David Ellis: All victims of sexual assault deserve anonymity

Imagine two scenarios: one in which you are standing in a courtroom in front of a judge accusing your hall mate of stealing your phone, and one in which you are accusing your professor. As the victim, you would expect to retain the same rights while on trial regardless of the status of the person you’re accusing.

But in the confidentiality subsection of GW’s interim sexual harassment policy, there is a double standard for how the University treats students as compared to faculty and staff.

Thankfully, the University is in the process of changing this and other parts of the sexual harassment policy – and for good reason.

The interim policy states that a victim can remain anonymous when accusing another student, but not when the accused is a faculty member. That’s a problem considering one of the main purposes of the policy is to protect students who have been victimized and to help them feel as comfortable as possible if they choose to come forward.

It is critical that the plans to change this egregious double standard are finalized.

It’s already difficult for a student to accuse a faculty member due to the fear of a potential impact on an individual’s academic future. The fact that the interim policy was passed but didn’t recognize this shortcoming – and exacerbates an existing problem – is distressing.

Anonymity will have repercussions when it comes to disciplinary proceedings. To progress to a formal hearing process, whether against a student or faculty member, students will need to disclose their identities to ensure a proper investigation.

As a result, the disciplinary process should protect both parties’ rights. Students should have the right to remain anonymous throughout the course of a sexual harassment investigation and hearing, but they must know that if they choose to do so, it will make the process less effective.

Deputy Title IX Coordinator Tara Pereira explained to me that it would be impossible to issue a no-contact order, a rule restricting one person from interacting with another, without informing the person of who they are prohibited from contacting. And she’s right: At a certain point, disclosing an identity is necessary to move forward with a case.

But still, the decision to remain anonymous should initially be afforded to all students.

Alleged victims of sexual assault should be allowed to protect their identities – no matter who is sitting across the table.

David Ellis is a sophomore majoring in finance.

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