The issue of sexual assault is not properly confronted on the Georgetown campus – especially by men. Many students have the naive idea that sexual assault doesn’t happen at Georgetown – this is simply not true, and it is up to both men and women to make this campus a safer, more aware place.

Most men tend to think that their role in keeping Georgetown women safe from sexual assault is limited to simply not being attackers themselves. However, this is not enough. Men must take an active role in making our community free of sexual assault. The males of Georgetown must take it upon themselves to prevent sexual assault by being a secure presence for their female friends and by holding other males accountable for inappropriate behavior. Men must also be there to support victims of sexual assault by listening and demonstrating that not every man is a potential predator.

This is not to say that women are unable to protect themselves or that women are dependent upon men for healing and recovery from sexual assault experiences. The point is that sexual assault is not just a “woman’s issue” and that men need to concern themselves with this issue to the same degree that women do. Sexual assault is a community problem and consequently, the community must come together to combat it.

The first step toward fighting sexual assault as a community is raising awareness about this issue on campus. For example, it is important to recognize that first-year students are especially vulnerable to sexual assault. This is true for a variety of reasons: they are in a new environment, they have not yet established a network of trusted friends, they are eager to prove themselves socially and are overwhelmed by all the new freedoms of college. In fact, a great majority of freshmen attacks occur in the first month of school.

The university does have programs in place that attempt to address the issue. For instance the Resident Adviser’s and Orientation Adviser’s are trained to counsel victims of sexual assault among their floors or orientation groups. Peer educators also include the issue in their mandatory freshman programs. However, because of time constraints on mandatory programming and large floor or group sizes, RA’s, OA’s and peer educators are unable to spend significant time focused specifically on sexual assault and are consequently unable to go into meaningful depth on the subject.

The R U Ready? program began as a GUSA initiative but over the last few months has gained support from a variety of student groups, administrative offices and campus organizations – including the Knights of Columbus, the FRIENDS Initiative, Health Education Services, the Center for Minority Educational Affairs, Residence Life and the Office of Student Programs Leadership Development.

Combining student testimonies of actual sexual assault experiences at Georgetown with small group and gender-based conversations, the program’s goal is to combat the apathy of most college students (i.e. the “it won’t happen to me” mentality) and promote awareness and understanding of the issue among the Georgetown community.

Ben Cote is a junior in the College and serves as a student facilitator for the program. Tami Weerasingha is a senior in the College and serves as the Health, Safety and Justice Advocacy Committee Chair for GUSA.

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