While Student Judicial Services processed more sexual assault cases this year than last year, experts remind us that this may not reflect an increase in actual incidents. The increase does indicate that campus culture may be changing to encourage more women to report sexual assaults and seek help when they occur.
No matter what the statistics mean, GW is rightfully taking a significant number of sexual assaults seriously and should help encourage a culture of openness by providing the GW community with better information about these crimes.
Sexual assault is the fastest-growing criminal category in D.C., according to Metropolitan Police Department reports. Women are increasingly aware of their situations and are being taught what is inappropriate sexual action by reporting it.
A discouraging statistic is the five out of 17 sexual assault reports that actually made it to an SJS hearing board, leaving 12 other alleged assailants free because of a lack of evidence or confidence to press charges. Date rape is one of the most common types of sexual assault, and many women do not feel comfortable reporting or pressing charges against someone they know.
It is time for SJS to hop on board this changing culture of increased awareness by providing circumstantial information about these assaults, which would help women become educated on the realities of how sexual assaults occur in their community.
One of the best defenses against sexual assault is education. SJS, by providing limited information regarding sexual assault cases among others, is stifling sexual assault education at GW. If SJS provided information on how, where, when and between whom sexual assaults are happening – without revealing confidential information such as names – women would be more educated on what type of situation is conducive to sexual assault and more able to avoid it.
Mike Walker, senior assistant dean of students, said many sexual assaults involve alcohol. He said GW plans to educate incoming freshmen at Colonial Inauguration on the dangers of drugs and alcohol and how their use relates to sexual assault.
While this education is important, drugs and alcohol are not the only factors in a sexual assault, and students need to be aware of other warning signs. Yet SJS carefully guards any other information on how and when sexual assaults really do occur on campus.