Women in college are twice as likely to be sexually assaulted than robbed, three times more likely to be sexually assaulted than the average female, and more than 11 percent of all undergraduate and graduate students — male or female — have experienced sexual assault through physical force, violence or incapacitation, according to RAINN, the nation's largest anti-sexual violence organization.
To say sexual assault continues to be a problem on college campuses nationwide would be an understatement, and it is of the utmost importance that institutes of higher learning put an emphasis on efforts to stop these offenses before they happen, quickly responding when they do occur, and providing support and resources for students who become victims of sex crimes.
Our hope is that a collective $750,000 in grant money from the U.S. Department of Justice for 10 Baltimore-area private and public colleges and universities, including McDaniel College in Westminster, will help do just that.
The grant is intended to help the schools develop new strategies to prevent, respond to and investigate allegations of assault and dating violence, as well as holding offenders accountable and strengthening victim services on campus and in the community.
McDaniel and the other nine institutions — Community College of Baltimore County, Coppin State University, Goucher College, Loyola University Maryland, Maryland Institute College of Art, Notre Dame of Maryland University, Stevenson University, Towson University, and the University of Maryland, Baltimore County — will work collaboratively to address these issues, officials said. Potential uses of the grant money include the development of an interactive mobile app "that would provides relevant and timely information no matter which coalition school campus they may be visiting," and videos highlighting prevention efforts, bystander solutions and SAFE exam options.
While we can't speak for the other schools, McDaniel has taken steps in recent years to protect its students by forming a sexual assault prevention committee, partnering with Rape Crisis Intervention Service of Carroll County and hosting programs throughout the year to raise awareness about sexual assault. New students undergo bystander intervention training, and several groups, such as resident assistants, peer mentors and student leaders, receive additional training on how to handle sexual assault.
Still, sexual assaults have occurred at McDaniel. There were two instances of rape reported on the Westminster campus in 2015, according to the college's 2016 fire and safety report, sometimes called the Clery Report. The year prior, there were four instances of rape reported, including one off of the campus, and one case of fondling. There were also three cases of dating violence reported at the college each of the past two years.
While it, unfortunately, might be impossible to stop every sexual assault, providing students with the knowledge and resources to protect themselves and making sure campus safety officials are equipped with the tools necessary to properly respond and investigate these crimes is of the utmost importance. We hope the colleges use the grant money wisely and collaboratively to achieve these goals at all 10 campuses.