This article discusses sexual assault. Please refer to the end of the article for on and off-campus resources.

Credible sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh have continued a discussion about misconduct ignited by the #MeToo movement. Georgetown University must seize this moment to better prevent and prepare our own campus by building on existing programs and encouraging students to speak out against dangerous behavior.

In a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing last week, Christine Blasey Ford accused Kavanaugh of forcing himself on top of her against her will when they were both in high school.

As Ford testified to the committee, her strongest memory of the event is Kavanaugh and his friend Mark Judge laughing as they assaulted her.

“The uproarious laughter between the two and their having fun at my expense,” she said.

Kavanaugh’s behavior at the time has shed light on a dangerous misunderstanding of sexual assault, while widespread acceptance of the nominee — the U.S. Senate continues moving closer to confirming him, and his favorability rating sits at 42 percent, according to an Oct. 1 poll by Quinnipiac University — has exposed a dangerous degree of indifference toward the issue.

Sexual assault is also pervasive on Georgetown’s campus. In the university’s 2016 Sexual Assault and Misconduct Climate Survey, 31 percent of female undergraduates and 10.8 percent of male undergraduates reported having experienced nonconsensual contact. Among women in their freshman year, 21.3 percent reported experiencing nonconsensual sexual contact by force or incapacitation.

The resignations of former Georgetown University Student Association President Sahil Nair (SFS ’19), Vice President Naba Rahman (SFS ’19) and other members of senior staff amid sexual assault allegations against Nair have brought this important conversation to campus.

Georgetown must take this opportunity to educate students about the severity and the nature of sexual misconduct to protect students and cultivate a safe community.

In fall 2017, Georgetown took an important step toward informing the community and preventing assault by mandating bystander intervention training for all new students and student leaders from clubs registered with the Center for Student Engagement.

The program, called “Bringing in the Bystander,” is coordinated by Health Education Services and was established in response to the results of the climate survey.

This program is a substantive means of educating new students. However, the program has some important fixes to make.

First, training should include a broader foundation of understanding. Educators effectively explain how students can stop sexual assault from happening, but they fall short in explaining what sexual assault is. First-year Georgetown students come from a wide array of schools and therefore have different understandings of what assault is.

Georgetown has an obligation to ensure students understand the full range of behavior associated with sexual assault, in addition to teaching them how to act when they see a dangerous situation unfolding.

Training should also be reinforced every year. While the information provided to freshmen is helpful, the situations described can often be new; incoming students learn how to confront problematic behavior before they can even imagine the environment in which it occurs.

By providing a refresher course to sophomores, juniors and seniors at the beginning of each year, Georgetown could tailor its advice for best practices to the realities of students’ changing situations. As students rise through the university, they will encounter new environments that may require training not offered before their freshman year — for example, leadership positions of organizations, internships, bars and the workplace.

While Georgetown can build on its progress in educating the community, much of the responsibility for preventing sexual assault must fall on students themselves — especially male students.

Men are, overwhelmingly, the perpetrators of sexual assault. In a 2017 study from the National Institute of Health, 83 percent of individuals who reported sexual assault stated the perpetrator was a man. Any solution to the problem will require men to acknowledge this reality and change behavior. In predominantly male or male-dominated spaces, such as locker rooms, fraternities and even our own student government — of GUSA’s 14 newly elected senators, only one is a woman — men must speak out against attitudes that legitimize and enable sexual assault.

Georgetown is educating the future leaders of the United States and of the world. Essential to that education is developing a group of responsible undergraduates, aware of the consequence their actions carry.

Student-led and student-assisted training is helpful to the cause of preventing sexual assault on campus. However, ensuring a safe campus — and fostering a healthy, respectful community — requires the commitment of students to hold themselves and each other accountable.

The Hoya’s editorial board is composed of six students and is chaired by the Opinion Editor. Editorials reflect only the beliefs of a majority of the board and are not representative of The Hoya or any individual member of the board.

Resources: Confidential on-campus resources include Health Education Services (202-687-8949) and Counseling and Psychiatric Services (202-687-7080). Off-campus resources include the D.C. Rape Crisis Center (202-333-7273) and the D.C. Forensic Nurse Examiner Washington Hospital Center (844-443-5732). If you or anyone you know would like to receive a sexual assault forensic examination or other medical care — including emergency contraception — call the Network for Victim Recovery of D.C. at 202-742-1727. Emergency contraception is available at the CVS located at 1403 Wisconsin Ave NW and from H*yas for Choice.  To report sexual misconduct, you can contact Georgetown’s interim Title IX coordinator at 202-687-9183 or file an online report here. More information is available at sexualassault.georgetown.edu.

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