GUSA 2013: The Need to Acknowledge and Address Sexual Assault

11 Feb

by Maggie Cleary 

Throughout this week we will be posting pieces by Georgetown University Student Association Presidential and Vice Presidential Candidates. We reached out to all five tickets asking them to respond to how they see feminism and feminist issues at Georgetown.

Although many students may not be aware, everyone knows someone who has been affected by sexual assault. Because of the stigma, few share their stories. I was one of those women who believed my world had been largely unaffected by sexual assault until recently my mother revealed to me that one of her best friends, a woman I knew very well, had been sexually assaulted many years ago. I was astounded by what had happened to this woman, and that I had never known. So women like my mom’s friend keep sexual assault to themselves, and ultimately minimize the awareness about this issue. But colleges and Universities are great places to get the conversation started.

According to the American Association of University Women, “3% of college women nationally have experienced rape or attempted rape during the school year. This means, for example, that a campus with 6,000 co-eds will have an average of one rape per day during the school year.” 95% of those attacks go unreported (1).

This is not a women’s issue. This is not a men’s issue. It doesn’t matter if you are young or old, rich or poor, cysgendered, transgendered, liberal or conservative. Sexual assault has no left or right; it is always wrong, and always hurtful both to the victim and the community.

Sexual assault is not even exclusively a university issue; it’s far bigger than that. However, so long as we are students in a university, we have a responsibility to create solutions for our community, solutions that will start here and expand outward to other schools, other cities, and eventually our nation and our world.

It’s never easy to start these discussions. There is too much fear and shame and stigmatization surround issues of violence and assault to ever make it easy. Still, we owe it to the incoming class of 2017 to have left campus a better place than we found it. We owe it to the class of 2013, our soon-to-be alumni, to promise that we will continue their work to make Georgetown a better, safer place. We owe it to every Hoya who has ever walked through our gates to honor and uphold the values that make Georgetown unique.

In short, we owe it to ourselves.

This is a discussion that needs to happen right now. The Violence Against Women Act is currently in Congress, waiting to see whether we as a nation are ready to expand protections for those who need it most. This should not be a partisan issue; this should be about protecting half of our society. Georgetown is ready for this conversation, for this action, and I believe that together we can start positive change.

Next semester, I hope to set up a GUSA committee to take a long, hard look at Georgetown’s sexual assault policy. They will solicit opinions from all sections of campus so that every voice is heard, and their recommendations will result in change, be it a referendum to reform our sexual assault policy, new campus initiatives to increase awareness, or student-run trainings on creating safe spaces. In fact, I would love to see all three.

To hear more from Jack Applebaum and Maggie Cleary, visit their website or facebook

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(1)  http://www.aauw.org/act/laf/library/assault_stats.cfm

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8 Responses to “GUSA 2013: The Need to Acknowledge and Address Sexual Assault”

  1. Alyssa February 11, 2013 at 4:49 pm #

    This is a great article. I’m happy that GUSA candidates are making this legislation and prevention of sexual assault a priority. Thanks Maggie!

  2. Jerry February 11, 2013 at 5:54 pm #

    It’s a shame that Jack & Maggie address sexual assault in their platform with one (1) sentence, and no more than that, yet write out such a nice article. Sexual assault is, as Maggie says in her article, ‘always wrong, and always hurtful to the victim and the community.’ Unfortunately, Maggie does not understand that rather than talking about being victimized or categorizing someone who has experienced sexual assault as a victim, they are instead survivors who have gone through a horrible ordeal. When you look at other platforms, specifically Nate & Adam, you see Sexual Assault as a huge part of their platform, with a lot more than a simple GUSA committee to address this grave problem. Rather, Nate & Adam approach sexual assault by aiming to reform the Code of Conduct so sexual assault is sexual assault (over or under clothes, no difference), establishing a clear amnesty policy so that survivors are not penalized for bringing charges to the surface, and by educating student leaders and Georgetown students as a whole on the dangers and threats of sexual assault.

    Although I appreciate Maggie’s attempt at addressing such a difficult issue, this post shows her deep inability to truly understand the problems these individuals face and the lack of attention and respect sexual assault deserves at Georgetown University. I invite you to check out nateandadam.com/advocating-for-the-individual/ to see the platform on combatting sexual assault done the right way.

    • Alyssa February 11, 2013 at 7:19 pm #

      I’m very happy that Nate and Adam have made this part of their platform and I’m also happy with their innovative ideas, but your response, Jerry, is politicizing an issue that shouldn’t be political. A GUSA Committee is an excellent start in supplement to the current working group and the experiences of Maggie’s mother’s friend shows that she does understand some of the problems survivors face.

      To suggest that she has a “deep inability to truly understand” is a very loaded statement. Preventing sexual assault goes far beyond GUSA and far beyond this campaign. One campaign isn’t going to “win” the issue of sexual assault and engaging in divisive politics when we should be collectively looking for solutions undermines all of our efforts here on campus.

      Maggie, Jack, Joe, Shavonnia, and Nate who have signed the petition to reauthorize VAWA should be commended for their efforts, not torn apart for a student government campaign.

      • Jerry February 11, 2013 at 7:48 pm #

        Alyssa, unfortunately the accusations you are throwing at me are what Maggie accomplished in the course of this article. Sexual assault is NOT a political issue, you are absolutely correct. With that said, it deserves a LOT more attention than a single line of a platform. Maggie pays nearly 0 attention to sexual assault and what she will do to combat it in her official platform yet tries to show she will act on it in this article – if that is not politicizing the issue I don’t know what is. Actions speak louder than words and as GUSA executives, the incoming team has the ability to bring sexual assault to the forefront not because it is a political issue or because it will win votes but because as you said it goes way beyond politics.

        Simply put, it seems clear that Jack and Maggie, as per their platform, do not place priority on combatting sexual assault on the same level as other tickets, Nate & Adam specifically. Signing the petition to reauthorize VAWA is something that should absolutely be commended, but actually bringing forward concrete solutions to an incredibly difficult and complex problems speaks volumes, and Jack and Maggie do not do that.

  3. Question about new committee February 11, 2013 at 8:08 pm #

    I’m a little confused. How is this “new GUSA committee” that is proposed in the article to “take a good hard look at Georgetown’s Sexual Assault Policies” going to have different responsibilities as the current Georgetown University Sexual Assault Working Group? I mean, I really think we need to do more for sexual assault on campus, but wouldn’t it be a little less efficient to have 2 groups with the same goal? Thanks for the article!

    • Alyssa February 11, 2013 at 9:15 pm #

      I’m neutral in this campaign and even I can see that there’s absolutely no difference between writing a platform and writing an article. Neither are actions. Coming here with such a blatant agenda and resorting to negative campaigning isn’t the way to express your support for sexual assault prevention.

  4. Diego February 11, 2013 at 10:25 pm #

    I think Jerry’s central point, with which I agree, is that Maggie does not seem to place as high a priority on addressing the issue of sexual assault on campus as she claims to do in this article. She merely adds to the end of her article the idea to form a GUSA committee, which the anonymous poster argues is completely unnecessary as a committee of the sort already exists. Jerry also points out that Maggie’s and Jack’s platform includes a mere sentence on the subject, while their opponents Nate and Adam go into much further detail, showing that they have spent more time and thought on the issue.

    I will say that Jack and Maggie technically include two points on the issue (“Increase resources to educate and protect against rape and sexual assault” and “Eliminate the categories differentiating between different types of assault and provide more resources for victims”), and that they do not go into much detail for any solution they provide for any problem they present on their website, so Jerry’s argument could be used either fairly or unfairly against any of their solutions for any of the problems they present.

    Personally, while it is reassuring that tickets like Nate’s and Adam’s show more priority for each issue in the way they present their platform on their website, they too do not go into enough detail about each of their solutions. While this may be to present their ideas more concisely, I feel an online platform is THE place to provide the details they may not have time to provide when speaking about their platforms.

  5. Mary February 15, 2013 at 2:37 am #

    Nate Tisa may have more in his platform about sexual assault but I didn’t see him at the dialogue on Violence Against Women Act tonight sponsored by GU Women and politics. Though I was pleasantly surprised to see both members of the Spencer/Rob ticket as well as Jack Appelbaum. I think it is commendable for these men to make a real effort to find out how women and student groups involved actually feel about this issue. Actions speak louder than words, Nate.

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