According to UMBC’s Clery Statistics of 2013-2015, campus reports of rape have been on the rise since 2013: there was one reported case in 2013, one in 2014 with two reported to campus officials but not to the police, and 10 in 2015. Of the ten documented cases in 2015, none were ever reported to the police. This could be because campus officials have an alleged history of discouraging rape survivors from going to the police – as claimed in the Title IX case against the university.
As sexual assault reports rise on campus, it has become increasingly clear that UMBC takes relatively few steps to inform its students about the meaning of consent. While students are asked to take a brief online class before they come to school, there is little mention of it afterwards, and if it is not taken, nothing happens. However, if a student doesn’t complete the alcohol education module they are met with multiple emails reminding them they must complete it.
After this, the issue of consent is almost never brought up save for the consent posters that hang in residence halls, which are often ridiculed by students. This lack of education, paired with the joking attitude of students makes consent and, ultimately, sexual assault a lighthearted thing. It is not.
The humorous attitude that UMBC students seem to have regarding sexual assault only exacerbates the problem. Attention is often shifted away from real problems that should be the focus of the community when they are turned into jokes. During the spring 2014 semester, there were reports of a man who would wait in parking lots for women on campus to walk by. When they did, he would expose himself, masturbating in front of them. Students began calling him the “phantom fapper,” turning an unspeakable act into a joke.
Another thing that desensitizes UMBC students to the problem of sexual assault is that UMBC is not considered a “party school.” In fact, many students consider UMBC to be the furthest thing from it, but this doesn’t mean that UMBC is immune to cases of sexual assault. Sexual assault isn’t something that is restricted to a certain environment and a lot of people don’t consider that.
People tend to believe that if something doesn’t happen commonly in their community, or they have not seen or experienced it, that it doesn’t happen. This is the kind of thinking that plagues the UMBC community, making it an uncomfortable and unsupportive environment for people who are victims of sexual assault.
The issue of sexual assault on campus is a big deal, though nobody seems to be taking it seriously. Some students go through Green Dot training, a relationship violence awareness and prevention class, though they are mostly students who are in leadership positions. It also deals with bystander intervention training.
If sexual assault and violence are going to be considered issues of importance by the university, all students should be required to take this course at orientation. The students who are taking these training seminars are a select few who volunteer to take it, that may already support the awareness of the issue and are not representative of the entire UMBC community.
The problem here is not that the resources for proper education are not available. The problem is that UMBC is not making proper education mandatory and instead relies on students’ willingness to seek out said education. In most cases, students won’t.