After extensive petitioning from the Georgetown University Student Association, the university has officially added an alcohol amnesty clause in cases of sexual assault to the Code of Student Conduct to reduce barriers to reporting sexual assault on campus.
“The Disciplinary Review Committee recently revised the Student Code of Conduct in response to community concerns that the potential for adjudication for underage possession or consumption of alcohol might prevent students from reporting alleged sexual assault or misconduct,” Director of Media Relations Rachel Pugh said.
The alteration means that, in cases of sexual assault or misconduct, neither the complainant nor the respondent will be charged with alcohol-related violations. Although the policy was in place in practice, its formal addition to the code of conduct is notable.
“The university was typically practicing this type of thing already, but because it wasn’t in the code [of conduct] itself, and because it wasn’t advertised as widely as it will be now, we’re really hoping that this is a moment where we can tell all students that if you know someone this has happened to or if this has happened to you, you can report it and you can say you were drinking, but it won’t come back on you,” GUSA President Nate Tisa (SFS ’14) said.
Vice President for Student Affairs Todd Olson reviewed and approved the GUSA proposal, which was then studied by the university’s legal department. The policy received support from students, as it creates a safe reporting environment for survivors.
“A lot of people were advocating for this policy … we want survivors of sexual assault to feel asconfortable as possible in a reporting position,” Student Advocacy Office Co-Director Ben Manzione(SFS ’15) said. “When a survivor has gone through a trauma, they need as much support as they can get. They shouldn’t feel like the fact that they were potentially under the influence of alcohol should be a barrier for reporting [the incident].”
Alcohol is involved in at least half of sexual violence cases each year in the United States and even more frequently on college campuses. The National Institute of Justice estimates that a fifth to a quarter of female students experience rape or attempted rape over the course of their college careers.
“When alcohol is used to facilitate an assault, it can make it difficult for survivors to come forward, especially if it is believed they will get in trouble due to their use of alcohol,” Sexual Assault and Relationship Violence Services Coordinator Jen Schweer said. “Removing this as a possibility means there could be more who feel comfortable reporting what happened to them.”
At Georgetown, sexual misconduct and sexual assault violations are viewed as an offense by the Division of Student Affairs and Office of Student Conduct as well as a breach of District law, resulting in charges and potential prosecution in District courts and disciplinary action at Georgetown, including the potential for suspension or expulsion.
Through initiatives like RU Ready, Take Back the Night and Sexual Assault Peer Educators, Georgetown is attempting to foster a community that engages in dialogue around sexual violence.
“The more we can talk about it … the more we are able to create a survivor-centered community where students feel comfortable coming forward and accessing resources,” Schweer said.