For a long time, we joined much of the Georgetown community in responding to sexual assault by doing what we thought was best: nothing.
As two men, we believed we had no right to be part of a discussion about a crime that we abhorred but did not understand or experience at a personal level. Instead, we were busy falling in love with Friday-night Georgetown, ignoring — or at least being ignorant of — a problem that stretches across our campus.
In late January, a piece by Claire McDaniel in the Georgetown Voice prompted the two of us to talk in depth about the issue together for the first time. We discussed the out-of-the-blue phone calls we received on separate occasions from friends telling us they had been assaulted.
We talked about the rage we had been too embarrassed to express because we felt we had no right to be angry on someone else’s behalf; they had been assaulted, not us.
And we talked about how as friends of survivors, the only thing more painful than finding out about the assault was knowing that, statistically speaking, we had most likely seen someone else’s friend being assaulted and done nothing about it.
At Georgetown, one in four women and one in 33 men report being sexually assaulted.
What does it mean to commit a sexual assault?
The most sinister thing about it is that in the moment, it probably does not even appear sinister. Most perpetrators of sexual assault are not masked men hiding in the bushes like a predator from TV.
When we failed to take action in situations of real sexual assault, we tacitly consented to a culture that perpetuates sexual assault at a staggering rate.
Like many Georgetown students, we have been guilty of letting it slide and not being active bystanders when we should have done everything we could to help our classmates and friends. Our rage was directed partly at ourselves.
Unclear rules and fear of retribution through disciplinary charges create a barrier for survivors who are considering reporting their crime.
The university must do a better job of encouraging reports of sexual assault — with a clear amnesty policy, for example — and adjudicating cases in a more compassionate way.
As president and vice president of the Georgetown University Student Association, we will push Georgetown to change its policies.
Yet blaming the prevalence of sexual assault on university administrators is the easy way out, and we will not allow ourselves to avoid the hard truth: The responsibility for changing sexual assault at Georgetown rests squarely on the shoulders of the student body.
We must place the blame for these assaults on the perpetrator, where it belongs.
We must educate ourselves on consent and hold one another to that standard, even — and especially — at the cost of insensitive humor that has no place among students smart enough to entertain themselves in other ways.
As a testament to the strength of our community, there are already tangible steps being taken across campus to shift the culture on sexual assault.
As we will hear many times during Take Back the Night Week, this is not just a women’s issue. Men, it’s time to step up to the plate.
We are tired of seeing the hard work of advocates in the student body and Georgetown administration fail year after year to put a dent in Georgetown’s sexual assault statistics, not because of opposition but because of apathy.
And we are sick of seeing commitments and awareness stop at just that. It is time for action to change the policies and culture that have made this an epidemic in our society.
This year, let’s raise our awareness about the insensitivity and violence present in our own community.
To recognize that sexual assault is part of our experience on the Hilltop is to make Georgetown a stronger place, not a weaker one.
Only by understanding both the bad and the good and directly addressing the problem can we hope to live up to our potential as a student body to create healing in a place of pain and, in the place of our own demons, hope.
Nate Tisa is a junior in the School of Foreign Service. He is president of GUSA. Adam Ramadan is a junior in the School of Foreign Service. He is vice president of GUSA.