Johns Hopkins working group to focus on sexual assault prevention, awareness

Johns Hopkins University will establish a Sexual Violence Working Group to examine existing resources and recommend new initiatives to address sexual violence on its campuses, university officials announced today.

In an email to students, faculty, and staff, Provost Robert C. Lieberman and Kevin Shollenberger, vice provost for student affairs at the Homewood campus, said the university has been reviewing initiatives, policies, and programs related to sexual violence, including sexual assault and harassment. They cited data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicating that about 20 percent of college women and 4 percent of college men report being sexually assaulted, and that 90 percent of those individuals say they knew their attacker. Additionally, according to U.S. Department of Justice statistics, as few as 5 percent of these incidents are reported.

"These numbers are unacceptable," Lieberman and Shollenberger wrote.

"Johns Hopkins University is committed to promoting a safe and supportive environment for each and every one of its students. It is our responsibility, and we take it seriously. To provide for the security of individuals who live and learn here, the university must be ever vigilant and willing to adapt and evaluate its efforts."

The Sexual Violence Working Group, a universitywide standing committee, will be charged with championing the prevention and awareness of sexual assault and harassment. The committee—made up of students, faculty, and staff members—will form this spring and hold its first meeting over the summer. The group will advise the provost and meet with experts to help inform their analyses and recommendations.

Currently, students on JHU's Homewood and Peabody campuses can contact the Sexual Assault SafeLine (410-516-7333), a 24/7 response line that ensures victims of sexual violence have the opportunity to speak confidentially to a trained counselor at any time. These counselors can provide immediate support and information about resources on and off campus, and they are also available to accompany a victim to the hospital.

Graduate and professional students at the university's other campuses have access to the Johns Hopkins Student Assistance Program (443-997-7000). This 24/7 service offers confidential counseling and consultation, as well as referrals to appropriate services and resources.

Johns Hopkins student affairs staff members have received extensive training related to sexual violence recognition, prevention, and reporting. Students have participated in bystander training and anti-harassment workshops, and security officers have undergone training focused on response to sexual violence calls. In addition, in February, the university hired a sexual violence prevention, education, and response coordinator, Alyse Campbell, who will serve in the dual role of educator and confidential advocate for Homewood and Peabody student victims.

The Office of Institutional Equity, established in 2001, is also available to assist victims of sexual violence, facilitate reporting, and address complaints.

In July, Susan Boswell, presently dean of student life at Homewood, will move to a new role with a focus on addressing sexual violence and gender issues. Her responsibilities will include working with representatives of the University Student Affairs Coordinating Committee to ensure consistency in the university's approach to these issues. Additionally, a new website—expected to launch later this spring—will provide a single online location for resources, services, applicable polices and procedures, and clearer definitions of what constitutes sexual assault.

"While we're confident that these and other efforts under way will contribute to a safer, more supportive Johns Hopkins, we know there is much more to be done," Lieberman and Shollenberger wrote. "We will share more about the Sexual Assault working group once it has formed and the resource website when it launches in the coming weeks. We thank you for your support and continued vigilance as we work to assist victims and reduce sexual violence at all of our campuses."

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