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Student Commits Suicide After University Refused To Pursue Her Rape Case

Suffering from PTSD, Cherelle Jovanna Locklear committed suicide in her dorm bathroom after being raped in 2015. Her mother, Marquesa C. Jackson-Locklear, is suing the university for negligence and not pursuing an investigation.

Cherelle Locklear suicide

Cherelle Jovanna Locklear/Facebook.

On September 25, 2015, Cherelle Jovanna Locklear, a 21-year-old undergraduate student at William Paterson University in Wayne, New Jersey, was allegedly raped while attending a Sigma Pi fraternity frat party at the university.

Locklear didn’t immediately report what happened, because who would dare believe rape victims when they come forth, right? Instead, she struggled with post-traumatic stress syndrome in silence for about a month after the rape occurred and attempted, unsuccessfully, to overdose on pills.

After she was released from the hospital, Locklear immediately sought counseling at her school’s victim’s crisis center. There, she opened up to the coordinator, Theresa A. Bivaletz, about the rape.

That was in mid-October of last year. By November 22, she was dead, found by her roommates in her dorm bathroom, no doubt the consequence of succeeding in her second and final effort to take her own life. She was 21.

Related: Zendaya Fights the Rape-Joke Meme that Proves The Internet Is Still Not Safe For Women

These details and more were reported by her mother, Marquesa C. Jackson-Locklear, in a recent lawsuit she filed against the university.

According to TheRoot.com’s Breanna Edwards, Jackson-Locklear’s lawsuit alleges that William Paterson refused to pursue a full investigation of the circumstances of her daughter’s rape.

In the suit, Jackson-Locklear states, “Cherelle described the circumstances of the rape and identified the perpetrator and directed Bivaletz to report the rape to the university police department,” Edwards reports. However, Bivaletz waited until November to file the report.

Once reported, campus law enforcement also behaved negligently, TheRoot.com reports. University police made no attempt to apprehend the suspect.

“Even after receiving the report of the sexual assault, the university police department utterly failed to perform an appropriate and thorough investigation,” the lawsuit documents.

Besides Bivaletz, the lawsuit names two detectives, Ellen DeSimone and Michael Jon Arp, who were not only aware of the rape and Locklear’s suicidal condition but, along with the school coordinator, “collectively failed to act as required by law to investigate the assault and protect Cherelle’s safety.”

The comportment of all these school employees, the lawsuit claims, was in direct violation of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, a law that prohibits discrimination based on sex.

From symptoms like the light sentencing of Stanford rapist Brock Turner and acquittal of David Becker to the initial dismissiveness of Nate Parker and the tragedy that befell this young, Black girl, the infection of patriarchy and misogyny coursing through the bloodstream of every organ of our social body is sending a clear message that no rape or tortuous psychological channels survivors must navigate following sexual assault is too abominable or woeful to warrant prosecution against sexual predators.

This only serves to aid and abet an already deeply rape-friendly social environment.

As intersectional feminist and mental health advocate Kristance Harlow argued here recently, “When we don’t hold people (rapists) responsible for their actions and give them free passes […] we reinforce systematic oppression and institutional inequality.”

Read more at TheRoot.com and NJ.com.


Antwan is an educator, cultural critic, actor, and writer for Wear Your Voice Mag (WYV), where he focuses on the dynamics of class, race, gender, politics, and pop culture. Prior to joining the team at WYV, he was an adjunct professor in the African American Studies Department at Valdosta State University in southern Georgia, where he taught African American Literature. He has traveled the U.S. and U.K. showcasing a fifty-five minute, one-person play titled Whitewash, which focuses on the state of black men in the post-civil rights era. Antwan received his B.A. in English and Literature from California State University, Dominguez Hills, and M.A. in African American Studies from University of California, Los Angeles. He is a Ronald E. McNair Scholar and NAACP theater nominee.

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