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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