In honor of International Women’s Day

One in four women report surviving rape or attempted rape during their college careers, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

For many women, such statistics are shocking and unnerving. Every 2 minutes, someone in the U.S. is sexually assaulted. Roughly 73 percent of rape victims know their assailants. Despite the problem, 60 percent of sexual assaults go unreported. So what would you do if you were sexually assaulted?

Sexual assault is defined in GW’s Code of Student Conduct as, “inflicting any sexual invasion (including but not limited to sexual intercourse) upon any person without that person’s consent.” It is listed as “prohibited conduct,” which is subject to disciplinary action and sanctions. Yet while GW policy explicitly outlines standards of punishment for offenders, it fails to ensure adequate services to victims to deal with the aftermath of sexual assault.

When an individual believes he or she has been sexually assaulted, the standard method to confirm the fact is through the collection of physical evidence often called a rape kit. Rape kits are protocol followed in order to streamline city services deployed in the wake of a sexual assault – including medical care, police investigation and rape crisis counseling. They do not require the victim to press criminal charges, and can be used for personal closure or to maintain the option of criminal proceedings in the future.

In D.C., the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner program is the only of its kind to comprehensively deal with sexual assault by streamlining access to all necessary services, including specially trained nurses, up-to-date equipment, free prophylactic medication and access to victim’s advocates and law enforcement.

On Foggy Bottom, no such program exists. If GW students go to GW Medical Center requesting rape kits from a SANE nurse, they will be sent to Washington Hospital Center – the only hospital in D.C. to host the program. In special circumstances, a SANE nurse can be dispatched to GW Hospital, leaving victims to wait a potentially lengthy period of time to receive services. If a victim encounters an uninformed nurse or residents, he or she will not be offered the same care, potentially leading to the faulty collection of evidence and the need for victims to undergo multiple examinations and tell their story to multiple medical professionals, revictimizing them in the process.

With March 8 marking International Women’s Day, the unavailability of rape kits reflects a need to address violence against women in our own backyards. Rape is a human rights violation that is overwhelmingly targeted at women. Both international and domestic law recognize rape as a crime and require effective victim protection and the investigation of sexual assault. While we recognize it is the state’s responsibility to implement such measures, in the absence of effective state institutions, we believe that GW must make an increased effort toward securing concrete services for victims of sexual assault.

If sexual assault occurs, students at GW, as well as the women of the Foggy Bottom area, should feel they can go to the GW Hospital or the Student Health Service for effective services. It is unacceptable that women should be unable to immediately access comprehensive services for sexual assault in the comfort of their own university. The University should consider the health of its own female students a priority.

With the support of undergraduate, graduate and law students, a campaign to demand rape kits at the SHS will be launched by GW Amnesty International tomorrow, on International Women’s Day, with a candlelight vigil and an online petition which we hope will receive unprecedented support. Women’s rights are human rights. Join us.

GW Amnesty International, GW Law ACLU, GW Law Feminist Forum, GW Law Students for Reproductive Justice, GW Students Against Sexual Assault, Delta Phi Epsilon Foreign Service Sorority, ONE GW, Alpha Epsilon Phi, Alpha Kappa Alpha, Human Rights Law Society

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