Karina Rahaman has been leading bystander intervention trainings at Johns Hopkins since she was a sophomore, teaching her peers about issues relating to consent and intimate partner violence, and discussing how cultural attitudes surrounding sex and gender contribute to the normalization of sexual violence—a sociological concept commonly referred to as rape culture.
In every session she's ever conducted, at least one participant has said he or she has experienced or knows someone who has experienced sexual violence, such as abuse, assault, or stalking.
Sometimes she's surprised by how many people in the sessions have been affected by sexual violence at such a young age, she says.
Then she remembers the statistics.
"Women in our age group, 18-24, are most at-risk, but there's not just one narrative about who can be affected by sexual violence," says Rahaman. "There are so many behaviors that are romanticized by popular culture that are actually really toxic."
Today, the university released a new student survey meant to evaluate the climate at Johns Hopkins and gain feedback from full-time students about the prevalence and risk factors of sexual misconduct, the accessibility and visibility of resources and reporting practices, and other questions relating to sexual violence on campus. Student input will be used to further refine the university's policies pertaining to sexual misconduct and will inform future education and awareness efforts.
Nationally, an estimated one in five undergraduate women has experienced rape or sexual assault through physical force, violence, or incapacitation, according to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network. RAINN also reports that roughly 11 percent of all students, male or female, have experienced a sexual assault.
A 2015 survey of Hopkins students revealed that roughly 15 percent—that's nearly one in seven—had experienced some type of unwanted sexual behavior while at JHU. Those students were unlikely to formally report it to someone in an official capacity, and many were unaware of the campus resources available to them, the survey found.
Based on survey results, the university enhanced Title IX training efforts across JHU campuses and increased the availability and visibility of student resources, including at the Counseling Center and at the Office of Institutional Equity, which investigates discrimination and sexual harassment complaints.
"Johns Hopkins remains firmly committed to fostering a community free from sexual assault and other sexual misconduct, as well as related retaliation," wrote Sunil Kumar, the university's provost, in a message announcing this year's survey. "It's on us to make our Johns Hopkins community safer and stronger, and we thank you for supporting this critical effort."
Student members of the Sexual Assault Resource Unit at JHU called the climate survey an opportunity for students to help effect change.
"The way things are now, in order to change a culture, the burden rests with the survivor. It's difficult and often re-traumatizing to seek justice—but it shouldn't have to be that way," said Dani Pitkoff and Mayuri Viswanathan, who co-direct the group, which administers a peer-to-peer hotline, provides campus resources to students, and advocates on behalf of sexual violence survivors on campus and across the country. "The climate survey is a way that students can encourage administrators to provide the resources, support, and education necessary to keep campus safe for students and survivors."
The survey, which takes about 30 minutes to complete, will be available through March 19, and students can take it by clicking the unique link that was emailed to them today. The survey is conducted by the Office of Institutional Research, and responses will be kept separate from identifying information.
"The information we gather from this survey will help us benchmark our past efforts and see where we need to improve," says Joy Gaslevic, assistant vice provost and the university's Title IX coordinator. "We recognize that this is a potentially difficult and emotional topic to discuss, but it's important that our efforts be guided by student voices and student experiences."
If you are a victim of sexual harassment, discrimination, or misconduct, there are resources available to you. The JHU Sexual Assault Helpline, 410-516-7333, is a confidential service available 24/7 to all Johns Hopkins University students that is staffed by professional counselors and provides assistance to those affected by sexual misconduct. You can also contact the Johns Hopkins Compliance Hotline, 844-SPEAK2US (844-773-2528), for help.