I applaud The Crimson’s Dec. 10 editorial, “Keeping Students Safe,” and Olamipe I. Okunseinde’s Dec. 8 op-ed, “The Walk Home,” for raising awareness about the issue of sexual assault on campus. The news of the now six sexual assaults this semester has been shocking and perhaps unprecedented in recent years. But I worry that these articles, and the Harvard University Police Department (HUPD) community advisories are not addressing the prevalence of other types of sexual assault occurring with even greater regularity on Harvard’s campus.
According to the 2000 report, “The Sexual Victimization of College Women,” by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), about 90 percent of survivors of completed or attempted rape knew their assailants. Also, the NIJ reports that about 60 percent of assaults occur in the survivor’s own residence, while 30 percent occur in the assailants’ residences. Considering these statistics, there may be as many as 60 people who were sexually assaulted so far this year, with the majority of those assaults occurring in dorms on campus. I am certainly not trying in any way to belittle or deny the experiences of those reported six survivors. But I believe that in our push to prevent further assaults, it is crucial that we acknowledge and address all the kinds of sexual violence that occur here.
It is absolutely frustrating that HUPD has not caught the perpetrators of the six assaults that have occurred on the streets around campus. But what about the perpetrators of assaults in Cabot House, Dunster House, Adams House or any of the other Houses on campus? What about our classmates who are raping our other classmates? Why do these perpetrators still go to our school and continue to live next door to each and every one of us?
Statistically, I am in much more danger of being sexually assaulted by a friend, blockmate, boyfriend or classmate in my own room than by a stranger on the streets. Strategies to prevent the former type of rape differ substantially from the latter. We need to acknowledge and support survivors of all sexual assaults, and we need to do more than just recommend walking in groups to truly work to eliminate sexual violence from our community.
Alisha C. Johnson ’04
Dec. 13, 2003
The writer is a board member of the Coalition Against Sexual Violence.