally conducted by a professional staff member in Residence Life, Office of Student Conduct, or a designee. The charged student will be required to attend a scheduled conference with the presiding administrator … and will have the opportunity to discuss the alleged violation.”

The report explains that Student Conduct is responsible for dealing with student violations, while Employee Relations is responsible for faculty and American Federation of Teachers, or AFT, professional employees and human resources for managers and classified employees.

The next section, devoted to policies, procedures and regulations, looks at specific aspects of campus safety. This includes Ramapo’s Timely Warning Reports, evacuation procedures, directions in case of a missing student and the existence of a Daily Crime Log.

An entire section, almost six pages of the 36-page document, is devoted to the issue of sexual assault. Beginning with Ramapo’s education and prevention programs, the report details Ramapo’s awareness programs, focus on bystander intervention, ongoing prevention and awareness campaigns, primary prevention measures (which includes “efforts to change behavior and social norms and promote healthy relationships”) and risk reduction. The report also gives detailed instructions for what to do after the occurrence of a sexual assault and how to report an assault.

“It’s something that due to my job in the Women’s Center, I’m interested in," Perlas said. "A lot of that comes down to, sadly, in a college, sexual assault. There’s this idea that it doesn’t happen on campus; in reality it just goes unreported a lot of the time so if this is the best we can get to finding out what's happening on campus, of course I’d read it,” Perlas said.

The report concludes with a section detailing the College’s assistance and education regarding alcohol and other drugs. Including information from local authorities, this portion of the report notes the health risks these substances cause, as well as the College’s Drug Free Workplace Policy. 

“People seem to think that our campus is completely harmless, when obviously it’s a good campus, but that doesn’t mean there’s no incidents,” Perlas said.

The entire Cleary Act is available online on Ramapo College’s Public Saftey page