Student Killed Herself After University Failed to Fully Investigate Rape Claims: Lawsuit

Cherelle Jovanna Locklear, 21, was found dead inside a dorm bathroom in November 2015, two months after allegedly being raped at the William Paterson University Sigma Pi fraternity house. 

Cherelle Jovanna Locklear
Cherelle Jovanna Locklear Facebook

A mother has filed a lawsuit against New Jersey’s William Paterson University in which she blames the school for her daughter’s suicide, alleging that the school failed to fully investigate her claims of rape, NJ.com reports.

Cherelle Jovanna Locklear, 21, was found dead by her roommates inside a dorm bathroom on Nov. 22, 2015, about two months after the alleged rape, the lawsuit filed in September by Locklear’s mother, Marquesa C. Jackson-Locklear, claimed.

Locklear, who had been a student at William Paterson since 2012, was allegedly raped at the university’s Sigma Pi fraternity house on or around Sept. 25, 2015, Locklear’s mother said in court papers, but did not report the incident right away.

About a month later, on or around Oct. 15, 2015, Locklear attempted to kill herself by overdosing on pills, according to the lawsuit, and had to be hospitalized for five days. After being released from the hospital, Locklear went to Theresa A. Bivaletz, the coordinator of the school’s victims services, the suit claims.

“Cherelle described the circumstances of the rape and identified the perpetrator and directed Bivaletz to report the rape to the university police department,” the suit states.

However, according to the suit, Bivaletz did not report the rape to campus police until November 2015.

“Even after receiving the report of the sexual assault, the university police department utterly failed to perform an appropriate and thorough investigation,” the lawsuit claims, and thus, the suspect was neither “confronted nor charged” in the incident.

The lawsuit accuses Bivaletz and campus Police Detectives Ellen DeSimone and Michael Jon Arp of being aware of the rape and Locklear’s suicide attempt, but still, they “collectively failed to act as required by law to investigate the assault and protect Cherelle’s safety.”

The lawsuit accuses employees at the school of violating Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibit discrimination based on sex, claiming that the school was aware of other incidents of assault and sex-based violence against its female students but did not address the issue, creating “a climate in which such misconduct against women was tolerated.”

On Tuesday afternoon, university spokeswoman Mary Beth Zeman released a statement saying that the school was saddened by the loss but that it declined to comment on the lawsuit.

Read more at NJ.com.

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