GU Must Stand With Survivors, Not Attackers
Published: Thursday, October 24, 2013
Updated: Thursday, October 24, 2013 23:10
The statistic is thrown around so frequently, so casually, that we’ve become desensitized to its meaning — one in four college-age women will survive sexual assault at some point during their time on campus according to the Department of Justice. One in four. Twenty-five percent. Statistically, this means that of the 28 freshmen girls living on each floor of Darnall, seven will encounter sexual violence by 2017.
Darnall has six floors. That means 42 girls. There are twelve other residence halls and apartment complexes on campus. Want a calculator? We are looking at upwards of 875 students currently on Georgetown’s campus.
Georgetown University is by no means exempt from the pervasive rape culture that dominates college campuses, especially as publicized in recent media — Swarthmore, UConn, Yale, the list goes on. So how have upwards of 875 survivors of sexual assault, 875 Georgetown students, been silenced? Why doesn’t our campus protect, support and stand with survivors?
From filing an initial report with the Georgetown University Police Department to completing the hearing process through the Office of Student Conduct, Georgetown University systematically oppresses individuals seeking anything from justice to counseling services.
Laced with victim blaming, the reporting process itself forces survivors to endure harassment from GUPD officers, ranging from inquiries of the survivor’s attire at the time of the rape to unsolicited "personal" advice along the lines of "Well, honey, if you hadn’t been drunk this wouldn’t have happened." Poor interdepartmental communication, coupled with the overall disregard of both severity and urgency of rape cases, elongates the reporting process unnecessarily.
Laced with victim blaming, the hearing process fails to recognize that there is a difference between cases of sexual assault and cases of cheating on an exam or smoking a little too much weed. Cases of sexual assault are fundamentally addressed through the same procedures as any other "Honor Code" violation. Despite receiving "sensitivity" training, the Student and Faculty Hearing Board subjects survivors to inappropriate questioning about "leading the assailant on," the survivor’s "initial intentions" (whether or not she, at any point "wanted it,") and even inquiries as to why the survivor "didn’t scream" during the assault. During hearings, the slightly modified "safeguards," supposedly enacted to ensure that survivors feel safe throughout the process, are poorly enforced and often ignored.
Laced with victim blaming, the inadequacy of resources offered to survivors conveys an institutionalized mentality that survivors neither need nor deserve support after the verdict is given. This lack of both university support and services perpetuates victim blaming, while diminishing the survivor’s experience. In line with this detrimental university mentality, Counseling and Psychiatric Services only provides a consultation and three sessions to survivors free of charge. If the survivor "requires" further counseling, sessions are fee-per-service. How can Georgetown stand with survivors while simultaneously encouraging the notion that survivors should be able to "get over" the assault after three hours of conversation with a psychiatrist?
Laced with victim blaming, Georgetown currently lacks the ability to prevent the rapist, found guilty of a Category C Honor Code violation by the Student and Faculty Hearing Board, from enrolling in the same course as the survivor. In such a case, it is the survivor who would be asked to change classes at her own will instead of the rapist being removed from the course. In an effort to protect the "educational privacy" of the rapist, the survivor is not allowed to discuss her hearing process, or indicate the name of her attacker. By prioritizing the well-being of the assailant, Georgetown continues to align itself with the rapist, not the survivor, and stifles the survivor’s ability to empower herself through sharing her story. Additionally, even though the rapist’s presence on campus is classified as sexual harassment by law, a survivor cannot appeal a decision by the hearing board to allow the rapist to continue to attend Georgetown during her time on campus.
Until all Georgetown students feel safe enough to share their stories, knowing that this University supports them, protects them and believes them, Georgetown will continue to perpetuate a culture of sexual violence that stands with assailants, not survivors.
Marisha Wickremsinhe is a junior in the School of Nursing and Health Studies. Courtney Lundquist is a senior in the School of Foreign Service.