University officials are not properly educating students about how to get help for, or report sexual assault, a joint survey released this month found.
The survey – conducted by a GW medical school student and the grassroots group, the Younger Women’s Task Force – found that a majority of students are misinformed about where they can get a rape kit, among other issues surrounding sexual assault.
Nearly all, or 89 percent, of the 1,031 survey respondents said they thought rape kits were offered at GW Hospital, while 69 percent said they thought rape kits were available at the Student Health Service. Rape kits in D.C. are only available at the Washington Hospital Center.
The results led the authors of the study to say that “GWU has not done an adequate job of educating students on what to do if one of their students experience sexual assault.”
The study further found that a majority of respondents think sexual assault is an issue on campus, but less than a quarter said they know someone who has been affected by sexual assault. The authors of the study said the disparity is likely due to the fact that sexual assault is an “underreported and silent problem” on campus.
“Students may not recognize sexual assault as a violation of campus policy or as a crime, students may fear the stigma attached to reporting a rape that often leads to re-victimization, they may lack confidence in the system, and they may fear their reports will not be taken seriously,” the study said.
In order to better educate students about sexual assault, the study said GW should make sexual assault prevention and education programs mandatory for all incoming students and student organizations, provide training for staff and students about how to deal with sexual assault, and expand the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners program – which provides rape kits and analysis – to GW Hospital.
“Sexual assault happens far too often on college campuses and has long-term detrimental effects on individuals and communities,” the study said. ” It is our hope that this study will ultimately help GWU and other universities to better understand sexual assault on campus and encourage the development of stronger prevention materials, policies, and procedures that reduce the prevalence of sexual assault and ensure that victims receive proper care.”