In January, the university launched the Sexual Assault and Misconduct Climate survey in order to gauge the pervasiveness of sexual assault at Georgetown and gather the statistics necessary to develop informed policy reform. With students arriving back on campus, posters line many building walls advertising the findings of the survey, released June 16, but it is important to list again exactly what the summer’s report found.
Only 19.6 percent of respondents reported being “very” or “extremely” knowledgeable about how our community defines sexual assault and misconduct; 18.9 percent of respondents claimed to be at least “very” knowledgeable about where to find help if they, or a friend, are victims of sexual assault. Most significantly, among female undergraduate respondents, 21.3 percent freshmen reported nonconsensual sexual contact.
Sexual assault is one of the most prevalent problems on college campuses around the country. Georgetown is hardly an exception to the pattern, as the results show. Therefore it is valuable and important to note that since the release of the results, Georgetown administrators and student leaders have, on both the institutional and community level, enacted initiatives and policies to combat prevalence in sexual assault, from bringing bystander intervention into various training programs to hiring a full-time Title IX coordinator.
In the long term, however, it is upon each one of us, as individual students, faculty, staff and community members, to create a culture that prioritizes the need to address the threat of sexual assault.
The university has already begun taking admirable and appropriate steps to better address sexual assault and misconduct for current and future Hoyas. With the hiring of a full-time Title IX coordinator even before the survey’s results and the formation of an active working group, our community can see how the right resources are being invested in to assist survivors and victims. Additionally, bystander intervention practice employed during residential assistant training and during New Student Orientation allows an opportunity to teach students how to approach high-risk situations, showing the level of care our community wishes to express toward the issue.
Such steps should have an impact when it comes to combatting sexual misconduct. However, the administration will not be able to create the most effective policy initiatives without accurate data. Therefore, the climate survey must become an annual obligation for our student body and increasing the student participation rate must be a top priority.
With only 51 percent student participation as of its first release, a higher than average rate compared to other university’s that conducted similar surveys, it will take a great deal more advertising and effort by the university to raise this mark. Putting up banners and posters in dorms and buildings is not enough. A massive social media campaign encourages a wider audience to complete the survey because students see friends, followed pages and accounts sharing direct links and advertisements to the survey itself.
The university could also partner with University Information Services to set up designated loaner laptops in Red Square. Students walking by could sit to complete the survey and receive a free T-shirt or reward. Incentivizing students to participate is key when it comes to gathering survey data.
While there is a variety of ways to increase student participation in the next survey, effectively addressing issues of sexual assault and misconduct across our campus comes down to individual students working to create a and culture poised to combat sexual violence on college campuses. Awareness is key, and while putting up posters with survey findings can help the cause, students must initiate their own agency when it comes to reviewing important information elicited by the survey results.
It takes individual care and initiative to educate oneself on how to be an effective bystander and stop a potentially dangerous situation. Every student must take the responsibility to be prepared enough and willing to do the right thing for fellow Hoyas, whether it be a friend who is a survivor or if they see a possible sexual assault taking place or a stranger in a dangerous situation.
A survey can only reveal issues and how prevalent they are. It will take each one us — student, faculty, staff or administrator — to address them. Such a conscious awareness will allow each one us to serve each other more faithfully in the future.
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