It Happens Here

26 Mar

by Kat Kelley and Nora West

It happens here. One in four women will experience sexual assault before graduating college. One in thirty-three adult males experience sexual assault. And unfortunately, our stats at Georgetown match the national average.

It happens here. It happens to Hoyas. Hoyas are perpetrators, bystanders, allies, and survivors of sexual assault.

Look around you- as you stand in the pasta line at Leo’s, in your Econ recitation, browsing Facebook in Lau 2, or on the treadmill at Yates. It happens here. Can you really afford to ignore it any longer? Are you prepared to support your friend-teammate-lab partner-neighbor if they turn to you for help?

Of college women who experience sexual assault, 42% tell no one about the assault, and only 5% report to the police.

So what’s going on here?

As a society, we consistently fail to adequately support survivors and to hold perpetrators accountable. There is a deep cultural silence surrounding sexual assault, which impacts our ability to respond.

When our society only talks about sexual assault in the context of “prevention,” which includes carrying mace, not walking alone at night, and taking self-defense classes, we immediately ask survivors “what were you wearing?” “how much did you drink?” “why were you out so late?” and survivors ask themselves “what could I have done differently?”

When our only image of perpetrators is sketchy psychopaths in dark alleys, we deny and invalidate the stories of the countless survivors (66-90% depending on the study source) who were assaulted by a friend of a friend, a classmate, or their partner.

When we ignore that sexual assault happens on our own campus, and happens to members of our community, we fail to address the needs of and create a supportive culture for survivors, we fail to hold perpetrators within our own community accountable for their actions, and we fail to challenge our own rape culture and our own tolerance of sexual coercion, harassment, and assault.

When we talk about sexual assault, there are a lot of huge, scary numbers, but quite frank we don’t care about those numbers, and you shouldn’t either. We have to stop looking at numbers and start looking at people. This is your classmate, colleague, and friend. Numbers are remote and stagnant. This is not motionless, this is someone you know walking around this campus living and experiencing Georgetown among and with us. In light of that, Georgetown University Take Back the Night will be holding an event “It Happens Here” during Take Back the Night Week (April 8th-12th) in honor of Sexual Assault Awareness Month (April). We will be collecting and reading anonymous submissions from members of our campus community regarding sexual assault. The stories that It Happens Here presents are the stories of these people.

Survivor’s deserve a safe space to share their stories, and as a community, we must challenge ourselves. We must abandon complacency and ignorance, and listen to the stories of our peers.

And once we see that it is the people we know and it is not numbers, but our fellow Hoyas, then we need to decide that numbers don’t matter because one is too many. We need to decide that we are better than this rut of self-destruction in which we are stuck. We are one Georgetown and we can stand and we can act and we can demand more and we can be better, but that has to start now and it cannot stop. Let us be accountable to one another and make a meaningful needed change on this campus.

Please submit stories HERE

Stories can be those of survivors, bystanders, or allies. They can be three sentences or a novel. They can focus on the incident, the coping experience, or reactions and responses from others. The important thing is that these are the stories of our community. For more information or to submit an entirely anonymous story, please follow this link. 

One Response to “It Happens Here”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Socially Conscious Trolling (Or Why I Read Georgetown Confessions) | Feminists-at-Large - April 29, 2013

    […] and justify the actions of perpetrators of sexual assault. These include the beliefs that it doesn’t happen here, women frequently lie and falsely report about sexual assault, that there is a fine line between […]

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