The attempted sexual assault of a resident of the Potomac Park apartment building is a vivid reminder that rape and sexual assault occurs far too regularly. The media attention this incident generated should not lull people into a false sense of security. Just because this incident was one of the few such incidents reported near campus does not mean date and acquaintance rapes do not occur here. The keys to preventing repeat incidents are to increase security in both on-campus and off-campus buildings, educate students about how to avoid potentially dangerous situations and drill into students’ heads that they must look after their own safety.
People who are entering their apartment buildings often hold the door open for the person behind them – regardless of whether that stranger is a familiar building resident. It is an act of politeness that could help a criminal get into the building. Many apartment buildings, including GW residence halls, have employees at the front desk who are supposed to ensure that people in the building are residents or have permission to be there. While it is a hassle to wait at the front desk while the security person calls up to a room, it is a necessary hassle.
GW students should be repeatedly told that they are directly responsible for their own safety. Students who leave their doors unlocked because they are going out for only a few minutes often return to find some of their possessions have walked away. Other students take walks or go for jogs late at night by themselves – not a good idea in a city like D.C.
But the University also needs to do more to address acquaintance rape on campus. Its facilities for sexual assault victims are less organized than other universities. GW hounds underage students who are caught drinking, a crime reported more often than sexual assault. But just because sexual assaults go unreported does not mean they do not occur on campus.
Students should not become paranoid now about their safety. Nor can the University do much if sexual assault incidents are not reported. But everyone should be aware that sexual assault happens on this campus. Student’s extra attention to security and GW’s focus on sexual assault should not begin and end with this incident.