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.