Staff Editorial: A dire need for sexual assault education

If a GW student, walking home from Gelman, were sexually assaulted a block off campus, he or she would not be able to have a proper examination immediately available at our University’s hospital. If a GW student passes out at a party with no knowledge of what happened the night before, he or she would have to wait for someone to come to our University hospital to properly take DNA samples. If a GW student is attacked by an acquaintance and wants to provide evidence from his or her body, he or she may even have to go to a hospital near Catholic University.

The procedure that is necessary after a sexual assault is treatment of injuries and collection of evidence. To perform this procedure, a hospital needs to administer rape kits.

But our University hospital doesn’t provide rape kits on site. Instead, it needs to request that someone travel to our campus with the tools to treat the victim.

With rape kits, or Physical Evidence Recovery Kits, a designated staff member at a hospital can collect saliva, hair and other evidence from a victim’s body after an attack. If a victim is not treated properly, DNA or other vital samples can be washed away.

GW is a college located in an urban environment. Incidents of sexual assault may not occur often, but they do occur, and their threat is very real.

The fact that our University hospital is not immediately prepared for these incidents shows a blatant disregard for student safety.

When The Hatchet asked why rape kits are not readily available at our campus hospital, with a properly trained staffer to administer the test, University and hospital officials did not comment.

The fact of the matter remains that the hospital cannot immediately supply them for victims who should not have to wait for any period of time after such a traumatic incident. This needs to change.

Unfortunately, this is only one facet of the problem with how our University prepares itself, and its students, for the possibility of sexual assault on campus.

As a recent study demonstrated, GW students are alarmingly unaware of what to do in the event of a sexual assault. Respondents to the study indicated that they believed both Student Health Services and GW Hospital had rape kits – neither do.

A majority of students also indicated they believe sexual assault is an issue on campus, but only 15 percent claimed to know someone who was a victim of sexual assault. Because of this difference, those who conducted the study concluded that sexual assault is an “underreported and silent problem” at GW.

Too many students don’t know what to do after a sexual assault, and it is up to GW, being their institution of learning, to educate them.

Education can come in many forms. Colonial Inauguration can teach incoming freshmen about the issue, and what to do in the case of such a traumatizing incident. Organizations in Greek life can provide information to their members.

But in addition to these options, the University can designate an office or organization on campus to better lead the effort in sexual assault education. It could draw on current resources – such as the Sexual Assault Crisis Consultation Team, Student Health Service, the University Counseling Center and the University Police Department. This organization would be responsible for raising awareness of this issue, and could follow a model similar to the Center for Alcohol and Other Drug Education, which hosts events, posts flyers and provides workshops for student orgs. The goal of this new organization should be to provide not only help for victims, but campus-wide education on this issue. By not providing even a basic understanding of sexual assault, GW is belittling the prominence of sexual assault on college campuses.

Until this education becomes a more prominent part of what we learn at GW, it is important for students to seek out this information on their own. SACC consists of members of UPD, provides 24-hour help to victims of sexual assault, offers guidance for students seeking help and teaches programs for interested members of the GW community. UPD even offers a self-defense class. We highly suggest that students take advantage of what is currently available to learn about this issue.

GW does not have rape kits on site. It does not do enough to make sexual assault education prominent on campus. These oversights are not minor, and we find this troubling. Students deserve change immediately – it’s a matter of their safety.

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