Upperclass women feel more at risk of sexual violence

While sexual abuse education and training often focuses on freshmen, the results from a survey of unwanted sexual behavior indicate that upperclass women at GW feel more at risk.

One-in-three upperclass women reported that they had experienced unwanted sexual behavior, compared to 27 percent of freshman women. Experts say those numbers show that all students need training about prevention and information about available resources.

Upperclass women were more likely to experience unwanted sexual behavior – which can range from making sexual jokes, sending sexual pictures or asking for a sexual favor – from someone unaffiliated with GW. Eight percent of freshmen women said they had experienced unwanted sexual behavior from someone unaffiliated with GW.

While the Student Association and Students Against Sexual Assault are lobbying for more training for incoming freshmen at Colonial Inauguration, they say GW needs to educate all students, including those in higher grades. The University does not currently have a mandatory sexual assault training program for all students.

“Education is important for anyone, regardless of whether you’re a graduate student or undergraduate student, whether you’re a senior or freshman,” SASA Co-President Ariella Neckritz said.

Colby Bruno, the senior legal counsel at the Victim Rights Law Center in Boston, said determining who is engaging in unwanted behavior can help officials target their training efforts. She said administrators need that information to see the full picture, instead of solely focusing their efforts on the “red zone” – the beginning of the academic year, when experts say sexual assaults are most likely to occur.

“I find with victims that each victim has their own story [about] why they don’t want to tell, and it’s very difficult to do a uniform training,” Bruno said. “We’ve been going on what we’ve assumed to be true.”

Bruno said college officials should aim to have 85 to 90 percent of each class of students complete training about sexual violence.

It’s also important to offer follow-up trainings and refresh students’ knowledge about potential risks throughout their college career, said Scott Berkowitz, the founder and president of the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network.

“If upperclass students have been at school for several years and been to countless parties and up to that point nothing has happened, their comfort increases,” Berkowitz said.

Colleen Murphy contributed reporting.

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