A Towson University student was charged this week with first-degree rape — a somewhat rare occurrence on college campuses where sexual assault is prevalent but often doesn’t lead to prosecution.
Victims of sexual assault are far less likely than those of other crimes to go to the police, with some feeling the reporting process would re-traumatize them and that police would not help or believe them. The Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network said federal crime data shows that out of every 1,000 instances of rape, fewer than a quarter are reported, only 46 lead to an arrest and five result in convictions.
“Rape is underreported generally, but young people on college campuses are usually especially reluctant to report another student," said Lisae Jordan, executive director of the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault. “It’s remarkable and courageous that the survivor in this case did come forward and is pursuing criminal justice.”
Onyekachukwu Chukwuebuk Igwilo, a 20-year-old Towson student, was arrested and charged after a woman told police he raped her in his on-campus apartment. The incident was reported to the Towson University Police Department, which referred it to Baltimore County Police, as is typical with more serious crimes. The woman knew Igwilo, police say, which is common in sexual assault cases.
“Most rape survivors know the assailant and that often can make a survivor even more reluctant to come forward,” Jordan said. “They often have similar social circles and may feel pressure from their peers to not get someone ‘in trouble.’”
The Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network said the federal crime data shows only about one in five sexual assaults are reported by college-age women.
Federal law requires universities to maintain and disclose campus crime statistics. The most recent data from 2017 shows seven rapes were reported on-campus at Towson and one off campus.
That year, six rapes were reported on-campus at nearby University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and none elsewhere related to the school. At the much larger state flagship — the University of Maryland, College Park — there were 29 reported on-campus rapes.
Some students who feel uncomfortable going to police will seek help instead from the Title IX office, which can investigate sexual misconduct reports outside of the criminal justice system. The federal Title IX law protects people from discrimination based on sex.
A school can take steps based on this kind of compliant — such as initiating a no contact order or expelling the perpetrator — to make the victim feel safer without involving police.
But many other victims will not make any kind report at all.
The relationship between Baltimore County Police and sexual assault victims has been under increased scrutiny in recent years. Several female students sued the department, along with the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, alleging that authorities intimidated and deceived them in an attempt to cover up credible accounts of sexual assault.
The lawsuit says the women were treated with “indifference and disrespect” and that police intimidated them and discouraged them from reporting sexual assault.