NJ survivor’s urgent plea: I was brutally raped in a park I thought was safe
The following is a woman's first-hand account of a violent attack and sexual assault on Nov. 4, 2021, while she was running at Big Brook Park in Marlboro.
The assailant remains unidentified.
The victim, going publicly as "S" out of concern for her safety, shared her story with New Jersey 101.5 this week after the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office asked the public for help in finding the rapist.
What follows is a condensed version of the story that "S" shared with New Jersey 101.5 reporter Erin Vogt. It has been edited for clarity and brevity.
It was a Thursday morning. My kids were off from school. We took our usual selfie before we left in the garage.
I was a teacher and my district had off that week so I was training in that park that week.
And the crazy part is, I forgot my earbuds. I always listen to music and I only got to the traffic light in Marlboro and said, "Oh my God, I forgot my earbuds."
And if I wasn’t going roller skating with my kids later, if I didn’t want to disappoint my kids, I would have just gone home and gotten them.
I had been in this park running. I was running very fast miles, like six and a half minute miles. It was my last run before the marathon; my legs were going to get a break. I had been at the top of a very large hill there where I saw this man. I believe he was stretching.
I was bending down. I looked up to stretch my neck. He gave a nod and I kind of just gave a nod back.
Usually, when you’re running and runners pass you by, you say hello. But this man wasn’t running.
And he also didn’t look like a bad person. I know that sounds crazy but he didn’t look like someone that I would walk the other way from.
He caught me by surprise, I’m gonna say close to 4 miles later. Came out of friggin nowhere.
Behind a bunch of trees or whatever, he came out of and kind of kicked the back of my knee in.
I was like, "what the heck?"
I kind of thought somebody behind me had a heart attack and just kind of toppled upon me until I looked up and he was dragging me about 30 to 40 feet off the trail.
I said to myself, 'Oh my God, I’m going to die.'
The thought of a sexual assault did not even cross my mind because I saw my own mortality very fast.
In this event of 25 minutes, there were threats. He looked like a, I don’t know, like a sick man. He had a knife, he held it to my throat, went left to right.
I asked several times, what do you want? I don’t have money. I didn't have anything on me besides a telephone. And then the whole sexual thing clicked in my head. I’m like, this is what’s going to happen right now.
What’s insanely crazy is that what’s going through my head was something that had happened to somebody else and I had helped to look for that person and put out flyers and all I kept thinking at that time was, "Don’t let her family find her like that."
And that’s exactly what I was praying to God in my head. I was like whatever happens to me right now, you do what you’re going to do but you gotta let me get home.
I fought very hard. I kicked, I screamed, I ripped hair.
My head hurt. I was dragged along tree stumps in the ground and I was actually trying to sit up because I was afraid of the physical pain.
I had ribs that were crushed. It was just a brutal thing.
I fought until my choice was, with his words, "If you move, or scream or take another deep breath, I’m going to kill you and you’re going to die here, for your family to find without dignity."
And that was it. I needed not to hear another word.
I’ve been a runner my whole life and I’ve read about people in Central Park. I’ve seen people get assaulted where they got hurt or a gun was held to their head. And I always thought, oh my God, how do they go through life knowing?
And for me, this man is out there. He’s somewhere. He’s somewhere.
I sleep half the time sitting up in my front window.
I have to look over my shoulder everywhere I go.
I say to myself that stuff like this doesn’t happen in Monmouth County — and then I catch myself and I say but it did. It did happen and so it does happen.
I wonder, was it just random — was it me?
Did he see me all week? Was he watching me?
After the attack, he left.
I was so hurt in 500 different ways that it wasn’t like I could run after or look for him.
By the time I could find my phone, which was thrown 20 feet, I kind of just took my butt and literally went along the rocks until I could gain composure, fix myself and call 911.
And in the days and the weeks to come, I was so heavily medicated. It sedated me so I could just stay in bed.
At the 22-month mark, between having a “life-aversary” — that’s what my friends call it, every fourth of the month, we have a life-aversary that you have life and you’re alive — I’ve just become obsessed with finding him and made it my mission that somebody has to see him.
He has to be paying for groceries and he’s getting a gallon of milk.
He has to be eating in the diner and he has to come in for a bagel.
He has to do something — he has to make money or work, he has to be somewhere.
I don’t think that it’s right that he’s getting to live his life and I’m living mine so guarded and so afraid.
He’s dangerous. He’s a bad, dangerous monster.
Please keep your eyes open. He could be dating somebody. He could be doing a lot of things.
That’s become my mission: to get his face everywhere that I can.
I believe that 99% of the people that have talked to me for the last two years really care. That’s the other thing that has made me do this: the strength that people have and the amount of trust that people have put in me in the last two years.
The stories that people have shared with me. They’re women, they’re men who have wives, husbands who have wives, fathers, daughters — just everybody, it affects everybody.
I do know how far I’ve come. I just hate that this is my life. I don’t work full time. I don’t do the things that I did before. I am trying really hard, although I believe I am obsessed with finding him.
I was very medicated for a very long time. I just started weaning myself off a lot of that stuff and I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing. And it’s kind of self-defeating, if that’s the word, because the exact thing that I’m trying to forget is the exact thing I talk about every single day.
Anyone with information about the case is urged to contact Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office Detective Joshua Rios at 1-800-533-7443 or Marlboro Police Department Detective Michael Pecoraro at 732-536-0100.
Anonymous tips can be submitted to Monmouth County Crime Stoppers by calling 1-800-671-4400, by using the P3 Tips mobile app or by going to the website.
If you have experienced sexual violence and would like to speak with someone about it, you can call the 24-hour Statewide Hotline at 1-800-601-7200 or check statewide resources here to contact a local sexual violence program.