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Sep 21, 2010
Jaclyn Friedman posted this article on Twitter ( and believe me, you want to follow Jaclyn), and I think it raises a few points worth addressing on Amplify. It deals with sexual assaults on Georgetown University’s campus, and the challenges victims of rape face.
First let’s put Georgetown in context here:
Georgetown offers better services for victims of sexual assault than almost any other school of its size. The University employs a trauma specialist at CAPS who is better equipped than most college counselors to help assault victims. The Department of Public Safety staffs a Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Response Team with officers who have additional training in responding to reports of sexual assault.
Yet though it offers services for victims, Georgetown, like many, many campuses, seems unprepared to punish rapists, placing sexual assault cases before the same committee that deals with cheating.
Amanda came back to campus for a hearing before the Judicial Hearing Board two months after she had reported her assault to DPS. It was nothing like she had expected. To her, the Board’s three student members and two faculty members—the same people who hear cases of academic dishonesty at Georgetown—seemed unprepared to discuss her case.
The director of Georgetown’s office of Student Conduct defends the board, saying:
“I’ve never had anyone come back and say the Board was not respectful,” Johnson said. “They may say that … the hearing was difficult, but not that they were unnecessarily intrusive. By [the allegation’s] very nature, the questions that have to be asked are sensitive, they’re awkward, and they’re in the context of someone who already feels violated.”
Well, I don’t know about that: here are some questions two different victims were asked by the board:
…Among other questions that she found insensitive, members asked her why she didn’t leave her room when he attacked her.
… Kate Dieringer (NHS ‘05), who was drugged and raped by a friend’s New Student Orientation adviser just two weeks into her freshman year of college, faced questions like “Why were you with him?” and “Why did you know him?”
Frankly, neither of those questions strike me as being either 1) respectful or 2) germane. Is one young woman on trial for not running out of her room? Is the other on trial for being in the presence of her future rapist? There is no answer either could give that would somehow make their rapes ok. The question is not simply "insensitive," it’s offensive.
When one in four women in college has experienced sexual assault, why aren’t more campuses addressing rape more competently? I echo the sentiment of this person interviewed in the article:
“Somehow, they can make going to the Off Campus Student Life meeting mandatory, or you can’t register for spring classes. But we can’t make sexual assault education mandatory?”
There is one more key point made by the author that I really want to highlight here:
Until the moment I realized my friend was not going to stop kissing or touching me, there had been no signs that I needed to worry about my safety in his presence.
There’s a belief out there that campus rape is somehow a misunderstanding. "They were both drunk! He thought she wanted it!" Underlying this is a tone of victim blaming – "Why was she so drunk? Surely she knew he wanted to have sex. Surely she knew she would be in danger." But more and more we understand that this is a myth. This is in line with our growing understanding of campus rape and who commits it. Innocent guys don’t accidentally rape women: rapists deliberately rape women.
Campuses MUST start paying better attention to this issue. Educate about consent and the penalty for sexual assault. Treat victims with dignity and respect. Make sure rapists receive the punishment they deserve. Anything less shows your female students that you don’t care about their health, success, autonomy, or safety.