#SurvivingSJU: St. John's University addresses thousands of tweets about campus sex assaults

QUEENS (WABC) -- St. John's University is responding to a firestorm of tweets inspired by the new TV series "Surviving R. Kelly" from individuals alleging experiences of sexual assault while they were associated with the university.

The tweets all contain #SurvivingSJU, a hashtag created following the release of the Lifetime Series 'Surviving R. Kelly," which explores allegations of sexual abuse against the music artist, which R. Kelly has denied.

Queens campus Senior Wyatt Woodbury said he composed a tweet with a call to action, and the hashtag following a conversation about sexual assault with his friends.

His tweet read, "Use this hashtag if you want to speak out. Sexual assault needs to end on this campus. #SurvivingSJU."

Woodbury posted his tweet Friday afternoon and said he had no idea the attention that one tweet would receive.

"I just got to the point where I'm tired of seeing my friends hurting and seeing their abusers on the daily," Woodbury said. "That's how it took off."

Activity peaked over the weekend when #SurvivingSJU was trending on Twitter. The hashtag generated at least 2,000 unique tweets and 1,786 retweets.

The tweets often came from people identifying as students who shared their own stories of alleged sexual assaults and at times named alleged perpetrators.

Many of the tweets also contained complaints that the university had allowed alleged perpetrators to remain on campus.

"This very minute, people are still coming forward with stories," Woodbury said. "It shocked me. I wasn't ready to see that. It's just crazy at this point."

The University's 2018 Crime Report identifies four instances of rape, one instance of domestic violence, three cases of dating violence and two instances of stalking in 2017 on the Queens campus.

Students worry the real numbers are much higher.

"There needs to be action now," Woodbury said. "There needs to be a change."

A spokesperson for the university responded by a statement.

"The University investigates all reported allegations of misconduct. The University has directly and individually reached out to anyone who tweeted about conduct covered under University policies," wrote St. John's Spokesperson Brian Browne.

Browne also addressed student concerns that the number of incidents reported in the crime report does not reflect all of the assaults reported related to student life:

"The Clery Act requires institutions to disclose statistics for reported crimes that occurred on campus, adjacent to campus or in university owned or controlled property. Under federal guidelines, incidents that occur in other locations are not to be included in the Clery report, but are investigated and adjudicated by the University," Browne wrote. "In 2017, the New York State Office of Campus Safety audited all 244 colleges and universities in New York State to assess their compliance with New York Education Law Article 129-B, the most aggressive law in the nation to protect students from sexual assault. That audit, which examined in detail the University's policies and procedures on sexual assault, recognized St. John's University as one of only 95 schools (38.9 %) found to be fully compliant with that law, and among a handful of schools demonstrating innovative approaches to protecting its students."

Copies of that report can be accessed online at https://www.ny.gov/enough-enough-combating-sexual-assault-college-campuses/new-york-state-office-campus-safety, and more information about the University's policies and procedures can be found at www.stjohns.edu/student-life/title-ix.

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