CHARLIE LOWE/THE HOYA Copley Formal Lounge was filled to capacity Wednesday evening during “Are You Ready,” an event aimed at combatting rape culture on campus and promoting awareness of sexual assault.
Copley Formal Lounge was filled to capacity Wednesday evening during “Are You Ready,” an event aimed at combatting rape culture on campus and promoting awareness of sexual assault.

Students filled a standing-room-only Copley Formal Lounge to capacity to discuss rape culture and promote awareness of sexual assault at the “Are You Ready” event Wednesday evening.

The event was sponsored by Health Education Services, the Office of Residential Living, Counseling and Psychiatric Services and the Women’s Center, in partnership with LGBTQ Resource Center, the Office of Campus Ministry and the Division of Student Affairs.

Sexual assault survivor and activist Salamishah Tillet opened the event with a reading of her personal account and struggle with her own sexual assault. After being sexually assaulted while in college in 1992, Tillet said that she initially faced denial about her rape.

“At first, I pretended like nothing had ever happened, that I was not raped,” she said.

However, when she tried to take the case to court several years later, the Philadelphia district attorney’s office told her that her case could not be prosecuted.

“In his judgment, according to the law of 1992, I was not legally raped,” she said.

Tillet has since become a public figure speaking out against sexual assault, co-founding A Long Walk Home, Inc., a nonprofit organization that aims to use visual and performing arts to curb violence against women and girls.

Student facilitators wore shirts stating that one in five women and one in 33 men will experience sexual assault during their college careers.

Additionally, although African-American women make up just 7 percent of the U.S. population, they make up 27 percent of the sexual assault survivor population.

“I was now just another statistic,” Tillet said.

After her speech, attendees broke into groups of around 10 and discussed their own experiences with sexual assault culture at Georgetown in dialogues led by student facilitators.

Olivia Ball (COL ’15), who attended the event, praised Tillet for stressing the importance of understanding sexual assault across both race and gender lines.

“It was really incredible to hear from a survivor to bring in not just the elements of what it means to be a survivor of sexual assault, but also brought in other issues and made it a very layered thing, so it’s not just gender, but it’s race, it’s class, it’s all sorts of things,” she said. “So I thought it was beautiful to hear someone speak so beautifully and so frankly about it.”

Sexual assault specialist Bridget Sherry Laizer commended the event for attracting such a large crowd.

“I am just delighted. This is one of the best crowds that we’ve had in the history of the event,” she said.

Student facilitators who led group discussions agreed, lauding the event format for encouraging a diversity of opinions.

“I thought our discussion was great. I mean everybody is coming from a different place in their background on sexual assault,” facilitator Emma Hamstra (COL ’16) said.

Facilitator Nicole Carolin (SFS ’17) agreed, adding that she noticed a strong freshman presence in the audience.

“I thought it went really well. I thought we really built up the momentum that we started this year with the new program called ‘I Am Ready’ for freshmen, and I sort of saw that in the freshman audience that we had,” she said.

This year, New Student Orientation included a training session on campus sexual assault. The program was mandatory for all new students.

The event also elicited positive responses from its attendees.

Jocelyn Kojzar (MSB ’15), said that she found the event to be informative.

“It helped me understand a better way to address rape culture in my own life and how to talk to people that have been sexually assaulted in the past and survived now, and I think that having this kind of facilitation has really helped enrich my own life and my own approach to these types of issues,” she said.

Ball added she thought the event’s high attendance reflected well on the Georgetown student body.

“I thought it was incredible to see that this many people on campus are willing to come out in the middle of midterms to come support an issue that I feel very passionately about,” she said.

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