Op-Ed: Clarifying changes to the sexual assault policy

The University released an updated interim sexual harassment and sexual violence policy in September. Thanks to thoughtful feedback from the community, the University is considering several changes, including increasing the time period for filing a complaint of sexual harassment against another person.

In addition to enhancing the readability of the policy, clarifying certain sections and better explaining our procedures with the use of flow charts, the final policy will lengthen the time during which an individual can initiate a formal review that often leads to a disciplinary process. This change will replace the 180-day time limit included in the interim policy.

The reason for setting a time limit to file a formal complaint after an incident occurs is to encourage individuals to come forward as soon as possible so we can take action to protect our community while balancing the rights of both parties in resolving claims of sexual assault and other forms of sexual harassment. The policy will permit exceptions, but the window to file a complaint with GW will close when the alleged perpetrator graduates or leaves the school.

We also believe there may be some confusion within the University community about what the time period will apply to. The time period will only apply to the initiation of formal grievance procedures.

To be clear, the University will have no time limit for reporting a sexual assault or any other form of sexual harassment, or accessing any of the support services or resources the University makes available to victims.

The issuance of no-contact orders, changes to academic or housing accommodations and referrals to medical and mental health care providers are examples of the services and resources available, depending on the circumstances. Regardless of whether any person has filed a formal complaint within the prescribed time frame, whenever an incident involving sexual harassment is reported on campus or in connection with a GW program, the University will conduct an inquiry to determine whether any sexual violence or other form of sexual harassment has occurred. And then it will take steps to eliminate any harassment that is found, remedy that harassment and prevent it from recurring.

The University takes seriously its commitment to securing a campus free from harassment, discrimination and violence. We believe the debate that has taken place regarding the interim policy has been useful and constructive and will lead to a policy that treats all members of our community fairly. As we come to the end of the review and comment period, you are strongly encouraged to share your thoughts and feedback on the interim policy by contacting Tara Pereira, Deputy Title IX Coordinator at 202-994-2657 or at Taraw@gwu.edu.

Terri Harris Reed and Tara Pereira are the vice provost for diversity and inclusion and Title IX coordinator, and director of campus inclusion initiatives and deputy Title IX coordinator, respectively.

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