Until It’s Zero blog sparks discussion

By SHOSHANA AKABAS | April 28, 2011

The Hopkins Feminist Alliance and Sexual Assault Response Unit (SARU) started the Until It’s Zero blog last month in an effort to raise awareness about sexual assault on campus.

The blog, which has received over 20 posts thus far, allows people to anonymously post their personal accounts concerning sexual assault.

“We noticed that George Washington University had a blog where survivors could share their stories and we thought ‘We want to do that,’” senior and Feminist Alliance President Yelena Tsilker said.

According to the most recent security report detailing statistics from 2009, Hopkins has no reported sexual assault cases and has maintained this number since 2007.

“At Hopkins there have been zero reports of sexual assault in the last three years,” co-chair of SARU junior Linda Song said. “As a member of SARU — because we get phone calls from people sometimes — it’s surprising. None of it shows up on the campus statistics at all.”

Freshman class senator Gauri Wagle felt that those statistics went unreported because the campus was overall a safe place. “It comes down to a question of how safe people feel here,” she said.

SARU believes the lack of reported sexual assaults could be deceiving. “One of the big barriers [is] a lack of knowledge about what sexual assault is, and feeling like it’s their fault,” Song said. “Hopkins is a safe campus, but sexual assaults happen everywhere. Hopkins isn’t a special case.”

A caption on the homepage of Untilitszero.tumblr.com supported this claim, stating: “While we would love for this to be the case, we know it’s not.”

Song did not expect so many people to have posted on the blog already. “I’m actually really surprised that we’ve gotten as many

accounts as we have so far,” Song said. “It’s been interesting to hear from the people who have actually written on the blog. It seems that a lot of them are really happy that they have a place to speak.”

“This was trying to give survivors a voice because they really don’t have one on campus,” Tsilker said.

Yet, Song said that some people are skeptical and shrug off the facts, insisting that they do not happen at Hopkins. The first instrument of change is education, and programs for orientation week, or even the entire school, are under consideration. One such program is The Red Flag Campaign, which attempts to prevent dating violence on college campuses.

“Nine out of ten rapes on college campuses are done by repeat offenders, so it’s a very small percentage of people who are committing these kinds of crimes,” Song said. “It’s just a matter [of] getting people aware enough to stop these small percentages of people from attempting these things.”

The SGA is working on the Red Flag campaign as well. “What the SGA tries to do is make people feel more at home,” Wagle said. “The Red Flag Campaign . . . it’s going around college campuses. It’s one of our big plans for next year.”

Song feels that Hopkins needs to provide students with more information on sexual assaults. “You don’t really hear about it during orientation. You don’t hear about prevention,” Song said. “We were doing a thing on the Breezeway of rape myths and rape facts and what constitutes sexual assault, and I had someone come up, and she was reading one of the facts and she realized that this was happening to her.”

SARU also had a panel with Hopkins security and Health and Wellness to help determine how often this happens on campus. “A [Sexual Assault Forensic Examiner] nurse from Mercy hospital [met with us]. She’s been seeing a lot of date rape drugs on our campus, but we’ve gotten no calls about this.”

In addition to educating students on sexual assault, date rape drugs and campus resources in order to prevent incidents from occurring in the first place, there needs to be an easier way to report crimes anonymously.

“Right now there doesn’t seem to be a good anonymous reporting system, for someone who doesn’t want to go to Dean Boswell, who doesn’t want to go to security, but wants people to know that there is an issue at such-and-such a place on campus,” Song said.

Education and a reformed reporting system will go a long way to help the situation. However, some believe that change rests on school policy, which will hopefully be reworked.

“A lot of universities around the nation are starting to change their sexual assault policies, make them more defined and spell out what sexual assault is, what will be done if a student is found guilty of sexual assault and what can be done for the person who has been assaulted. We’re in the middle of that process right now,” Song said.

“[The administration] is working with SARU on a new policy on sexual assault,” Tsilker said.

SARU wants to give students a place to talk and let them know that it is okay to do so. “The most rewarding thing is letting people know that it isn’t their fault and empowering them in that way,” Song said. “We’re going to report on this until the actual statistic is zero.”

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