Last week’s murder of University of Virginia student Yeardley Love by her ex-boyfriend George Huguely sent shockwaves across the Georgetown community and other D.C. area college campuses, many of which reported an increase in annual sexual assaults in recent years.
In addition to Georgetown, the University of Virginia, George Mason University and Catholic University also reported an increase in sexual assaults in 2007-2008, according to the Department of Education.
Local schools have become increasingly wary of the problem since UVA lacrosse player Huguely was charged last week in the death of his former girlfriend Love, according to the Washington Examiner. CNN reported that in his testimony, 22-year-old Huguely revealed he had had a violent fight with Love that led to her death. Love, also a UVA lacrosse player, was 22 at the time of her death. Huguely’s lawyer maintains that the incident was an accident.
The situation, however, has brought more attention to assaults on college campuses, and the FBI has concluded that many attacks stem from romantic relationships.
S. Daniel Carter, the policy director at the nonprofit Security on Campus, Inc., a group that studies sexual assaults on campuses, mentioned Georgetown specifically in the Washington Examiner article. Carter said that Georgetown, along with the University of Virginia, has previously had perpetrators and victims sign non-disclosure agreements promising they would not discuss the outcome of an investigation. Victims are not informed of the penalty their attacker received unless they sign the non-disclosure agreement.
Carter said that breaking the culture of silence that surrounds sexual assaults is key to responding to this increase in assaults.
John Zacker, director of the office of student conduct at the University of Maryland, told the Washington Examiner that students are becoming less likely to report obsessive behaviors that lead to sexual assaults. Zacker points to the low percentage of convictions – about 10 to 25 percent, according to the Center for Public Integrity – and the invasive nature of investigations as reasons why students have become less likely to report assaults.
Andy Pino, director of media relations, said that Georgetown is improving its security measures to fight the rise in assaults.
“[The Department of Public Safety] has increased patrols throughout campus over the last year . [and] the university is funding patrols by three additional [Metropolitan Police Department] officers in the areas surrounding campus,” he said.
Pino also mentioned the improved cooperation between DPS and MPD. He reiterated that the university reminds students to lock doors and windows, to travel in groups when possible and to take advantage of the SafeRides shuttle service when traveling to and from campus.”