Author: Dana Ettinger, Johns Hopkins University
1 in 5 women will be sexually assaulted by the time they graduate college, largely by people they know. College men also experience sexual assault, at a rate of about 1 in 71. However, colleges and universities nationwide have been letting their students down when it comes to dealing with these facts. According to a study in the Washington Post, between 2010 and 2012 there were 11 instances of forcible sexual assault each at University of Maryland – Baltimore County and Towson University; Goucher College experienced 10 while Johns Hopkins University had 6, and Loyola University experienced 5 instances. However, these numbers only reflect reported incidents – low reporting is a persistent problem due to fear of retaliation, stigma, or low conviction rates. Students who do come forward might be discouraged from pursuing their cases. Each university has different policies in place to combat this problem that correspond to the unique needs of their campus. For example, most assaults reported at Johns Hopkins take place in various fraternity houses, so the administration has been working with the Inter-Fraternity Council to create policies that will be effective. Loyola has no Greek Life, and the incidents reported there happen more often in student dormitories, such as the assault reported in September that took place in Campion Towers. All five of the universities mentioned (UMBC, Towson, Goucher, Johns Hopkins, and Loyola) have websites detailing the school’s sexual assault policy and resources. However, the policies, definitions, and resources vary widely according to school.
University of Maryland – Baltimore County also has several webpages with information and resources. They do not appear to have published their definition of sexual assault or consent, and many of their resources emphasize abusive relationships rather than isolated incidents of assault. While the resources available on intimate partner violence are helpful, there is very little to help someone who is the victim of a singular rape. Information and resources are spread across the security services, counseling center, and Women’s Center. UMBC does provide Green Dot training, a version of Bystander Intervention Training.
Towson University has a comprehensive brochure available online which includes pertinent university and community resources and contact information, such as security services, hospitals, and groups such as the RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network) hotline number. The university has a well-worded definition of rape and sexual assault, though it does not provide a specific definition of what constitutes consent. The brochure provides “Dos and Don’ts” for victims and friends of victims, as well as provides information on how to report incidents. Students are generally made aware of incidents by email or text alert message.
Goucher College’s information is spread between the Office of Public Safety and the Health and Counseling Services websites. The counseling center’s website provides pertinent information about its hours and services, as well as providing basic information about what to do in the event of a sexual assault. The information is rudimentary but clear and includes the phone numbers for several different hotlines. The Office of Public Safety provides information about the rights of victims, which includes academic relief and alternative housing and classes, as well as the procedures for reporting. Goucher’s definitions of both consent and sexual assault are clear and well-defined, and available online, as is the formal complaint form.
Johns Hopkins University created a website devoted entirely to sexual assault prevention and recovery. Following a scandal preempted by a Baltimore Sun article exposing a potential cover up of a rape at a campus fraternity house, the administration created a Sexual Assault Working Group comprised of students and faculty which resulted in the creation of the website, which consolidates all of the university’s resources and information about its sexual assault policy. Because of the concentration of assaults at fraternity houses, much of Hopkins’ prevention efforts is focused on Greek life. Annual seminars on consent as well as Bystander Intervention Training are parts of Hopkins’ policy toward Greek organizations on campus. The website provides very specific definitions of sexual assault as well as consent, as well as information about reporting incidents of assault.
Loyola University has an affirmative consent definition of sexual assault. The security services website defines this as voluntary agreement to sexual acts, which cannot be obtained through force or intimidation. It also specifies that silence does not imply consent. The webpages also give a brief overview of the procedure for filing a formal complaint, though the full grievance procedure is not available online. The website says that a victim of sexual assault may request alternative housing or classes, though the university will only comply if it is “reasonably available.” The Counseling Center’s website includes a page on sexual assault resources, and the University offers Rape Aggression Defense (RAD) training, which teaches self-defense and risk aversion tactics.
There are several similarities and differences across these schools, which is to be expected. However, there is a lot they can learn from one another. Consolidating the resources available is a smart move to make it easier for students to access the information they need. Johns Hopkins’ website and Towson’s brochure are good examples of this centralization. Perhaps Loyola and UMBC could include links to the Counseling Center’s page on sexual assault in the section of the security website devoted to it, or vice versa. Four of the five universities have published their definitions of sexual assault, though fewer have a definition of consent. These are critical additions to their information. Reporting procedures are generally available online, and Hopkins and Goucher students can report assaults online. This would be a good idea for the other schools, as it would likely increase reporting rates. Bystander Intervention Training (BIT) and Rape Aggression Defense Training (RAD) are both useful programs to implement for the whole student body, rather than small subsections or not at all. Finally, a careful balance between confidentiality and transparency must be maintained. The confidentiality of victims of sexual assault is paramount, but the rest of the student body has the right to be informed when incidents occur so they can better protect themselves. All five universities have student groups devoted to various aspects of sexual assault, however there is little cooperation across campuses aimed at taking on this issue. Combating sexual assault is a continuous struggle, but sharing ideas across schools might help save lives and prevent tragedy in the long run.
If you or someone you know has been affected by sexual assault, please reach out to your campus resources or the Baltimore Police.
Resources by School:
Counseling center (http://umbc.edu/rvap/getting-help-support/ucs/)
Sexual Assault and Relationship Violence Response Team (http://www.umbc.edu/saf/staff/savrt.php)
Voices Against Violence (http://www.umbc.edu/vav/)
Towson University Guide to Options, Resources, and Support (http://www.towson.edu/counseling/resources/documents/SexualAssualtBrochure.pdf)
Sexual Misconduct Reporting and Information (http://www.goucher.edu/student-life/student-services/office-of-public-safety/sexual-misconduct-reporting-and-information)
Johns Hopkins Sexual Assault Response and Prevention (http://www.sexualassault.jhu.edu/)