Like many of you, we were saddened by Willa Murphy’s account of her experience as a survivor of sexual assault (“I Stand With Willa, I Stand With Survivors,” thehoya.com, July 22, 2015). As two of the individuals on Georgetown University’s campus who work with survivors every day, our care and commitment to this work compelled us to write.

We want to talk openly about our work with survivors of sexual assault, and the challenges and complexities that surround these sensitive and difficult topics and experiences.

We recognize that many survivors experience the effects of trauma, and we work directly and carefully with each individual student to see what steps we can take to help her or him. When survivors come to the university to share their experiences, our first step is to make sure the survivor is safe and feels supported. We offer to connect them with experienced sexual assault counselors on campus, who are confidential resources, and who are deeply committed to helping survivors through trauma and helping them navigate and coordinate resources.

We inform survivors of their options to file complaints, both with the university and with the police. We explain what these processes involve. Not all survivors choose to pursue the formal complaint processes. We know these are difficult decisions and we are committed to supporting each individual survivor’s decisions. When formal complaints are filed with the university, we have in place a process that is thorough and fair for both the individual bringing the complaint and for the accused.

We make sure survivors are aware of other resources that are available to them to help them feel safe and to help them succeed at Georgetown. Each individual’s needs and wishes are different and we respect the individuality of each survivor’s experience. Some survivors may need to change their housing or modify their class schedule, in order to feel safe. Each case is uniquely complicated and different.

Working with dedicated colleagues across the university, we help individuals navigate accessing resources. Students may choose to take advantage of the resources available and while we hope that they do, that decision is left up to the individual student.

There are no easy solutions to this work. In addition to the care and concern we have for individual survivors, we work throughout the year to educate and inform our campus community about ways that each person can contribute to a safe environment. This includes programs, discussions and events in collaboration with students about topics like consent and bystander intervention. It also includes providing information to our community about resources available.

We stand with all survivors. That is the spirit in which we offer this sincere attempt to talk openly about the complex challenges we face on these difficult and sensitive issues and the ways in which we are working to support the well-being of all of our students and community.

Rosemary Kilkenny is the Title IX coordinator and vice president for institutional diversity and equity. Jeanne Lord, is the deputy Title IX coordinator for undergraduate students and associate vice president for student affairs and dean of students.

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12 Comments

  1. This piece doesn’t really say anything….I had a lot higher hopes for what should be much deeper explanation and reaction (and call for action) in response to Willa’s–and other survivors’–cases.

    • FERPA, among other things, prohibits administrators from speaking publicly about individual students’ cases.

  2. Logical Hoya says:

    What this article tells me is that our Title IX Coordinators exist (thank you, article, for telling us what Title IX Coordinators do) and fail at their jobs.

    If this article were true, then Willa’s story would not exist. Similarly, the stories that I hear day in and day out from friends and friends of friends would not exist.

    A shameful university PR move to defend themselves. GEORGETOWN, PLEASE LISTEN: THIS IS NOT THE TIME TO DEFEND YOUR FAILURES. THIS IS NOT THE TIME TO PROVIDE JUSTIFICATIONS.

    THIS IS THE TIME TO REFORM.

    • Discouraged Alumna says:

      I wanted to comment also, but truly Logical Hoya is so articulate and succinct that I don’t need to redraft, just want to support the above. I personally can speak to Georgetown’s woefully inadequate support system.

      Please listen Georgetown. We all came to this institution for a reason and we want our school to be something to be proud of.

  3. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Jeanne and Rosemary, and you’re lovely people. I don’t doubt you have the best intentions, but I question your efficacy given this and multiple other sexual assault cases. I am also concerned that this is your response, an explanation and superficial reassurance of your job duties, rather than a promise for a full and diligent investigation, if not into the assault (it doesn’t seem that Willa is pressing charges), then into who and what administrators were involved and what they did. And this needs to be public, not swept under the rug and not hidden by “internal training.”

    “We want to talk openly about our work with
    survivors of sexual assault, and the challenges and complexities that surround these sensitive and difficult topics and experiences.”

    This rings hollow. One thing I would’ve liked to see is detail about how you’ve helped Hoyas (with their permission). This is a fine line for privacy, but given the publicity of this case and given that students clearly still don’t feel assured that the University can help, opaqueness is not the continued answer.

  4. This “response” reads like a job description—a description full of tasks that these two have failed to do. These two might “stand” with survivors, but that “standing” is probably nothing more than quite literally standing there and doing nothing.

  5. This “response” from university administrators doesn’t address at all the epic mishandling of Willa’s case. The main problem isn’t the sexual assault response procedures of the university in principle (as outlined in the above article) but those response procedures in practice, and that is very, very worrying.

  6. Sharknado says:

    “When formal complaints are filed with the university, we have in place a process that is thorough and fair for both the individual bringing the complaint and for the accused.”

    Not true. If you’re a man accused of “sexual assault” at Georgetown, you’re going into a hearing where you’re automatically assumed to be guilty and aren’t given the same due process you would get in the legal system. This is why, after all, feminists are so keen on having universities handle these cases and not the legal system. B/c in the criminal justice system, facts, fairness, innocent until proven guilty, and due process actually matter.

  7. Sharknado says:

    When it comes to the GU administration, legal system, and press, Willa should be considered an accuser, not a survivor. She has offered no proof she was sexually assaulted. All she has done is come out with this allegation now in a blatant attempt to keep from getting expelled due to a long history of poor grades that do not meet the minimum academic standards required of a student. She’s also an active feminist with a history of activism. Considering the context and timing there is more suggesting we shouldn’t believe her than that we should. That said, her trick probably worked. The bad press GU is likely to have and activism by feminists will probably mean that she gets treated to a lower standard than every other student, which means she’s treated as more equal than others, and which would be a violation of Title IX if she were a man making the same claim.

    Disgusting.

  8. So Georgetown’s response is to essentially say that its structural procedures in response to trauma are damn near perfect? Nowhere in the article do you mention or admit any flaws, which suggests one of two things. A) the numerous testimony of those who claim that they’re inadequate are just plain deluded. or B) Your’re so deluded that you actually believe that your procedures are perfect. I wonder which one it is.

  9. This response from admin was underwhelming at best, lies at worst. Attached is a reworking. Changes and additions in / /

    As many of you, we were saddened by Willa Murphy’s account of her experience as a survivor of /a violent sexual assault rape that occurred on Georgetown’s campus at the hands of a Georgetown student (someday, graduate) and the consequent bureaucratic terror that ensued/ (“I Stand With Willa, I Stand With Survivors,” thehoya.com, July 22, 2015). As two of the individuals on Georgetown University’s campus who work with survivors every day, our care and commitment to this work compelled us to write /a vague, lobotomized public service announcement, a true reflection of the inept, haphazard jumble of administrators, bureaucrats, and pseudo cops that Georgetown calls Title IX Compliance/.
    We want to talk openly/-ish/ about our work with survivors of sexual assault, and the /man-made, institution-perpetuated/ challenges and complexities that surround these sensitive and difficult topics and experiences.
    We recognize that many survivors experience the effects of trauma /after a sexual assault or rape in a community supposedly built around academics and Jesuit values/, and we work directly and carefully /to avoid litigation and liability/ with each individual student /and/ to see what steps we can take to help her or him /realize that the institution’s goals are solely to protect the assailant by any and all means necessary, thus perpetuating the immovable patriarchal foundation of this university/. When survivors come to the university to share/ report, for the purposes of legal action/, their experiences /of rape or sexual assault at the hands of another member of the university community/, our first step is to make sure the survivor is safe and feels supported /in the legally minimal way required to abide by Title IX, if that/. We offer to connect them with experienced sexual assault counselors on campus, who are confidential resources, and who are deeply committed to helping survivors through trauma and helping them navigate and coordinate /disparate (but in accordance with the legally required minimum)/ resources, /in a way that most comfortably shields the University from legal liabilities and reputational harm/.
    We inform survivors of their options to file complaints, both with the university and with the police. We explain what these processes involve,/ however often glaze over that we have limited control over the disjointed, sluggish university process that requires multiple testimonies to potentially insensitive, disrespectful, and minimally trained individuals, some of whom hold your academic and university standing in their hands./ Not all survivors choose to pursue the formal complaint processes, /most likely because they have had a friend (or a few) who went through the process who feels further traumatized and stigmatized or have read the various first person, opinion, and report articles in Georgetown media that criticize the process/. We know these are difficult decisions /that society and the university have created for you in an already trying time/ and we are committed to /supporting each individual survivor’s decisions advising the survivor against taking legal action in order to better accommodate the university’s sharp aversion to dealing with injustice. Further, we seek to encourage survivors not to file as such a decision most closely aligns with the policies, desires, and timeframe set forth by the university for minimal Title IX Compliance and a negligible risk of liability/. When formal complaints are filed with the university, we have in place a process /(that closely resembles telling a number of distant, middle aged or elderly uncles of the assault and letting them decide if they believe it, the guilt of the accused rapist, and the punishment of the accused rapist)/ that is thorough and fair, /according to the minimal standards required for Title IX Compliance/, for both the individual bringing the complaint /of rape or sexual assault/ and for the accused; /obviously ensuring, without a doubt, that the University has minimally fulfilled the standards required for Title IX Compliance… and justice./
    We make sure survivors are aware of other resources that are available to them to help them feel safe-/ish/ and to help them succeed at Georgetown,/ in the sense that succeed means minimal emotional, mental, psychological, and academic survival – or offer a final aggressive push to get them to go home, transfer, or return to campus only after their assailant has graduated./ Each individual’s needs and wishes are different and we respect the individuality of each survivor’s experience,/ but only actively respect those that align with minimal Title IX compliance./ Some survivors may need to change their housing or modify their class schedule, in order to feel safe, /because their rapist remains in the class or in the dorm and will not be moved./ Each case is uniquely complicated and different, /because as an institution, we prefer to keep our trust fund babies, student athletes, and otherwise ‘valuable’ members of the community close. Survivors are much easier to purge without retaliation./
    Working with dedicated colleagues across the university, we help individuals navigate accessing resources, /limited to for-fee therapy and a chat with your dean/. Students may choose to take advantage of the resources available, /such as for fee therapy or a chat with your dean/, and while we hope that they do/ go home,/ that decision is left up to the individual student /and their dean. /
    There are no easy solutions to this work, /because ‘the work’ (providing minimal resources to students who have survived rape and sexual assault, *often* on our campus) must occur within the infinite bureaucracy of a conservative and religious university campus that presumes its students are chaste and refrain from acting upon premarital desires anyway, much less under the dehumanizing circumstances of a rape or sexual assault./ In addition to the care and concern we have for individual survivors /and Georgetown’s reputation and our federal funding,/ we work throughout the year to educate and inform our campus community about ways that each person can contribute to a safe environment, /Title IX Compliance, and the maintenance of Georgetown’s reputation/. This includes programs, discussions and events in collaboration with students about topics like consent and bystander intervention. It also includes providing information to our community about resources available.
    We stand with all survivors /in the minimal ways required for us to receive federal funding/. That is the spirit in which we offer this sincere attempt to talk openly/ish/ about the complex challenges we /as administrators and bureaucrats/ face on these difficult and sensitive issues and the ways in which we are working /as bureaucrats and administrators/ to support the well-being of all of our students /(particularly, well connected rapists) /and community /and reputation and federal funding. Did we mention the resources? Resources./

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