Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
June 12, 2024

Sexual assault investigations should not be solely internal

By SARAH STOCKMAN | October 30, 2014

A few weeks ago I attended a mandatory Sexual Assault Seminar for all new students. I was prepared to hear how sexual assault, specifically rape, is a very serious crime that should be reported to the police. However, throughout the two-hour session, almost every aspect of sexual assault was mentioned except for the fact that rape is a felony.

On Aug. 8, the Education Department opened a Title IX violation investigation of Hopkins regarding the school’s failure to report the alleged PIKE fraternity gang rape. This investigation seems like an ideal opportunity for the school to confront the issue of sexual assault by educating its students about the consequences of rape. I thought that this mandatory Sexual Assault Seminar would be just that. Instead, it emphasized that an internal investigation of rape is ideal, and it may be beneficial to the victim since it’s quick and painless. The alleged rapist, when found guilty, is then expelled from the school.

This emphasis on internal investigations of rape left me wondering why the school believed it was so important to keep the police out of these cases. I understand that every uncomfortable thing that happens sexually between two people shouldn't necessarily be reported to the police, but I could not understand why the University told its new students to call the Hopkins sexual assault hotline rather than the police if they were raped.

Internal investigations, in which the people at fault investigate themselves, often prove unsuccessful. It’s very hard for those at fault to see what’s really wrong and to then come up with a real solution. This is why newspapers exist as watchdogs and why the federal government has three branches that keep checks on each other. These internal investigations seem like a way for Hopkins to avoid possible embarrassment, and while this is beneficial to the institution, it does not benefit the student body and especially not the victim of the attack.

If a student reports to the school that they were raped, the most severe castigation the attacker can face is expulsion. This punishment does not fit the crime in any way shape or form since students can be expelled from Hopkins for cheating, a very different offense than forcing yourself sexually upon someone. By expelling the student instead of reporting them to the police, Hopkins is reinforcing that what they did really was not that bad. It also means that this person will be let loose within the world to commit rape again, which should weigh heavily on the school.

Hopkins and many other universities nationwide should change the way they talk to their students about rape. They should not hide behind internal investigations, afraid that a rape on campus might give them bad publicity. Schools instead should value students’ safety above all else. Victims of rape need to know that they should immediately call 911 to report the crime, and potential rapists need to know that rape is a felony that can result in a very long prison sentence.

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