Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Working Group Approves New Sexual Assault Classification

This January, Advocates for Improved Response Methods to Sexual Assault put forth a “new resolution” proposal to Georgtown faculty and administration with the intention of reforming Georgetown’s institutional policies and practices with regards to sexual assault. The proposal outlined specific concerns that students, particularly those who have been victims of campus assault, are adamant about changing.

As a result of AFIRMS’ petitions and campus efforts to implement change in current policy, GU faculty have recently approved the student group’s notion for classifying all forms of nonconsensual penetration, indicating sexual assault, as a Category C offense. This entails significantly more severe consequences for assailants than Category B’s “sexual misconduct” charge.

“We are looking to change this policy to a consent-based definition in which all forms of rape are included under `Category C.’ Our petition already has several hundred signatures, and we are currently taking our petitions around to some classes and to faculty meetings to further attract attention to this issue,” AFIRMS member Melanie Forstrom (COL ’03) said.

The major concern of AFIRMS and other students pushing for change is that many forms of nonconsensual penetration are categorized as only B offenses, which encompasses indecent/offensive verbosity and communication, explicit touching and penetration without obtaining consent or emotional intimidation. Consequently, extreme cases of assault, such as rape, can ultimately be applied as Category B sexual misconduct offenses as opposed to being classified as a felony in Category C, which is distinguished by force. Therefore, whereas Category B offenses result in housing probation or suspension, a Category C includes felonies, which may significantly decrease the incidence of sexual assault.

Specifically, the group is also attempting to improve the categorization of some cases of rape under “sexual misconduct,” the lack of necessary sensitivity training for the hearing and appeals boards, insensitive hearing procedures, inadequate disciplinary actions given to sexual assaulters assailants and most notably the nondisclosure policy that requires victims to remain silent regarding the details of their case to maintain confidentiality for the assailant. Its complaints addressed a variety of issues including the university’s definitions of sexual assault and misconduct, the adjudication process, sanctioning and disclosure of sexual offenses.

“The sexual assault policy is very important; students were involved in drafting the original policy,” University President John J. DeGioia said in response to the proposal. “If the community sees the need for review [of the current policy], it’s appropriate for them [students] to be involved.”

Since AFIRMS presentation of its proposal, administrators have implemented many of its suggestions, such as elevating the incident reporting position of the Director of the Women’s Center and searching for a new Sexual Assault Services Counselor. Currently, AFIRMS is engaged in active communication with administrators and faculty regarding its most serious strategies for reform, which include moving all forms of nonconsensual penetration from Category B “sexual misconduct” to Category C “sexual assault.” The group is also working on developing a full-disclosure policy revealing the names, offenses and sanctions of assailants, and eliminating the Confidentiality Agreement, which forces victims of violent crimes, including sexual assault, to sign away their right to name their assailant in exchange for hearing the results of the adjudication procedures. Also imperative to AFIRMS vision of a safer campus environment is the education for all students, including RAs, ESCAPE and NSO leaders.

Obtaining faculty approval serves as the second to last step of policy change, as now AFIRMS members will continue meet with administrators to discuss their strategies for change as well as their continued support from faculty and students. In addition to meeting with upper level administrators, AFIRMS also takes significant time to regularly meet with interested students to increase awareness of the need for improved sexual assault policies as well as to teach younger students the process of implementing change at Georgetown.

“AFIRMS leaders strongly encourage the participation of underclassmen in their general meetings and policy procedures,” sophomore member Kris Cronin (SFS ’05) said. “It is important that, when the current AFIRMS senior leaders graduate, there be a group of students who are knowledgeable about the status quo of sexual assault policies at GU and the mechanisms for change.”

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