The eighth annual R U Ready? event paved the way for an increased dialogue on sexual assault Thursday night in Copley Formal Lounge.
ore than 100 students and faculty members attended the event, which aimed to provide an educated discourse for sexual assault on campus.
Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) reports that every two minutes someone in the United States is sexually assaulted, and that college-age women are four times more likely to be victims of assault.
“The statistics are more alarming when they are broken down,” said Stacey Lantz, a survivor of sexual assault and the guest speaker for the event. “Women of color are more likely to be assaulted. People who are or are even perceived to be in the sexual minority are more likely to be assaulted.”
Shiva Subbaraman, director of the LGBTQ Resource Center, explained that sexual assault is an issue that extends beyond violence against women.
“Sexual assault and gender violence happens in every community, and within the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual community, there is a lot of [same-sex] violence,” Subbaraman said. “I think when people think of sexual assault, they only think of it in the heterosexual context, but there is a lot of same-sex violence.”
Rehana Mohammed (SFS ’12), a student facilitator, said she felt that the event was important because the topic of sexual violence is often considered a taboo subject in society.
“It’s hard to talk about,” Mohammed said. “It hurts to talk about. It’s scary to talk about. Since it’s such a problem on college campuses, we need to talk about it.”
The purpose of the event is to get people to raise their voices on these issues.
“It’s important because I feel like it’s an issue that is rarely discussed,” Brittanie Leibold (COL ’13) said. “We live in a culture of victim-blaming and it’s just tragic to me that when girls experience sexual assault, they blame themselves. . The responsibility always [lies] with the perpetrator, and that’s something victims of sexual assault and violence need to always remember. Victim-blaming is not tolerated.”
Dan Porterfield (COL ’83), senior vice president for strategic development, said that students and faculty can help create a safer Georgetown by taking safety seriously, being aware of the risks students face and elevating safety issues in campus discourse.
“As a new school year begins it’s very important that students inform themselves about the risks of sexual assault on college campuses, the prevention strategies that can work, and the importance of supporting survivors,” Porterfield said. “While these topics are complex and painful, and not easy to talk about, R U Ready? is structured to help students learn together in a comfortable setting.”
The discussion also stressed the role men could have in preventing and educating others about sexual assault.
“All men are definitely not at fault, and that assumption should never be made,” Saaliha Khan (COL ’13), a student facilitator said. “In general both men and women should be very aware of this reality and be conscious of it. The sad part is a lot of the time the sexual assault usually happens to people by someone they know, and when you think about that, it kind of blows your mind.”
Porterfield said that there is a lot men can do and are doing.
“We can inform ourselves about the risks,” Porterfield said. “We can avoid sexist language. We can promote safety by offering to escort friends home. We can watch out for friends at parties. We can call out predatory behavior and treat women with respect. And we can come together for discussion with women about other practical steps we can take.”
Lantz explained in her survival story that the effects of sexual assault stay with the survivor for a lifetime, but said it is times like these when her words become words of empowerment.
“I don’t believe the path to recovery ever ends,” Lantz said. “The experience of rape and sexual assault never goes away. . The ability to use my voice for education and to encourage discussions of rape and sexual assault give me the power over my perpetrator as their actions will never fade silently into the background.”
Lantz pointed out that statistically speaking, one in four women in the room will be victimized by sexual assault, and even more know survivors of assault.
For Kahn, growing up in Southern California allowed her to see firsthand the effects of this reality.
“Going to high school in [Los Angeles], I remember hearing cases about girls who got raped in my area and it would just break my heart, and I wondered what I could do about it. I wanted to help make a difference, I wanted to bring about awareness,” Kahn said.
[Sexual assault] is something that we as a society need to address and help combat. That’s why I decided to do R U Ready? because I am ready to make a difference.”