An online reporting form for sexual assault and misconduct concerns and an online resource center were launched by the university last Wednesday in response to findings from the 2016 Sexual Assault and Misconduct Climate Survey.
The two new resources are intended to help guide students during the reporting process, as well as compile available information regarding instances of sexual assault and harassment on campus. The goal of both tools is to enable students to communicate incidents of sexual assault in a more comfortable and easily accessible manner.
The results from Georgetown’s 2016 Sexual Assault and Misconduct Climate Survey reported that many students were unaware of available sexual misconduct resources and that there was a desire for a more centralized platform to access them. According to the survey, 18.9 percent of students claim to be “very” or “extremely” knowledgeable about where to report an incident of sexual assault or misconduct.
Rosemary Kilkenny, the Vice President for Institutional Diversity, Equity and Affirmative Action said that the goal of these initiatives is to create a healthy campus climate for all members of the Georgetown community.
“It is also critical for students to be armed with knowledge of how to address this issue not only on campus, but also as they navigate life in society,” Kilkenny wrote in an email to The Hoya.
Sylvia Levy (SFS ’18), the vice speaker of the Georgetown University Student Association senate, emphasized the importance of student contributions to the creation of these resources and Georgetown’s other efforts to combat sexual misconduct.
“For a few years, students in GUSA have been pushing for the University to make an online reporting form available, so this addition is more than welcome,” Levy wrote in an email to The Hoya. “GUSA as a whole is completely committed to this work and will continue to try to work with administrators to get more resources for survivors and make campus a safer place.”
Before the launch of this online forum, students wishing to report an instance of sexual misconduct were able to do so by going directly to the Office of Student Conduct, the Title IX coordinator or the Georgetown University Police Department. Ultimately, reports are also sent to the office of the Title IX coordinator, who works with students on a case-by-case basis to provide adequate resources and support, as well as explore potential avenues for recourse. When reports are made to the Title IX coordinator or the Deputy Title IX coordinator, the university has an obligation to review all reports and respond appropriately, according to the Georgetown website for sexual misconduct.
According to Laura Cutway, the university’s Title IX coordinator, the Sexual Assault and Misconduct Task Force’s recommendations were also a contributing factor to the creation of these platforms.
University President John J. DeGioia established the task force in 2016 to help the university obtain a broader understanding of sexual assault on campus.
The Sexual Assault and Misconduct Advisory Committee was created in fall 2017 to implement the recommendations made by the Sexual Assault and Misconduct Task Force.
Cutway also highlighted other university initiatives to combat sexual misconduct, including adding two full-time professional roles in the Office of Title IX Compliance and one full-time professional role in Health Education Services.
Although the new online resources represent a promising step, there is still progress to be made, according to Kory Stuer (COL ’19), administrative chair of Sexual Assault Peer Educators, a student group that facilitates interactive discussions that promote healthy relationships, define consent, dispel myths about interpersonal violence, provide bystander intervention strategies and highlight available resources.
Stuer praised the university’s commitment to addressing the issue, but also pointed out areas for improvement, particularly with regard to particularly vulnerable groups such as students of color, LGBTQ students and students with disabilities.
Stuer said members of these groups experience sexual misconduct at disproportionately high levels.
“Responding to sexual violence in our community takes a dedication that goes beyond just words, and we hope that Georgetown continues to commit the necessary resources to Health Education Services and the other offices supporting our community,” Stuer wrote in an email to The Hoya.