This fall New Student Orientation will include a new mandatory training on campus sexual assault called “I Am Ready.” The program is the first of its kind to engage freshmen on the issue and inform them about on-campus resources for sexual assault and misconduct.
Over the last year, students and administrators worked to implement new programming and policies regarding sexual assault. This year freshmen were offered the opportunity to attend “What’s A Hoya?” workshops in which sexual assault statistics and resources served as a primary focus. Other on-campus measures included the addition of an alcohol amnesty clause into the Code of Student Conduct. The clause ensures that students’ alcohol use, if underage, will not be used against them if sexually assaulted.
Outgoing Deputy Chief of Staff in GUSA and member of the Sexual Assault Working Group Alyssa Peterson (COL ’14) conducted a campus-wide survey this semester as part of her thesis research. She found that only 30 percent of students, in a survey of over 200, attended on-campus programming on sexual assault.
“The data shows that there is a very low level of knowledge about the Code of Conduct, visiting the new website and mandatory reporting procedure,” Peterson said. “People do know where to access services, which is a really good sign because [Sexual Assault and Health Issues Coordinator] Jen Schweer is more than qualified to point them in the right direction.”
The “I Am Ready” program at NSO aims to create a culture on Georgetown’s campus that focuses on the needs of survivors. In doing so, trained students can become facilitators who will be able to speak on the issue and empower students not to be bystanders in a situation involving sexual assault. The program will include educational theater, facilitated discussions and an interactive activity called “Recognize” to help raise awareness of the issue.
“We hope that students feel engaged with the issue beyond the requisite online training — that they feel empowered to access resources, that they feel engaged in the prevention work that is being done surrounding this issue and that they can draw on Georgetown values to be active bystanders throughout their college careers,” Health Communications Specialist Meera Seshadri wrote in an email.
Some students believe the addition to NSO will help to prepare incoming freshmen for situations such as sexual assault with which they previously have had no encounters.
“I think it’s a good way for students to start at Georgetown — it’s definitely a different culture for kids, and the transition is where you want to teach them some things that could happen at college they might not expect,” Drew DiPrinzio (MSB ’17) said. “I know during my first weekend, during the first month for homecoming, it was a problem, sexual assault was an issue. I think if kids had been better informed they would have had an idea of what to do in that situation.”
Many students see the addition of the sexual assault awareness and education workshop as a necessity.
“I think it’s absolutely a necessary addition. I would say for me it’s less about whether I felt it was personally lacking and about more if you look generally at the situations that college freshmen are encountering,” Cody Reid-Dodick (COL ’17) said. “Whether people believe it’s an issue at Georgetown or not — even if there’s that question of whether it’s an issue — it’s something that should be educated on, and especially because it’s such a high-stakes issue and it’s something of such importance.”
However, the effectiveness of the program ultimately depends on student reception.
“I think it’s very hard to make something like this effective if you don’t have an absolute itinerary. Things like educational theater: I’m not completely sure if that is effective with me. It depends on the person, but I think highlighting how serious this can be in college and specific actions we can take is a way of making it effective, and it could be very effective,” DiPrinzio said.
The program’s focus on the needs of victims and the education of bystanders provides education on preventing and reporting sexual assault.
“I think that [the possible role of alcohol] places a supreme importance on bystanders, whether they’re intoxicated or not, but that becomes a huge source of protection for people to see a situation that maybe the victim would have no say in, but some bystanders could actually prevent it or at least play a role in reporting it and following up on it,” Reid-Dodick said.
While the university improved sexual assault programming on campus, Peterson believes there is more to be done to make sure the message of “I Am Ready” expands beyond its first iteration.
“Research has found that if you do bystander intervention in the fall and you don’t repeat it in the spring, then the effects go away,” Peterson said. “There needs to be where you engage all the freshmen. … There needs to be a way to touch base, practice skills, address the resources again just to solidify that information.”
Hoya Staff Writer Kit Clemente contributed reporting.