Students protest HelWell student manager responsible for sexual violence

Media Credit: GAVIN GONDALWALA | HATCHET PHOTOGRAPHER

Students protested the employment of a student manager at the campus recreation center Friday who was found responsible for sexual violence.

About 100 students gathered outside Funger Hall Friday afternoon to protest the employment of a student manager at the campus recreation center who was found responsible for sexual violence.

Senior and sexual assault survivor Aniqa Raihan, who started a petition earlier this month to expel her assailant from the University and, along with members of Students Against Sexual Assault, launched an email campaign to get him fired from his campus job, organized the protest.

She said the University had not taken enough action to protect sexual assault survivors since she started her campaign. Officials gave the assailant a deferred suspension sanction and announced last week that he would not be removed from his position at HelWell.

“They can’t ignore our voices forever,” she said in an interview during the demonstration. “They only have a couple more weeks to respond or they will forever be known for not having handled this the right way.”

Protesters waved signs and chanted sayings like “only at GW do rapists get to stay in school,” and “Peter K, you’re no good, support survivors like you should,” referring to Vice Provost and Dean of Student Affairs Peter Konwerski.

Protesters marched to the Lerner Health and Wellness Center to deliver Raihan’s petition, that has now collected more than 2,000 signatures, to Andre Julien, HelWell’s associate athletic director.

Security officials did not allow Raihan to personally deliver the petition, saying that Julien was not in office, but told her that they would give it to him when he returned.

Demonstrators then marched to Rice Hall, where GW’s top adminstrators work, to deliver a second copy of the petition to Konwerski. Two University Police Department officers stood outside the door, but allowed Raihan and two other members of SASA to bring the petition inside.

Raihan said Konwerski declined to speak to the protesters, but he told her the University is working on transparency and communication regarding cases of sexual misconduct.

Raihan said she deliberately held the rally during an admitted students day because she wanted prospective students and their parents to be aware of how GW mishandled her case.

“This is a serious issue that admitted students and parents should know about,” Raihan said. “We have a lot of parents who are very engaged, very receptive, very open to talking about this and obviously worried about their own kids.”

Addressing the protesters, Raihan said it was unfair that survivors have to work with the assailant at HelWell and student survivors shouldn’t have to feel uncomfortable going to the gym.

“I don’t go to the gym anymore, I can’t go to the gym anymore, and that’s not fair,” she said.

Jocelyn Jacoby, the co-president of SASA, said there needs to be more support for survivors on campus.

“We are here to deliver this petition and we are here to show admitted students that this is a campus with politically active people and people that will support you and will support survivors, but also that this is an institution that’s not perfect and that it has room to grow,” Jacoby said in an interview at the protest.

Jacoby addressed the crowd saying that she was there as a survivor, not just as a SASA representative.

“Three years and two days ago, I learned that GW was not safe for everyone,” Jacoby said. “It wasn’t safe for me, it wasn’t safe for Aniqa, but I want it to be safe for these admitted students. I want it to be safe for the employees at HelWell, and I want it to be safe for you.”

Emily Clott, a junior at the protest, said the University’s handling of the case was “disrespectful” to all sexual assault survivors on campus.

“I don’t think that GW should be tolerating or supporting rapists, I think it’s ridiculous,” Clott said. “They ignored the minimum sentences and then he also got to keep his job, that kind of action shouldn’t be tolerated.”

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