A recent survey of Johns Hopkins University students affirms that sexual misconduct is "a serious and complex problem" on JHU's campuses—as it is on college campuses across the country—Provost Robert Lieberman wrote in a message to the university's students, faculty, and staff today.
Information gathered during the survey, which was completed by nearly 4,000 students last spring, will guide the university's continuing efforts to raise awareness, improve policies, expand educational programs, and offer support to those affected, Lieberman added.
In August 2014, JHU President Ronald J. Daniels sent a message to the university community expressing his commitment to strengthening policies, programs, and training related to sexual misconduct.
"Sexual violence on our campuses, or anywhere, is unacceptable," he wrote at that time. "It tears at the fabric of our university community; threatens the ability of our students, faculty, and staff to pursue scholarship and discovery; and diminishes our capacity to realize our fullest individual and collective potential. The safety and well-being of all members of the Johns Hopkins community is among our most fundamental responsibilities and will always be our shared priority."
In the 17 months since that message, Johns Hopkins has unveiled a new sexual misconduct policy, consolidating several existing policies into one and outlining a new, streamlined process for the review and resolution of cases. The university also established a Sexual Violence Advisory Committee, which has two new co-chairs as of Jan. 1: Michele Decker, associate professor in JHU's Bloomberg School of Public Health, and Sara Slaff, associate general counsel and interim Title IX coordinator. A report released in fall 2015 outlines the recent efforts around sexual misconduct.
The "It's on Us Hopkins" survey, distributed to undergraduate and graduate students this past spring, was designed to help researchers learn more about the prevalence and risk factors of sexual assault, student perceptions of problems and responses on JHU campuses, and student understanding of available resources. It was developed by a team led by Jacquelyn Campbell, a faculty member at JHU's schools of Public Health and Nursing and an internationally renowned expert in violence against women.
Of the 3,977 students who completed the survey, about 15%—nearly one in seven students—reported that they had experienced some type of unwanted sexual behavior while at JHU. More than half of those respondents reported that the behavior had taken place while they were incapacitated due to the use of alcohol or drugs.
"First and foremost, the incidence of unwanted sexual behaviors, while comparable to our peers, is utterly unacceptable," a report on the survey states.
Survey results also showed that students who had experienced unwanted sexual behavior were unlikely to formally report it to someone in an official capacity, and many were unaware of the campus resources available to them.
"We found some of the reasons for not reporting an unwanted sexual experience particularly troubling, including fear of being blamed or not believed, fear of retaliation, or a belief that university administration wouldn't do anything," the report states. "We also found a striking lack of awareness of the Office of Institutional Equity and other important sources of support.
"All of these findings point the way to additional actions we can and must take to prevent such experiences at Hopkins. In this regard, we view the overall problem as part of a complex system, and recognize the need for a suite of various preventative approaches. Perhaps most importantly, we want to say to our students who have experienced unwanted sexual behaviors: We are here to support you. You should feel no shame, no fear, and no blame."
Information and assistance for victims of sexual violence are available on the Sexual Assault Response and Prevention website