Suburbs and small towns are usually advertised as a place for families to live safely, away from brutal murders and horrendous crime rates. Jessica Cozens was one of these people who relocated her life in an attempt to feel safe and protected. It wasn’t until Oct. 14, 2008, that her small, perfect world was turned upside down. That day she learned that even in the smallest town, crimes of robbery, rape, and assault exist in the darkened alleys.
Jessica Cozens, a senior at Bloomsburg University, was brutally attacked on Oct. 14 along East Street in Bloomsburg. That night, Jessica was celebrating a friend’s 21st birthday before walking her home and making her way back to her residence at in the 400 block of East Street. She was close to her apartment when she heard footsteps behind her increasing in speed.
“I will never forget the sound,” Jessica said. “It was almost like something within me was telling me to turn around. I wasn’t quick enough and before I knew it his arms were around my neck squeezing tight dragging me down a dark alley. I tried screaming, but every time I got out a squeak her tightened his grip. I was able to slide my head to the side and slip out of his arms. I hit the man in the stomach as hard as I possibly could. Our eyes locked for a brief second before I ran as fast as I could, screaming for help.”
Jessica was fortunate enough to get away from the attacker. The man then went in search of another victim. Police said he found two other females walking home from the bar that night. They were not as fortunate as Jessica and needed to seek medical attention. Police responded to the scene and arrested a suspect who fits the attacker’s description.
Travis Jenkins was taken into custody. Jenkins was recently released from jail just the day before, after making bail for a past breaking-and entering charge. All three of the victims identified him as the attacker. He is now awaiting trial.
The events of that night still haunt Jessica.
“I’m from Philadelphia and I have never felt the fear that I felt that night. I would have never thought that this would happen to me especially in a town like Bloomsburg. I was always the one who was never afraid of anything, but now I can’t even walk outside at night alone in the fear of him waiting for me.” (Excerpt from interview.)
Jessica now lives a sheltered life. Her home is surrounded by motion detectors. Any sudden movement within the premises and a spot light will immediately light the area. The locks on the apartment doors are dead bolted and chained at all time. Pepper spray hangs from her key chain every time she leaves the house. The attack has caused Jessica severe emotional problems.
“Every time a man comes in my face I think back to that night. I’ll hit, punch, and scream until he goes away from me. I don’t know why I do it, but I just feel that every man is trying to hurt me.”
With the trial quickly approaching, Jessica fears for her own safety. She looks to the Bloomsburg community to help her and the other two girls as much as possible. In her opinion, the safety of a town is a group effort. The interview concluded with Jessica explaining her concerns for the future.
“I worry that he will be able to find me. He knows my name and where I live, and I am terrified that if he gets out he will find me. I want the community to know my story. Bloomsburg is no longer the utopia that I once pictured it to be. It is no longer safe in my eyes, and I want my story to reach the community in an attempt to make them aware that times have changed. I wouldn’t feel safe allowing my children to play outside alone. It depresses me so much because the world is taking a change for the worse. I am just so grateful for being able to get away and for the Bloomsburg police helping me so much.”
Editor’s Note: The reporter is the sister of assault victim Jessica Cozens.