Updated: Jan. 29, 2015 at 10:03 p.m.
Alcohol has been a factor in every sexual assault reported to the University Police Department in the last four years, GW’s security chief said Monday.
Senior Associate Vice President for Safety and Security Darrell Darnell and UPD interim chief Frank Demes urged members of the Residence Hall Association to share more information with other students about campus resources for sexual assault, alcohol use and mental health at a meeting Monday night.
Ari Massefski, the group’s president, also announced that the University will renovate Fulbright Hall’s basement and purchase new furniture for the space to reward students for winning the eco-challenge
Here are the key takeaways from the meeting.
1. Fighting sexual assault and alcohol abuse
Darnell encouraged RHA members to tell other students about GW’s resources for sexual assault, such as the Sexual Assault Response Consultative Team. Last semester, 23 sexual abuses were reported to UPD, the highest number since 2010, which experts say could be an indicator that more students feel comfortable reporting.
“There is not a more heinous crime outside of murder than sexual assault,” Darnell said, adding that in every sexual assault case that’s been reported to UPD since he came to campus in 2010, alcohol has been a factor.
Darnell said he would always “err on the side of caution,” choosing to transport unresponsive students who had been drinking to the hospital rather than assume they were safe. Alcohol plays a role in the culture on college campuses, though, he said.
“I only want you to help yourselves and take care of your neighbors,” he said. “I’m not naive enough to think you’re not going to drink underage or have fake IDs. And you guys have some damn good fake IDs.”
2. Spreading awareness of mental health resources
The University has increased its advocacy efforts to help improve students’ mental health, and Demes encouraged RHA members to promote the CARE Network and the University Counseling Center. GW was shaken by three suicides last year, which spurred more mental health advocacy on campus.
“You guys really are the ones who can help. If you notice differences in behavior, or the friends they keep, reach out to them, and encourage your floor mates to do the same thing,” Demes said.
Just letting other students know about GW’s mental health services could make them more inclined to use those resources if they need to, Darnell added.
“Some people may not want to talk to you, or want to trust you,” he said. “If you can continue to talk about services, it’ll put it in their heads where they can seek out the help they need.”
3. Promoting the GW PAL phone app
GW’s PAL phone application has been downloaded more than 3,200 times since it was unveiled last fall to make it easier for students to contact UPD in an emergency, Darnell said.
Darnell added that GW is also working to allow students to text UPD in emergency situations.
“The good thing is we haven’t had to use it a lot, but the bad thing is we haven’t been able to see how good it is because we haven’t had to use it a lot,” Darnell said.
This post was updated to reflect the following corrections:
The Hatchet incorrectly reported that Senior Associate Vice President for Safety and Security Darrell Darnell said alcohol has been a factor in every sexual assault reported in GW’s crime log in the last four years. Alcohol has actually been a factor in every sexual assault reported to UPD in the last four years. GW’s crime log includes crimes that were not first reported to UPD. The Hatchet incorrectly reported that 23 sexual assaults were reported to UPD last semester. In fact, 23 sexual abuses were reported. The Hatchet also incorrectly reported that the University was working to allow students to send pictures to UPD through the GW PAL app. The app already has that feature. We regret these errors.