GW’s policies for dealing with rape are sound in that students have outlets for coping with the reprehensible, barbaric act of rape. Whether it is the University Police Department’s Sexual Assault Crisis Consultation team or the University Counseling Center’s systematic approach for dealing rape’s psychological aftermath, female students have options. But the University can do more by training students to assuage rape victims in the hope of providing them with another counseling resource.
The number of students reporting sexual assaults doubled from 14 in 2000 to 28 in 2001, indicating that the crime is either on the rise or students are more willing to come out. Either way, having student-trained counselors would give rape victims yet more people to talk to. There would certainly be no shortage of volunteers to train, either. The Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance is already in the process of putting together what they call a Rape Advocate Program to assist victims. Why not put the full weight of Counseling Center resources behind their altruistic goal? More people on campus trained to deal with rape or any other form of sexual assault could only help, not hurt. And the difference between talking to a professional and a peer can be an important one in such sensitive cases.
Thankfully at GW, students already have a grievance system within Student Judicial Services effectively dealing with perpetrators of sexual crimes in a way that encourages victims to press charges. But the low number of students who have used the University’s judicial system indicates more can be done to empower victims of sexual assault to confront their assailant.
Confidentiality of victims is also of paramount importance. Reports of a rape victims’ name and circumstances being treated as office gossip are shocking, and GW should act swiftly to root out such insensitive behavior by any staff or faculty members. Rape and sexual assaults of other kinds are traumatic and humiliating enough. It is inexcusable to allow confidential information surrounding a victim to go unprotected anytime without the willful knowledge and consent of the victim.
GW’s system for long-term solutions for dealing sexual criminals and healing victims is adequate but not perfect. The Counseling Center has psychologists on staff and support groups to help victims. The UPD-led SACC gives students tips on what steps to take next after being sexually assaulted. More student input and participation in these programs could lead to better education and a more open environment in which more students could seek help