Sexual Assault is a Hoya Issue

8 Apr

by Clara Gustafson

90% of sexual assaults that occur on college campus are perpetrated by an acquaintance. Sexual assault is a not a women’s issue, it’s a Hoya issue

Sexual assault is a challenging topic to engage on. Depending on what kinds of communities you spend most of your time with, sexual assault can have an even greater taboo associated with it. Only a few years ago Georgetown University and the undergraduate student body faced a community rape case. Our code of conduct changed because of it. A survivor’s experience and vocalness about the event helped to make our community more supportive…on paper. There are some things that we do well around sexual assault at Georgetown, such as survivor services and initiatives like “R U Ready?” However, there is not a single discussion or awareness effort that reaches everyone on our Hilltop.

While I am not a survivor, I know them. I am tired, frustrated and sad to say that I know many of them, because I have more than 33 male friends and more than 4 female friends. These national statistics that you hear all the time are real here too, 1 in 4 women and 1 in 33 men will be survivors of a sexual assault. Georgetown is consistently at the national average, and we have not striven to be better than our peers in this way. We have not striven to frame sexual assault as an important issue that needs to be engaged on all levels. I am tired, frustrated and sad, because when I walk home at night I walk faster or cross the street if there are men (particularly tall or large men) walking behind me. Granted, sexual assaults committed by strangers are one of the many myths surrounding sexual assault. For example, in college only 10% of sexual assaults are committed by someone that the survivor does not know. However, the fact that I walk faster also indicates our community’s (and society’s) onus on me to somehow prevent the sexual assault. There is currently no pressure on the bystanders to intervene, especially in the party situation.

The other major bystander problem, in my opinion, is that survivors are the ones that have to talk about sexual assault. There are not enough voices out there from the 3 in 4 women and the 32 in 33 men whom aren’t survivors telling their story about how sexual assault affects their lives. Because sexual assault affects everyone, whether you acknowledge it or not. It affects how we interact with each other. It affects what I think I can wear out. It affects how I think I can look at other people, particularly men. I also walk around everyday getting catcalled and yelled at as I walk down the street- “be flattered.” No, sorry, that is not flattering. That is that person injecting themselves into my life, commenting on my being and clothes and poise without so much as a “Hi my name is…” It affects the ability of all of us to be the best men and women that we can be. In order to claim that sexual assault is not tolerated at Georgetown every first year that walks through those front gates must be held personally responsible for having a meaningful conversation with their peers (and some trained peer leaders) about how sexual assault affects our community.

We are what we decide and work hard to be. We have not yet decided to be a zero tolerance campus. We must hold each other to a higher standard to do that. There is much more that we can do to be a better community for each other.

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If you find this post in any way triggering, please know that a wide range of resources are available.

Inspired by Clara and want to learn more? Participate in Georgetown University‘s Take Back the Night Week. Tonight’s event is “How do we talk about sexual assault? A conversation with the editors of Feministing.”

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