BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Johns Hopkins University students are reacting to two sexual assaults reported just two days apart, after alerts went out to the campus. Those assaults are prompting a new look at how the school handles the complaints after problems in the past.
One reported assault happened March 3 at Alpha Delta Phi Fraternity. The fraternity has not responded to WJZ’s request for comment.
Another assault was reported at the Johns Hopkins Homewood Apartments on North Charles Street.
The school has provided few other details.
“It’s kind of scary, to be honest,” said freshman Brooke Stanicki. “My parents also got the alerts and they’re worried about it. I was glad to tell them I’m ok…I think they are reforming the process, but it needs to come quicker.”
Hopkins is one of 337 schools under ongoing federal investigation for its prior handling of sexual assault complaints. The open Hopkins investigation dates to 2014 and stems from failure to inform students about a reported gang rape at a fraternity.
It falls under a violation of Title IX, the federal law banning gender discrimination. Emails that WJZ Investigator Mike Hellgren obtained in 2014 showed administrators’ concerns over making the incident public — how it could create unwanted attention for the school.
Hopkins says the university has made great strides in handling sexual assault complaints in recent years.
The university declined to comment on the latest assault reports, but told WJZ in a statement, “As always, the safety and security of our students is our first priority, and we are committed to ensuring a safe environment for them and all members of the university community. We are equally committed to support victims of sexual assault and to compliance with our obligations under Title IX and under our own sexual misconduct policy and procedures.”
“Everyone deserves to feel safe,” Stanicki said. “You’re putting your lives in the hands of people for four years.”
Fellow freshman Adrienne Retzlaff said she was surprised at the two sexual assault reports coming so close together. “I think the university provides a lot of resources, so personally I do feel safe. They’ve had lots of training for us and made us very aware of what resources we have,” she said.
Hopkins is also operating under guidance crafted during the Obama administration that strengthens protections for accusers. Last year, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos issued new guidance that raises the standards of proof for those making accusations of sexual violence. She was met with protests at some schools.
DeVos is being sued by several groups, including SurvJustice, which helped bring the 2014 complaint against Hopkins.
Laura Dunn with SurvJustice told Hellgren in 2014, “There is this idea that we need to keep the image of the school rather than worry about the safety of individual students and that’s historically been wrong, and we’re trying to change that.”
A federal study last year found one in five undergraduate females was a victim of sexual assault.