Dialogue and awareness on campus regarding sexual assault was a much-discussed topic during the Georgetown University Student Association executive campaign season, and a number of candidates proposed adding a sexual assault seminar to New Student Orientation. This is an essential initiative that should be implemented in time for this fall by the newly elected executive and under NSO’s leadership.
NSO is an opportunity to educate students not just about campus layout, lore and logistics but also about important situations and issues that freshmen are unlikely to have encountered in high school. Once on the Hilltop, freshmen are likely to be bombarded with new realities, venture outside their comfort zones and make dangerous mistakes during their first few weeks of college. Educating freshmen about sexual assault — high-risk situations to avoid, on-campus resources to utilize, consent education — would be an effective preventive measure against the kinds of actions that often fall into a gray area and are difficult to prosecute or cope with, and NSO is the ideal forum.
A sexual assault education component to NSO could in many ways be modeled after Pluralism in Action, which raises awareness of racial and cultural differences on campus. The serious undertones, coupled with the stirring personal accounts that define Pluralism in Action, are elements that could make a powerful impact if integrated into a sexual assault event. Existing events such as “R.U. Ready?” have a strong message behind them, but many students do not take advantage of these seminars.
A defining benefit of NSO events is that they are mandatory and thus have a captive audience. The unfortunate truth is that in order for sexual assault education to reach the whole student body, events must be compulsory. It is a difficult topic to bring people to discuss.
The best way to prevent on-campus sexual assault is a conversation that is worthwhile for every student to participate in, but for that idea to become a reality, sexual assault education must begin from day one of a student’s college career.