Content Warning: This article discusses sexual misconduct.
For the second consecutive year, the University of Maryland saw a decrease in sexual misconduct reports, complaints and investigations in the 2019-20 academic year.
The university’s Office of Civil Rights and Sexual Misconduct released its sexual misconduct report for the 2019-20 academic year on Friday, revealing how the university’s abrupt transition to a virtual world may have affected the number of sexual misconduct reports and complaints.
“There was a lack of interpersonal contact on our campus,” OCRSM director and Title IX officer Grace Karmiol said. “Students weren’t on our campus. And so clearly that is, I’m sure, one of the … reasons that the level of complaints have dropped.”
In the 2019-20 academic year, the office saw 213 reports and 53 complaints, a drop from the year before where there were 248 reports and 77 complaints. A report is when a student notifies the office that an incident has occurred, while a complaint is more formal, letting the office know that the student wants to take the next step with an investigation.
There were 11 sexual misconduct investigations in the 2019-20 academic year, a decrease from the year before where the university carried out 14 investigations. This is the fewest number of documented investigations that the university has carried out in a single year, according to the office’s sexual misconduct data.
With the transition to an online environment in March 2020, the university saw 23 reports of virtual sexual misconduct in the 2019-20 academic year. It’s unclear whether this represented an increase from the prior year since the university only disclosed the location of complaints — rather than reports — in the 2018-19 report.
In total, there were 31 reports of Sexual Assault I, which OCRSM defines generally as rape. Five of these 31 were investigated, resulting in two suspensions.
The office received 17 reports of Sexual Assault II, which it defines as non-consensual sexual contact. Three of those reports led to investigations, in which one student was found responsible and one student was found not responsible of violating university policy. The outcome of the third investigation is set to be released in next year’s report.
OCRSM also investigated two reports of relationship violence, two reports of stalking, two reports of sexual coercion and one report of sexual harassment, according to the report.
The university also gave out 95 interim protective measures to students in the 2019-20 academic year, including 34 no contact orders and 27 academic accommodations. The university gave out 96 interim protective measures the year before.
The report also includes a new section of “Report Outcomes,” which shows the result of all incidents reported to the office. In previous reports, OCRSM only put outcomes for complaints.
Of the 213 reports, 150 students did not respond to outreach and 29 complainants declined to move forward.
The report shows a broader, national trend of unreported sexual misconduct, another reason why the office is trying to be more transparent, Karmiol said.
“What we want to do is encourage people to report,” Karmiol said.
Though the report released Friday only reflects the office’s operations in the 2019-20 academic year, Karmiol said the university is currently experiencing an increase in reports. In the first quarter of this academic year, OCRSM received more reports and complaints than the entire academic year before, Karmiol said.
“If we increase our visibility, we may increase the number of reports that we get as well,” Karmiol said.
The University of Maryland's CARE to Stop Violence crisis line can be reached at (301) 741-3442. The university's counseling center can be reached at (301) 314-7651. Individuals can file sexual misconduct or discrimination reports through the university's Office of Civil Rights and Sexual Misconduct here.