Members of the Georgetown community need a wake-up call after the public safety alert on Oct. 17, which reported that a student was “forcibly fondled” in Burleith at 2 p.m.
Let’s assume that part of the problem here is word choice. Think the word fondled is funny? Like the alliteration? Try this on for size: A member of our community was sexually violated, meaning she was touched against her will in the middle of the afternoon in the Georgetown neighborhood.
Sexual violence is not a joke. No matter how it’s worded, “forcible fondling” is a form of assault. No, it’s not rape, but it certainly falls on the spectrum of sexual violence. Don’t kid yourselves into thinking that the man who committed this assault will stop at groping next time.
When Georgetown students write and then “like” Facebook statuses and posts that belittle this attack, we turn sexual violence into the butt of a joke. It popped up in my own news feed that eight people liked one status that simply reposted the public safety alert. I personally have a hard time seeing what the likeable aspect of the sexual violation of you or someone you know would be. It is more than likely that last Monday’s victim is the Facebook friend of someone who made a callous comment about her attack.
Given the fact that one in four college-age women is the victim of some form of sexual violence, think how many past victims may have seen posts joking about their painful experiences. Thoughtless comments like these tremendously hurt victims of the past and future because they belittle attacks, making them into events meaningful only by their entertainment value.
A majority of sexual assaults go unreported, and the consequences are twofold: Every time someone makes light of an attack within our community, the next victim is less likely to come forward, and the attacker is less likely to be caught. Female students who live in Burleith now have reason to be fearful walking home alone even in broad daylight.
It is especially disturbing to see on my news feed that most of the jokes were made by fellow female Georgetown students. While the entire Georgetown community shares the responsibility to take all forms of violence seriously, we know that women are most often the victims of sexual aggression. When we, as women, make jokes that place the tiniest hint of blame on the victim, we create an environment that makes light of sexual violence and open the door for men to joke about assaults including rape.
Our careless actions give the impression that sexual aggression is excusable under certain circumstances. To me, they indicate a disturbing complacency, even an acceptance of sexual violence among our generation, a conclusion I drew from more than this incident alone. Students who have been at Georgetown for a year or more know that in the past, sarcastic jokes about the “Georgetown Cuddler” abounded: Facebook posts, Halloween costumes and talk around campus. The nickname was part of the problem, but the truth is that this man became a campus celebrity by violating Georgetown students and getting away with it.
To extend my point outside the Georgetown community, the domestic violence that occurred between singers Chris Brown and Rihanna has now became a widely made and accepted joke. Telling your female friend or girlfriend to watch herself before you “go Chris Brown on her” belittles such violence against women. We absolutely must not tolerate jokes of this sort, regardless of the gender of the person making them.
The way that we respond to incidents of sexual violence speaks to our character as a school. I know that we respect and value each other more than these jokes and thoughtless comments reveal. When an attack of this nature occurs, we need to rally around the victim and make him or her aware of our support even in anonymity. We must make it clear that “We are Georgetown,” and we will not tolerate violence of any kind in our community.
Madeline Wiseman is a junior in the College.