This editorial discusses sexual assault. Please refer to the end of the article for on- and off- campus resources.
“I don’t think about it.”
When Jackson Katz, co-founder of harassment prevention organization Mentors in Violence Prevention, asked men what they did every day to guard against being sexually assaulted for his 2006 book “The Macho Paradox,” he rarely heard any other answer.
As sexual assault pervades national and campus news coverage, the Georgetown University community must extend Katz’s question to explore how students can protect each other to keep the people around them safe.
This aim is not meant to shift the full burden of preventing sexual assault to bystanders. Our community must continue to reaffirm the importance of consent and take steps to prevent sexual assault in every way it can. Yet bystanders can also play a vital role in making our campus safer.
Cisgender men are at much lower risk of sexual assault than those of all other genders and sexualities. Katz’s work proved they are also less aware of preventive behaviors than other groups, whose fear of assault pervades seemingly innocuous situations.
“Always check the backseat before getting into a car,” female respondents said. “Don’t get on elevators with a lone man or group of men.”
While Georgetown offers several resources to help students travel safely — most notably Georgetown University Police Department and SafeRides — the existing services have logistical flaws and long wait times. Even when these systems operate at their best, they cannot be relied on to protect the Georgetown community from all instances of assault.
In many common situations, friends and other bystanders can offer more reliable support. Students should be ready and willing to help their friends, especially those who have previously expressed concerns for their own safety.
This support can take simple forms: walking a friend home without making them feel like a burden by asking for help or offering to talk to them on the phone until they get home.
To further promote a culture of safety, bystanders should be willing to intervene in situations when someone appears to be getting harassed or potentially in danger. Even conversations that appear merely uncomfortable or tense from a distance can become dangerous.
Small changes like these ones require little to no effort or sacrifice from others and can make members of the Georgetown community more comfortable.
The most important precaution for Georgetown students — particularly men — to take is developing an awareness of the threats their peers and friends face every day.
Just two weeks ago, a sexual assault occurred at 5:30 p.m. near the 3400 block of P Street, according to a universitywide email from the GUPD sent three hours after the assault.
For many women and marginalized communities on campus, this threat is already well-known. A Georgetown student was assaulted during the day, in full view of a residential neighborhood near campus. Incidents like these are why many students, especially women, feel unsafe walking alone, regardless of place or time.
Fourteen incidents of stalking, harassment, assault and sexual assault have been reported in Darnall Hall, the Leavey Center, Village A, the Intercultural Center, Alumni Square, Healy Circle, Village C West, Kennedy Hall, McCarthy Hall and on the 3600 block of N Street since January, according to GUPD records. A student was also assaulted at El Centro on Wisconsin Avenue, according to their op-ed published in The Hoya last week.
All spaces must be protected; students play an important role in keeping their community safe.
Through enhanced understanding of the problem of sexual assault and a willingness to actively support others in the Georgetown community, students can foster a safer environment on and off campus.
Resources: On-campus resources include Health Education Services (202-687-8949) and Counseling and Psychiatric Services (202-687-7080); additional off-campus resources include the D.C. Rape Crisis Center (202-333-7273) and the D.C. Forensic Nurse Examiner Washington Hospital Center (844-443-5732). If you or anyone you know would like to receive a sexual assault forensic examination or other medical care — including emergency contraception — call the Network for Victim Recovery of D.C. at 202-742-1727. To report sexual misconduct, you can contact Georgetown’s interim Title IX coordinator at 202-687-9183 or file an online report here. Emergency contraception is available at the CVS located at 1403 Wisconsin Ave NW and through H*yas for Choice. For more information, visit sexualassault.georgetown.edu.