College can be an exciting and challenging time in a young person’s life, especially if it is the first time a student is living away from home. Unfortunately, not everyone deals with this new-found freedom in a safe and responsible manner.
According to recent data analyzed by NJ Advance Media, the number of sexual assaults on New Jersey college campuses has increased for the fourth year in a row. In 2013, a total of 96 complaints were filed by students in this state to law enforcement agencies or school administrators. To make matters even more complicated, there has also been widespread criticism that the schools and police have failed to take a consistent approach to investigating allegations and handing down punishments.
What this could mean is a potential crackdown at schools and sweeping aggressive actions in every alleged incident involving claims of sexual assault.
Specific and egregious events often spark public outrage, and people demand answers and action. The response is often one that is meant to be dramatic and aggressive in order to allay concerns and reassure people that something is being done. The event that may have spurred this recent focus on sexual assaults on New Jersey college campuses could be the alleged gang rape that took place last month at Ramapo College of New Jersey.
But no matter what prompts media, public and law enforcement officials to focus on one particular offense, the fact is that people who are accused of similar misconduct afterward will often face intensified efforts by police and prosecutors to secure a conviction and the harshest penalties possible.
However, these full-scale efforts are often unnecessary in many situations involving allegations of sexual assault; especially in cases involving false accusations or mistaken identify. Further, every person accused of misconduct is still innocent until proven guilty and has the right to defend against the charges; these laws do not change just because statistics do.
Any young person who is currently facing charges related to sexual assault may want to be prepared for intensified scrutiny and unwanted attention, but he or she does not have to face this alone. An attorney familiar with what the state and federal laws say — rather than what surveys and the media say — can help people defend themselves and avoid unnecessary or inappropriately harsh charges or sentences.