GW works to protect students from sex assault

The Joint Committee of Faculty and Students will take a closer look at the University’s policies on rape and sexual assault Friday.

Currently, the student handbook lists guidelines students should follow if they are raped or sexually assaulted. Emergency numbers for the University Police Department and the GW Hospital emergency room are included in the planner.

But Adam Siple, JCFS co-chair, said the University’s definitions of rape and sexual assault are “vague.”

“We want a definition of rape and sexual assault that is tailored to a campus,” Siple said.

Two years ago, he created a subcommittee to focus on the issue of student rape. The committee plans to discuss developing “better language” and stricter disciplinary action for assailants that would strongly suggest expulsion, he said.

Jessica Smithers, a GW transfer student who alleges she was raped as a freshman at Boston University, said she feels safer at GW than she did on BU’s urban campus.

“The structure of the campus makes it a lot different, it’s easier for GW to patrol it.” said Smithers, who hopes to evaluate BU’s security measures as part of a possible settlement with BU in an upcoming lawsuit.

She praised GW’s expanded escort service, which runs all night. Smithers cited the fact that BU’s escort service ends earlier in the evening as one of the reasons the university is partially responsible for her rape.

“At least GW is taking a proactive approach,” Smithers said. “BU doesn’t even recognize it as a threat.”

She said she was impressed with the recent letter the University sent to one of GW’s unrecognized fraternities, Sigma Alpha Epsilon. Smithers claims she was raped by a member of a fraternity that was not recognized by BU after the school ignored the actions of some of the fraternity’s members.

She said GW also provides better services for rape victims.

GW’s Sexual Assault Crisis Consultation Team was formed in 1992 to assist survivors of sexual assault or rape. The team members do not act as counselors, but they provide victims with information and resources to help them make decisions about how to handle the incident.

The University Counseling Center and the D.C. Rape Crisis Center provide confidential support for victims of sexual assault and are listed in the planner as resources.

“It’s important not to re-victimize the survivor,” said Dolores Stafford, director of the University Police Department. “We try not to make them tell the story four or five times because that’s very traumatizing.”

She said within the next two weeks the University will send brochures to students with information about how students can protect themselves from assault.

-Matt Berger contributed to this report.

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