In the wake of highly publicized rape cases in Steubenville, Ohio, and New Delhi, Take Back the Night is holding its annual sexual assault week to raise awareness of the problem on campus.
The series of events, titled “Sexual Assault Is a Hoya Issue,” aims to address various student perspectives on sexual assault. Events include a screening of “The Invisible War,” a documentary about sexual assault in the military, and a panel discussion with the editors of Feministing, a feminist blog.
According to coordinator Kat Kelley (NHS ’14), the theme was chosen to represent the reality that sexual violence transcends gender, race or ethnic barriers.
“Sexual assault happens within all communities,” Kelley said. “But in a lot of mainstream discourse, it’s very much so [portrayed as] a white woman’s issue.”
Coordinator Deanna Arthur (SFS ’14) saw the theme as a way to unify the campus community against sexual assault.
“Even though Hoyas have different points of view on a lot of issues, we can all agree that sexual assault is something we can fight against,” Arthur wrote in an email.
The coordinators said that the event series, which comes on the heels of the Steubenville rape case (in which the media came under fire for giving undue sympathy to the perpetrators), is particularly timely.
“The week that the Steubenville trial occurred, there was so much talk about how poorly the media portrayed the trial,” Kelley said. “So many people came to me; so many people who normally don’t talk or think about sexual assault came to me and [said], ‘This is upsetting. This is not OK. I don’t know how to deal with this.’”
Arthur added that it was important for students to be aware that large cases such as Steubenvillerepresent a fraction of the many sexual assault cases each year.
“One thing that was really notable about the Steubenville case was the really inspiring amount of outrage I saw from Hoyas on social media,” Arthur wrote. “Hopefully that event will stay in people’s consciousness. … People will realize that the Steubenville case is just one of many. Most of these stories are not so heavily publicized, and even more of them don’t even go reported, don’t go to trial and don’t end in a conviction.”
According to coordinator Nora West (SFS ’15), Take Back the Night contacted every HoyaLink-registered campus group and received tremendous response from groups that pledged their support for sexual assault awareness. Participants included some unexpected groups, such as Georgetown Gaming.
Students of Georgetown, Inc. Outreach Service Committee, H*yas For Choice and the Georgetown University Student Association will also co-sponsor events.
Arthur said that she expected that Wednesday evening’s “It Happens Here,” a reading of anonymous stories from sexual assault survivors, bystanders or friends of victims, would have the largest impact on attendees.
“In terms of rape culture at Georgetown I think the issue obviously isn’t that people don’t think it’s an important issue; they see it as something big, scary, foreign and not something that happens at Georgetown,” Arthur wrote. “Hopefully, this event, along with the media campaign, will start to get people thinking about some of the difficult truths of sexual assault.”
The week will culminate in Friday’s final event, which will ask students to pledge to work against sexual assault. In particular, participants will pledge to ask for consent, to support survivors and to continue discussing sexual assault.
Although the week focuses on the shocking and frightening realities of sexual assault, the coordinators said that they hoped that people would leave with an optimistic and proactive outlook.
“It can get easy to become depressed,” West said. “Our real goal is to try to make it positive and empowering.”