Task Force Seeks More Education on Sexual Assault

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Peter Shamamian/THE HOYA The Sexual Misconduct Task Force announced a series of recommendations Wednesday to address sexual misconduct on campus, including mandatory training for all students.

 

Members of the Sexual Assault and Misconduct Task Force recommended increased mandatory sexual assault education to change campus culture in a panel Wednesday night in the Healey Family Student Center.

The task force, composed of over 70 members of the Georgetown community, presented 11 recommendations developed in response to results from the 2016 Sexual Assault and Misconduct climate survey last February. The event precedes the planned release of the group’s report later this year.

The recommendations include mandatory education for all graduate students as well as undergraduates, greater student involvement in fostering an inclusive social culture, greater cultural competency training for faculty and the establishment of a coordinated community response team on sexual assault.

“There is a need to make [sexual misconduct] education more extensive, more regular and, frankly, more required for all our undergraduates,” Vice President for Student Affairs and task force Co-chair Todd Olson said. “We will present in our report a case for a required first-year course that will cover not only key issues around sexual violence and bystander intervention, but we also believe should cover issues of alcohol and drugs on campus, issues of mental health and well-being.”

Vice President for Institutional Diversity and Equity and task force Co-chair Rosemary Kilkenny said the group concluded graduate students must also receive education after examining data from the climate survey. In the survery, 10.7% of female graduate students reported being “very” or “extremely” knowledgeable about the univeresity’s definitions of sexual assault and misconduct, about 15% less than female and male undergraduates respectively.

“What we learned from that is that graduate students are not very knowledgeable on what constitutes as sexual assault and they were also not knowledgeable on what resources are on offer,” Kilkenny said. “They also did not know how to access services. So we think it is essential to heighten their knowledge.”

University President John J. DeGioia convened the task force last year in response to the results of the climate survey to explore the issue and recommend solutions to prevent sexual assault on campus.

Olivia Hinerfeld (SFS ’17), who co-chaired the task force, said that despite recommendations depending heavily on university support, students still play an important role in confronting sexual assault on campus.

“Many of these recommendations fall on the university to commit more funding to public awareness campaigns to staffing, to education and to training,” Hinerfeld said. “But this is a student problem as well and we all have an obligation to work and making our campus a safer, more respectful and inclusive place. At the end of the day, social culture on campus is very much intersected with sexual assault.”

A pilot program designed to promote student sobriety at social events will be launched in the fall, according to Hinerfeld. The program will encourage student organizations to designate members of their groups to be sober at social events.

“These people would ideally go through the Bringing in the Bystander program so they have the knowledge to be thoughtful bystanders in these social situations,” Hinerfeld said.

Georgetown University Police Department resources should also be improved, according to the the task force. GUPD Chief Officer Jay Gruber said that increased training is crucial for officers to develop competence in sexual assault resistance.

“You need to know one of our goals as mentioned here is to increase the training of my command staff, making sure we have availability at all times to support the survivors,” Gruber said.

Olson said logistics prevented the task force from releasing the full report prior to the panel, but that the report is forthcoming.

“We are working on a full report that captures the context and rationale behind these recommendations. We had hoped to have that report ready very soon now. It is a complicated process; there are a lot of people weighing in on that so we are still working on that,” Olson said. “We will submit it to the president’s office soon.”

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