Former Marshall student speaks out about 2016 assault

PITTSBURGH, Pa. — A former Marshall University student says she painfully remembers the day in 2016 she was attacked by a fellow student.

Joseph Hardin

“I tried to get away and he picked me up and slammed me on the bed and held by neck down,” Alicia Gonzales told WPXI-TV in Pittsburgh Wednesday.

Gonzales goes to college in Pennsylvania after leaving Marshall following the assault. Her alleged attacker Joseph Hardin, 22, who plead the original sexual assault charge down to misdemeanor battery, was recently indicted on four counts of sexual assault involving two other women.

Gonzales said she was “outraged” when Hardin was placed on three years probation and allowed to remain at Marshall after the 2016 attack. She left Huntington.

“If they would have done what they needed to do with me then I just believe these girls could have been protected,” Gonzales told WPXI.

The new charges are for alleged crimes that took place off-campus. Gonzales said she hopes Hardin is convicted.

“It genuinely makes me very happy to know that we could be getting a perpetrator off of the streets,” she said.

Hardin is now in jail awaiting the revocation of his probation and his arraignment on the new charges. He was expelled by Marshall earlier this week and the Huntington YMCA, where he works, has suspended him without pay.

Marshall has not said why Hardin was allowed to stay in school after the 2016 incident. A statement from President Jerome Gilbert was released earlier this week.

“We have taken, and will continue to take, aggressive steps to make sure the entire Marshall community is safe. I have zero tolerance for inappropriate, illegal behavior, and pledge that we will always treat sexual misconduct and violence with the utmost gravity. The safety of our students is our first obligation,” Gilbert said.

The YMCA of Huntington released a similar statement saying the safety and well-being of its members, participants and staff is a top priority. The statement said the organization was troubled by Hardin’s recent arrest.

“Due to the charges against him, his employment has been suspended without pay. We are deeply saddened by the alleged actions, and our thoughts are with the alleged victims.

“The alleged incidents took place away from our facility and in no way involved or put at risk children in our care.

“A full criminal background check and reference check was performed on this staff member at the time of his hire, and he did not have any previous arrests or areas of concern. However, in light of this incident, we are reviewing our hiring, monitoring and training policies to ensure that YMCA of Huntington is utilizing industry-best practices and that we continue to serve Huntington and the Tri-State area with distinction and pride, as we have for more than 134 years.

“The YMCA of Huntington is fully supporting the Huntington Police Department during its investigation and will continue to do so. Because there is an ongoing investigation, all questions about the alleged incidents should be directed to the Huntington Police Department.”

Hardin is currently being held in the Western Regional Jail.

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