Assault Contact Team

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Is what happened to me really rape?

A : A student may be wondering if what happened is in fact a sexual assault, especially if the perpetrator is someone the student knows. Under New Jersey law, the relationship between the perpetrator and victim has no bearing on the status of the crime; moreover, the law is written in gender neutral language–victims and perpetrators alike can be either male or female.

Here are the definitions of sexual assault and criminal sexual contact in the State of New Jersey:

Sexual Assault : penetration, no matter how slight, of the victim’s mouth, vagina, or rectum by a penis; or the insertion of a hand or object into the victim’s vagina or rectum, without the victim’s consent (including if the victim was unable to give consent due to incapacitation)

Criminal Sexual Contact : Non-consensual touching of the victim’s breasts, genital area, buttocks, and thighs, or the forced touching of the actor’s genitals or breasts.

Victims may often feel shame and guilt after an assault. This is normal, as are a host of other psychological and physical responses (often referred to as rape trauma Syndrome). A sexual assault is never the fault of the victim; only the perpetrator is responsible for the act.

Q: Is it possible that I have contracted an STI (Sexually Transmitted Infection) from the rape?

A: Yes. In fact, there are many health concerns following a sexual assault. Please refer to Medical Resources for more information on medical care following an assault.

Q: How do I report this incident, and what’s the difference between an incident report and a crime report form?

A : You have several options with respect to reporting. Never, at any time, can your decision to report or not report be made a condition of receiving other services.

1)  After contacting an ACT member and discussing your options, you can opt not to make an incident report of any kind, although an anonymous crime report must filed in order to comply with Federal regulations. [1]* If you disclose that you have been assaulted to a college faculty or staff member other than an ACT member, they must also file an anonymous crime report form, even if you do not wish to make an incident report. Note that choosing not to make an incident report at this time does not prevent you from filing an incident report at a later date.

2) You can file an incident report with Public Safety , in which case Mahwah Police is automatically contacted. Once you choose to file a report, you must also be prepared to speak with a detective from Mahwah PD, and possibly the Bergen County Prosecutor’s office. Note, however, that the victim’s name is never entered into the public Public Safety log and the internal report is limited to only those college personnel who need to see it in order to take appropriate action.

Q: What will happen once I file an incident report?

A : Public Safety will follow the medical protocol to see if you need immediate medical care; medical care options following a sexual assault will be reviewed with you and you will have the option of being transported to a local hospital, along with sexual assault advocate from the healingSPACE: A Sexual Violence Resource Center. Mahwah Police is automatically called. Evidence from the crime scene will be collected (including the victim’s clothing, if applicable); evidence from the hospital (if taken) will also be received by the prosecutor’s office. You will be asked to give a statement, and you can request to speak with a female officer if you wish; you also have the right to have a friend or other advocate present if you wish. You will be asked whether you wish to press criminal charges. If so, your statement is given to the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office, who decides whether to pursue a criminal investigation. Eventually there may be a warrant, an arrest, a grand jury, and a trial. The Bergen County Office of Victim-Witness Advocacy will review these steps in detail.

The Dean of Student Affairs will review the case, and make a determination as to an interim suspension. The perpetrator then has a right to a hearing. You have the option of filing a complaint which will be heard through the campus judicial system. NOTE: This does not preclude you from also filing a report with the police. Students should know that often the county prosecutor’s office will request that the college not take action until they have finished their investigation. Thus there may be a delay before the judicial board hearing. See the College Handbook for all details regarding College Judicial Board Hearings. *Note that in cases of sexual assault, the judicial board hearings can be closed.

Q: What’s the difference between filing a complaint on campus and filing criminal charges?

A. Criminal charges will be handled by the Prosecutor’s office in the county in which the assault took place. A police detective from the municipality in which the assault took place will conduct an investigation, and the prosecutor decides whether or not to move forward with charges. The Bergen County Prosecutor’s office works in conjunction with the Bergen County Office of Victim-Witness Advocacy. Victims can contact this office for a variety of services, including an orientation to the criminal justice system, information on the status of their case, court accompaniment, child care, transportation, and referrals. This office can also inform the victim about filing civil charges.

Campus complaints are adjudicated when a violation of the Code of Conduct has occurred, and the Code includes actions which constitute criminal violations such as assault. However, in all cases a “preponderance of the credible evidence” standard is used when determinations are made concerning whether it is more likely than not a student has or has not violated provision(s) of the Code of Conduct. This is a lower standard than the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard employed in criminal prosecutions within the court system.

Q: Where can I get counseling?

A: Students can set up an appointment with a counselor in the Center for Health and Counseling Services, or they can call the healingSPACE: A Sexual Violence Resource Center for a referral for a counselor in the community (201) 487-2227. The Crisis Center also runs support groups for survivors.

*Students can request a relocation in their residence life housing assignment if their residence will bring them into proximity with the perpetrator. If a student requests a relocation, but has not filed an incident report, they must give the ACT member permission to discuss their case with the Dean of Students. Students can also request changes to their class schedule if they have classes in common with the perpetrator. Again, if the student has not filed an incident report, they must give the ACT member permission to discuss their case with the Dean of Students.

[1] If the incident is deemed to pose a significant threat to public safety, the college may choose to pursue a third party investigation, or to issue a public warning. In either case, the incident report is limited to necessary college personnel, and in any public warning, no names are released. The victim cannot be pressured to participate in any investigation that the college chooses to undertake.