Petition addresses sexual assault

By EMILY HERMAN | April 24, 2014

To continue spreading awareness of sexual assault on campus, College Democrats, Voice for Choice, the Hopkins Feminists and the Sexual Assault Resource Unit (SARU) sponsored the Hopkins Against Sexual Assault petition-signing and photo contest Wednesday on the Keyser Quad.

The petition, which received 223 signatures throughout the day, calls for more comprehensive education about sexual assault in orientation programs and for members of Greek Life, to create an informational website about students’ legal rights after sexual violence and for the printing of SARU’s anonymous hotline number on J-Cards.

“Our main goal [is] to get freshmen and others on campus aware of this,” freshman Saakshi Suri, a member of SARU and Hopkins Feminists, said. “Sexual assault is a very serious issue, and the more student groups that get involved, the more awareness [there will be].”

Suri said that putting SARU’s hotline number on J-Cards, which currently feature numbers for Campus Security and the Blue Jay Shuttle, might encourage victims to report incidents.

“We get a lot of calls on our hotline, but if more people are able to approach us and get in touch with us, it’s better,” Suri said.

College Democrats Vice President and senior Leah Barresi said she hopes that this initiative will lead to more transparency about the incidence of sexual assault on campus.

“We also want more honest reporting,” Barresi said. “There’s really no updates when someone is sexually assaulted or [regarding] cases of sexual harassment. We want students to be more educated on what their rights are, and if they are victims, who they could go to.”

The event also featured a contest designed to encourage fraternities and sororities to participate in building awareness of sexual assault. Pi Beta Phi won $250 from the Office of Student Life for having the highest percentage of its members sign the petition out of all the participating sororities. The winning fraternity is still being calculated.

While 105 women from all five Panhellenic sororities signed the petition, only 42 fraternity members from five fraternities signed it. College Democrats Co-President and junior Akshai Bhatnagar said that this indicates a lack of awareness of the issue among fraternity men.

“We’re a bit disappointed in how few fraternities are showing up,” Bhatnagar said. “We’re trying to just raise awareness about this issue [and] include people who don’t usually think about these certain events [or] come to all the sexual assault events that this school has. It seems like [advocacy groups are] not targeting the communities that need this message most.”

Bhatnagar also said that the current orientation program does not give incoming students accurate information about the prevalence of sexual assault.

“We feel like the orientation program is overly dismissive of the issue and treats it [as if it is] funny and [to be] avoided, rather than something that’s really serious,” Bhatnagar said.

Junior Carrie Resnick, co-president of College Democrats, said the four groups plan to bring the petition to the administration soon.

“We’ve been working with Dean Boswell on this event,” Resnick said. “We’re going to go show her and other members of the administration the support we got for this, so hopefully then they’ll implement some of the ideas.”

Although junior Eliza Schultz and sophomore Carlene Partow also recently wrote a petition about sexual assault, their petition focuses on changing the administration’s Sexual Violence Policy rather than on spreading awareness of the issue. This policy details how the University is required to respond to cases of sexual assault.

“We really support [that] petition, too,” Resnick said. “We think it was a really good start in getting people to think about what the school does and what the school should be doing. We think that together they will make a big difference on campus.”

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