As the news continues to spread about Johns Hopkins’ possibly-botched handling of an alleged gang rape last year, we’re reminded of a previous conversation about sexual assault on the JHU campus. Nearly three years ago, we wrote about the “Until It’s Zero” campaign, which was launched by Hopkins students who were shocked to hear that the university had no reported instances of rape or sexual assault on campus from 2007-2009.
Here’s what we wrote back then:
From 2007 to 2009, JHU reported ZERO incidents of sexual assault or rape. While we would love for this to be the case, we know it’s not.
So proclaims the recently-launched Until It’s Zero project, a blog that declares itself “a space devoted to giving survivors of sexual violence an outlet until such a time as the incidence of sexual assault and rape truly is zero.” The blog features stories of assault, rape, gray-area situations, and harassment, written by anonymous Hopkins students — mostly women, but a few men as well.
As the blog’s moderators note, it’s notoriously tricky to get accurate statistics about rape/sexual assault, but some experts estimate that 1 in 4 college women has experienced some form of sexual assault in her lifetime. But a host of factors — from guilt to fear of social stigma to dismissive authority figures — means that many survivors decline to file official reports. A positive-seeming statistic — like Hopkins’ claim of no rapes or sexual assaults reported since 2007 — can actually mask a culture of shame. Over half the rapes committed on college campuses are never reported to police, the blog points out.
So far, the blog features a couple dozen stories from survivors, some set in Hopkins dorms and frat houses, others of which pre-date the writer’s time at the school. And all are heartbreaking to read: “I was 11 years old. I was in CTY.” “The detective assigned to the case told me he only had time for ‘real rapes.’” It’s a harrowing collection of stories, many of which start out innocently — with a date, a party, a night out with friends.
Kudos to the Hopkins Feminist Alliance and Sexual Assault Response Unit for opening up the discussion. Let’s hope that someday soon that “zero” statistic does reflect campus reality.
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