Sexual assault reports nearly tripled at Hopkins last year, and burglaries, fondling and other incidents climbed as well

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Photo of Gilman Hall at Johns Hopkins University. Photo by callison-burch, via Flickr.

In a far more severe increase than in previous years, reported sexual assaults rose by 181 percent last year at Johns Hopkins University’s Homewood campus. The school also logged sizable upticks in incidents such as rape and fondling.

The Johns Hopkins Counseling Center received 101 confidential reports of sexual assault in 2017, a nearly threefold bump from the 36 reports recorded one year before, according to the latest Annual Security and Fire Safety Report. Confidentially reported sexual assaults have climbed in previous years, but by smaller margins—from 21 to 32 between 2014 and 2015, and from 32 to 36 in 2016.

“The university has worked in recent years to enhance its policy and processes on sexual misconduct, to increase the staffing in the Office of Institutional Equity, and to make students, faculty and staff more aware of the resources available to them,” Hopkins spokesman Dennis O’Shea wrote in an email Friday. “That, and increased national attention to issues of sexual assault and sexual misconduct, has likely increased the rate of reporting of such offenses.”

Last year, O’Shea similarly attributed the increase in reported sexual assaults to the school making more resources and support available to students and encouraging them to report their cases.

The number of rapes investigated rose from six in 2016, five of those on campus, to 11 in 2017, seven of them on campus.

Fondling incidents—defined in the annual report as “intentional touching of the intimate parts of another person or causing another to touch one’s intimate parts against a person’s will or without consent”—jumped tenfold, from two in 2016 to 20 last year. Stalking cases on the Homewood campus also climbed considerably, from nine to 16, and domestic violence incidents rose from seven to nine.

Burglaries rose as well: The report notes 28 such cases on the main campus, up from 20 a year earlier, with just over half of them happening off-campus.

Arrests for drug violations climbed from six to 15. The tally of three people arrested for weapons violations remained unchanged from 2016.

The university handles far more drug, weapon and alcohol cases through internal disciplinary action. Disciplinary referrals on the Homewood campus for such incidents fell substantially in 2017. Hopkins logged 263 liquor violations, all but two in residence halls—a 31 percent drop from the year before—and 25 drug law violations, down 29 percent from 2016.

All universities in the country are required to publish campus security stats under the Clery Act, enacted in 1990. The law intersects with Title IX, a 1972 education amendment that bars sexual discrimination in education or any federally funded program.

And like all schools, Hopkins must keep a dedicated coordinator for sexual assault cases. The school has its own Office of Institutional Equity (OIE) that aims to protect students from “unlawful sexual harassment in school programs and activities” and, per an April story in the student newspaper the News-Letter, “works with each complainant to discuss future actions.”

The paper reported in a series (a nod to former News-Letter editor-in-chief Rollin Hu for calling it out on Twitter) last year that survivors faced challenges working with OIE, including being re-traumatized by repeatedly recounting their experiences in interviews, watching cases go unresolved for months at a time and dealing with seeing their accused perpetrators afterward, despite no-contact orders between both parties established by the university.

During the spring semester, Hopkins conducted an Anonymous Climate Survey on Sexual Misconduct to better evaluate its sexual assault policy.

In an interview responding to the series, the university said it would release a report with stats about how long it took OIE to resolve each reported case, how many of them were ultimately resolved and what disciplinary actions were taken. The university has yet to publish the report.

Ethan McLeod
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