Staff Editorial: GW finally gets sexual assault policy right

As the proverb goes, if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.

On the high-stakes issue of sexual assault, we’re glad the administration has been persistent in trying to get its University-wide policy right.

Last week, after months of intense lobbying from student groups, the University eliminated the statute of limitations from its sexual assault policy. Now, students can report instances of sexual violence at any point during their college careers.

The road to getting this policy finalized has been long. Until now, GW had a prescribed limit for reporting assaults, beginning with a six-month time frame which was later tentatively expanded to two years. Administrators originally defended the limit, saying that if too much time passed after an incident the victim’s memory could become “hazy.”

That was an unacceptable move that put unfair pressure on victims to report assault before they were prepared to do so or deterred them from reporting altogether.

With one in four students being sexually assaulted during their college careers, it’s no secret that sexual violence is a massive issue on our campus. That’s why this change in policy is one of the most positive developments at the University in a while.

In the revised policy, the University urges students to report instances of sexual violence “as soon as possible” – terminology which is far more fluid and pragmatic than that of previous regulations.

It’s reassuring to see illogical reasoning cast aside in favor of a more open policy, which now corresponds with policies at other local schools, including Georgetown and American universities, as well as the majority of the top 50-ranked universities.

But administrators’ work is not over.

When they meet with student groups in the coming weeks about sexual assault prevention, they should discuss the unlimited time period to report these crimes. The discussion can propel higher reporting rates and a safer environment for victims.

Ultimately, unless the University makes the sexual assault policy known, the improvements might as well not exist.

Media Credit: Anna McGarrigle | Design Assistant

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