After months of advocating for comprehensive, mandatory sexual assault education during New Student Orientation, the GUSA Sexual Assault Working Group has reached a temporary compromise to introduce voluntary discussions during Welcome Week.
While former Georgetown University Student Association Deputy Chief of Staff Lisa Frank (COL ’13) had hoped to insert a mandatory, hour-long group workshop on sexual assault, NSO coordinators said they saw too many conflicts with NSO’s tight schedule already determined.
Instead, the less formal, voluntary ice cream social during Welcome Week will provide a forum for discussion for those interested in the topic. Additionally, an extension to the script of a play duringNSO with mandatory attendance will address sexual assault on campus. AlcoholEdu will also be updated to address the issue of sexual assault more thoroughly in both the questionnaire and media portions of the online training program, which is mandatory for freshmen.
Despite the failure to incorporate a dedicated workshop into NSO, Frank said that the NSO Show’s update is an improvement.
“Sexual assault will still be a more prevalent part of NSO than it has in the past,” Frank said. “TheNSO Show introduces a lot of important issues in it and this year they are looking to do a lot more student interaction … It’s getting moved to the first day of NSO and then there will be a discussion with your main groups right after that … so that’s a really great development.”
Nora West (SFS ’15), secretary of student health and a safety and sexual assault peer educator, is still pushing to add a mandatory sexual assault workshop to NSO in the future, while GUSA President Nate Tisa (SFS ’14) has made sexual assault education a priority in his spring agenda for the rest of this year.
“We are still planning for NSO in the future because our Welcome Week program is self-selecting … and we don’t want it to be a discussion between people who are used to discussing these issues,” West said.
Frank agreed, emphasizing how participation must be compulsory in order to be successful.
“One of the other advantages is that [NSO] is mandatory, and we think that Georgetown does need to move towards having a mandatory sexual assault workshop discussion,” Frank said. “We will still be in conversations with administrators over the summer to say what worked well from the sessions [during Welcome Week] and what didn’t and go from there.”
Frank stressed the importance of introducing the sexual assault discussion early in students’ college careers.
“If you want to change the culture [at Georgetown], the way to do it is with that incoming class because then, in four years, everyone has had training and everyone is in a much better place to talk about these issues and help their friends out,” Frank said.
GUSA Sexual Assault Working Group member Chandini Jha (COL ’16) agreed, referencing the “red zone” — the six-week period at the start of the school year when freshmen are at the highest risk of sexual assault.
“The fact is that when you come to the college campus, you’re away from the traditional environment and safety nets … so people have a hard time identifying what sexual assault may be,” Jha said. “You’re really an adult now and you need to deal with these issues and if you don’t have or know that you have the resources to deal with these problems then that’s an issue.”
Frank said the discussions would centralize around the education and perception of sexual assault, rather than prevention.
“I think the message that Georgetown students hear loud and clear is that if you are a woman, you’re at risk. If you drink, you’re at risk. If you walk alone, you’re at risk. And we’re sorry, but we can’t do anything about that, but tell you about it,” Frank said. “That’s not what we should be hearing here.”
West stressed the importance of giving students the tools to use the right language in discussions about sexual assault.
“It’s a discussion, not a training,” West said of the initiative. “Sexual Assault Peer Education discusses consent, resources on campus, the creation of environment against sexual assault… how we can use proper language in the discussion … It’s a place for students to figure out what consent means to them.”
Jha said the question of consent is a prominent issue among incoming students.
“The most heartbreaking thing is when [friends] say they don’t know if they’ve been sexually assaulted, you feel almost as if you have your control taken away from you,” Jha said. “We don’t want freshmen to be scared to talk about sexual assault … but the confusion about sexual assault and consent is something that we really need to address.”