Mitch Fox/The Hoya

Are Georgetown students aware of the incidence of sexual abuse and assault that takes place on campus each year? Does the community realize that the university rulings permit acquitted student perpetrators to remain on campus and require the victim to sign an agreement of confidentiality? These were a few of the issues that last night’s annual Take Back the Night rally addressed.

TBTN is an internationally recognized event that aims to raise awareness of domestic violence against women and to empower individuals to take direct action through speaking out, marching, lobbying, voting and other forms of activism.

Student speakers Kate Dieringer (NHS ’05), Annie Siracusa (COL ’03) and Mary Malyskia (COL ’03), all-female a capella groups GraceNotes and Harmony and English and women’s studies professor Elizabeth Velez all spoke out against the prevalence of rape and assault and the importance of students reporting all incidents of violence.

“We must not tell lies. Our pupils will not forgive in us what we forgave in others,” Velez said.

Following the rally in Red Square, the TBTN staff and the Georgetown community crowd began the annual march, carrying signs and proceeding to walk around campus and the streets of Georgetown, shouting chants such as “Fight back! We can’t make it alone! Together, we can make a safe home!” and “Say it once, say it again, no excuse for violent men!”

“Violence against women is surrounded by a great deal of silence in our society – incidents are vastly underreported and victims and survivors are very fearful of how they will be treated if they speak out,” Georgetown’s Women’s Center Director Nancy Cantalupo said. “Victims and survivors are still often blamed for having been victimized, even though they have done nothing wrong, thus they often do not speak out. But in a community which they perceive as supportive, where their experiences will

be validated, they will speak out more.”

As many as 28 student groups and university offices such as Health Education Services and the Women’s Center provide resources and help in organizing the rally every year.

The TBTN events aim to cultivate an atmosphere of security that recognizes the existence of such acts of violence and those who have been victimized. Its supporters hope to increase education and awareness, ensuring that people acknowledge the existence of campus and domestic sexual abuse and assault.

“I think we often believe that college campuses are separate from the rest of our nation and society, but we are wrong. College campuses have many of the same problems that the rest of our country’s communities have, and violence against women is a huge national problem, as demonstrated by legislative efforts like the congressional Violence Against Women Act and the funding of a national Violence Against Women Office,” Cantalupo said.

TBTN Co-Chair Jessica Corsi (SFS ’03) said students must act upon this knowledge of gendered violence, to create a zero-tolerance mentality throughout the students and administration. She also emphasized the importance of student and administrative activism at Georgetown, to promote awareness for all students, male and female, and to implement change in Georgetown’s policies in handling cases of campus violence and sexual assault.

“Students need to take responsibility and lobby GU for policies which put their rights and their safety first,” she said. “GU hides behind the idea of `privacy,’ sacrificing our safety in the process. Students should be notified of crimes in THE HOYA and The Voice, not just by occasional DPS e-mails, which usually only pertain to off-campus crimes, and simply warn us to be more cautious and careful. The people who need warnings are the criminals, not the victims.”

In the past, other students have questioned the university’s policies towards abuse incidents such as rape, which allow guilty persons to remain at the university and require victims to sign an agreement of confidentiality. Many students have increased their knowledge of such policies through events such as TBTN, and through such events and forums are rallying together to implement necessary change.

“I think people are aware of the unfair practices of the university concerning disciplinary handling of rape and sexual assault, as well as stalking and harassment cases . this [policy] violates the victim’s rights under FERPA, and runs counter to the university’s policy of protecting its students. This is a blatant re-victimization,” Corsi said.

Georgetown offers a large support service for those who have been victimized or feel susceptible to such violence. HES provides many personnel that are available to speak to students.

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