Sexual Violence: How To Prevent It on Campus


Courtesy of Julianne Kearns

Julianne Kearns, Staff Writer

On Thursday, Oct. 3, William Paterson held a panel addressing the topic of sexual violence, and provided information on its prevention. 

Three panelists were invited to campus to share their expertise and give perspectives from both on and off-campus. Gina Pfund, who is Chief Assistant Prosecutor In-Charge of Personnel, Sexual Investigation Unit Supervisor, was joined by Professor Sheetal Ranjan of William Paterson’s Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice, and Sarah Bear, Capacity Building Specialist, NJ Coalition Against Sexual Assault (NICASA).

They partnered with William Paterson to talk about sexual violence and assault, its prevention, and what to do if it occurs. There are outlets and resources which are accessible to students such as the Campus Victims services when situations of sexual violence occur. There is a responsibility for William Paterson and other campuses to ensure that each student who is on campus is protected.

For the hour and a half this panel took place, each panelist gave their presentation detailing their specialties and knowledge, followed by a time in which those in attendance were able to present their questions and concerns. 

Professor Panjan spoke of the early efforts given by the William Paterson Women’s Center. There have been multiple grants given in 2010, 2013, and 2019 that have allowed new projects to be undertaken leading to changes in campus leadership and advancements in new directions.

A policy had been drafted in 2010 addressing dating and sexual violence, which includes stalking. This document includes definitions and behavior involved and a wide range of topics such as consent.

Students have multiple ways of reporting these events, including campus victim services, 24-hour hotlines, and the University Police. Additionally, she spoke of Title IX, which prohibits sex discrimination including sexual violence and sexual harassment, and is currently being updated. “We encourage reporting. If you don’t report it, offenders are not held accountable for their actions and research shows offenders attack again!” Panjan said.

Gina Pfund knows, because of her work, how many people fall victim to these assaults. She explained how 1 in 5 women and 1 in 16 men are sexually assaulted while attending college, 90 percent of the attacks are committed by someone the victim knows, and 50 percent occur in September, October, and November. The Sexual Investigation Units (SIU) takes action once the assault is committed.

Each allegation is carefully reviewed. The SIU handles the process, ensuring that from the investigation to court, to the legal action taken if any, there are there to see it through. 

Sarah Bear also gave her expertise on the matters at hand. “We ultimately want to prevent this from happening because we know how traumatic it can be,” Bear said.

Bear is well versed in the psychology behind how many victims freeze and be paralyzed by fear at the moment of sexual assault. This response is common in someone experiencing a trauma. Bear and her team are passionate about preventing sexual violence, which includes various advocates to consult, in addition to counseling for both victims and their families. They expressed that they want to do everything within their power to prevent these things from happening.

Each one of these women has one common goal: to prevent sexual harassment and similar crimes on campus, and to help students who tragically suffer these crimes to find the resources they need to speak up. They believe no student should feel like they are alone.