SAPE furthers sexual assault dialogue with discussions for freshmen
Last night in a Darnall common room, Sexual Assault Peer Educators lead a discussion on sexual assault at Georgetown as well as beyond the Hilltop. The talk introduced freshmen to SAPE and their efforts to inform the student-body on a difficult and pervasive issue, which recently has received more attention on campus.
The two-night event was titled “Hoyas Helping Hoyas: Building Community to Support Survivors of Sexual Assault. GUSA Secretary of Student Safety and Health.” Nora West (SFS ’15) was one of two SAPE representatives present. She began with Georgetown’s statistics: one in four women and one in 33 men report being sexually assaulted by the end of their college career. These statistics mirror the national average.
“People like to think Georgetown is different, because we’re smart or we don’t have frats, but we’re not. We are not, in fact, a city on a hill. We do match the national average,” said West.
Christina McGrath (COL ’15), the other SAPE representative present, addressed public consciousness and media attitude. In a group exercise, attendees wrote commonly asserted methods for prevention of sexual assault for women and men on separate sheets of paper. The result was one very long list and one very short list.
The exercise starkly demonstrated public misconception of sexual assault, which places the onus on women to prevent and then places the blame on them the next morning. Misconception also manifests in the public’s notion of sexual assault as mainly assault by strangers: 90% of women know the person who assaulted or raped them. McGrath emphasized language as a means for confronting misconceptions.
“We prefer to use risk reduction as opposed to prevention. The only person who can prevent a sexual assault is the perpetrator themself. More semantics would include referring to someone who has undergone an assault as a survivor instead of a victim. This is more empowering language,” said McGrath.
Media coverage of high profile sexual assault cases was also discussed; McGrath spoke about the Stuebenville high school rape case, where a 16-year-old girl incapacitated by alcohol was sexually assaulted and photographed by two football players. News channels, such as CNN, drew ire for biased reporting that sympathized with the perpetrators and their future careers. West expressed concern over media bias against a survivor of sexual assault.
“The rape culture is not something that ends after college. It’s something that goes on in the real world around us,” said West.
The 90-minute conversation demonstrated the obvious catalyst for a needed culture change: education. Georgetown currently has two main vehicles for education: R U Ready and SAPE. R U Ready is an annual event hosted by the Women’s Center; a survivor of sexual assault speaks on his or her experience, and audience members engage in small group discussions after. Georgetown students can apply to be discussion facilitators through the Women’s Center.
SAPE, alternatively, offers campus clubs and organizations an opportunity to request an education session for their members. Sessions cover everything from what consent means to providing support for survivors. West said they have been contacted by a wide range of student groups on campus, including frats.
“SAPE holds great potential for a broader audience. Sessions are tailor-made depending on the group and address diverse situations,” said McGrath.
SAPE was founded by an R U Ready facilitator interested in continuing training and furthering dialogue. To be SAPE-certified one must become an R U Ready facilitator as well as complete additional training, for a total of 13 hours. West hopes SAPE will eventually draw enough interest to merit its own all-day training session, separate from R U Ready weekly training sessions.
Both R U Ready and SAPE hope to transform Georgetown’s understanding of sexual assault, to provide survivor support, and to create consent culture.
“Survivors are in classes, in line at Vittles. We have to understand the culture we’re living in and create a safe space for others,” said West.
Photo: Emily via Flickr