GUSA releases suggestions for improved policies surrounding sexual assault
GUSA publicly released a document over the weekend showing support for the new White House Sexual Assault Initiatives, which also offered its own suggestions for improved prevention policies here on Georgetown’s campus.
The press release states that GUSA “continues to work diligently with the university administration to improve services and judicial processes for survivors of sexual assault.” The main purpose of the initiative was to “encourage the university to improve its policies” by backing specific actions the administration might take in this process.
GUSA listed seven suggestions: making sexual history and dress inadmissible in sexual misconduct hearings, reducing contact between survivors and perpetrators in hearings, clarifying how the University would proceed with a case against the survivor’s wishes, allowing administrators to replace students on the hearing board, implementing bystander prevention education, hiring trauma specialists and confidential Health Education staff, and evaluating existing programs.
“We appreciate GUSA’s continued engagement on this important issue,” Rachel Pugh, Director of Media Relations for the University, wrote to Vox in an email. “We are committed to continuing to work together with GUSA, the Sexual Assault Working Group… and the [Disciplinary Review Committee] to continue to enhance and improve training and education, support for survivors and the conduct process at Georgetown.”
Although the rhetoric of these initiatives certainly calls for an improved reporting environment for survivors, Kathleen Kelley (NHS ’14), a sexual assault peer educator, points out that this is futile unless survivors are fully aware of these efforts and actually feel safe reporting.
“All the measures in the world aren’t useful if survivors still perceive the system as hostile and victim-blaming, and if perpetrators believe they can get away with it,” she wrote in an email to Vox.
She also stressed the importance of clarifying certain aspects of the press release regarding educational programming and discussion. According to Kelley, there are four significant components of this that should be emphasized: bystander intervention, response and support to survivors, deconstructing the rape culture at Georgetown, and resources for survivors both on and off campus.
In the context of Obama’s White House Task Force on Sexual Assault, Kelley believes that addressing this issue on a collegiate national scale is paramount in achieving Title IX’s 40-year goal to end sex discrimination in education. “I’d like to think the task force will galvanize college campuses and mobilize the necessary resources to address sexual assault, but for now it is merely symbolic,” she said.
The most recent results of the National College Health Assessment Survey, initiated on a biennial basis, have revealed that Georgetown’s numbers match those of the nation: 1 in 4 female Hoyas and 1 in 33 male Hoyas, on average, will experience sexual assault.
“Everyone thinks sexual assault is atrocious in the abstract, but when it happens within their own communities, their social circles, they fail to adequately believe and support survivors and to hold perpetrators accountable,” said Kelley. “If we don’t challenge these myths, perpetrators will keep on getting away with it.”
Photo: Lisa Norwood via flickr