Three convicted for sexual assault

The University found three students guilty of sexual assault violations last academic year, the highest number of students determined guilty in three years.

Two of the students were suspended and one was expelled, Assistant Dean of Students Tara Pereira said. During the 2009-2010 academic year, one out of the three students charged with sexual assault was deemed guilty and expelled.

The year before, just one student was charged and suspended, according to data from the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities, one of the two branches of the now-dissolved Student Judicial Services.

GW’s Code of Student Conduct defines sexual assault as “inflicting any sexual invasion upon any person…without that individual’s consent.”

Not every report of sexual assault sees a trial. The University Police Department files a police report when a victim reports a case, but the case’s trajectory at a judiciary level is dependent on how a victim wants to proceed.

The number of sexual offenses reported to UPD for the Foggy Bottom Campus climbed up to 12 cases in 2010, a slight increase from nine reported cases in 2009, according to UPD statistics.

Since 2008, a total of 30 sexual offenses have been reported to UPD for both the Foggy Bottom and Mount Vernon campuses.

UPD Chief Kevin Hay said earlier this month that, although the number of reported sex offenses at GW has steadily increased, it is difficult to conclude whether more cases occurred or if a higher number of students felt comfortable reporting.

“Hopefully survivors are reporting more because they are more aware of resources and feel safe coming forward,” Hay said then. “It takes courage for a survivor to report a sexual assault.”

A Department of Justice report estimated 95 percent of completed rapes and nearly 96 percent of attempted rapes of women on college campuses go unreported.

Victims can choose to press criminal charges in addition to charges through the University’s judiciary arm. Charges of violating GW’s Code of Student Conduct are not equivalent to criminal charges.

Pereira said the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities works with the University Police Department to investigate whether a student accused of sexual assault by another student should be charged with violating the Code of Student Conduct.

All investigations do not lead to charges, she said. Potential sanctions for charges include suspension or expulsion.

Though the University believes its current sexual violence policies are in line with the law, Pereira said, it is evaluating its procedures in light of updated guidelines the federal government released earlier this year.

The Department of Education issued a 19-page letter to colleges and universities in April, explaining schools’ obligations to promptly react to potential sexual assault cases and take more preventative steps.

The letter was issued under Title IX, a civil rights law that bans gender discrimination at schools that receive federal funding.

This summer, the University settled a legal battle with a male student convicted of sexual assault last year through an out-of-court agreement, or a compromise without court involvement, according to court records.

The freshman sued GW April 8 under the pseudonym of “John Doe,” alleging that flawed and unfair University disciplinary hearings erroneously found him guilty and led to his unwarranted suspension.

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