The prevalence of sexual assault and violence has become a huge national conversation in recent months – and it’s only the beginning. From college campuses to Hollywood, horrific acts of sexual assault have been exposed, sparking a nationwide discussion about how this must be addressed.
This week, the issue hits close to home. As the District takes a step forward by implementing a prevention effort for city employees, GW is taking two steps back after the release of a report alleging the mishandling of an incident of sexual violence from the early 2000s involving a famous alumnus.
Here’s the best and worst news from around campus and the District this week.
The District is doing more to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace. D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser signed an order Monday mandating all 30,000 city employees complete sexual harassment training by February 2018.
Bowser’s administration started reviewing the District’s policies in November in light of the increasing national conversation on sexual assault and harassment.
The order also requires that all 1,500 supervisors complete advanced training and modernize existing workplace guidelines. This requirement should help employees feel safer and more comfortable.
But the order doesn’t end at efforts to prevent sexual harassment. Under the order, every government agency will now be required to have a dedicated Equal Employment Opportunity officer or human resources manager. That person will be required to review and investigate all sexual harassment claims and report their findings to the agency within 60 days of the incident, which should increase transparency at all 77 agencies.
This is in contrast to the current process, where some complaints are filed with the Office of the Attorney General, while other agencies can resolve legal claims with financial settlements using their budgets. This has prevented the District from accurately tracking all complaints.
While Bowser and her administration has yet to reveal more details about the training, it’s encouraging to see they are acknowledging the prevalence of sexual harassment and taking steps to prevent and handle these important cases.
The University’s mishandling of sexual assault and violence cases may have been going on for longer than students likely thought.
The alleged sexual assault survivor, referred to as “Sarah” in the report to protect her identity, said Miller became violent on two occasions during sexual encounters without her consent. The incident later went to a “student court” at GW, where Sarah said the case was resolved without any explanation. She told The Daily Beast that the “student court” asked her about how much she had to drink the night of the incidents and whether she had ever heard about the sexual practice of erotic asphyxiation. This blatant instance of victim-blaming is wrong coming from anyone, but it particularly hurts knowing it came from the University.
Sources told The Daily Beast that Miller was “expelled after he graduated,” but few details are known about that claim since officials are required to stay silent due to federal privacy laws. After the report was released, a student petition was started to have Miller’s degree rescinded. As of Thursday night, it had 190 signatures.
What is even more concerning and repulsive is that after being tried for alleged sexual violence, Miller has returned to campus several times since he graduated in 2003 for performances and continued his work with receSs, a comedy improv troupe where he met Sarah. In 2009, he even headlined a comedy event during Alumni Weekend.
Although Miller denied the allegations, it’s truly disheartening to hear that the University did not distance themselves from an alumnus who went through a judicial process for an alleged assault, and have even continued to invite him back to perform.
GW is currently under federal investigation by the Department of Education for allegedly mishandling a sexual violence case and later retaliating against the survivor. The exposure of Miller’s case unfortunately shows that there is a very likely chance the University’s mishandling of these cases dates back much earlier than just the last few years. Now, GW should issue a statement addressing the incident and condemn Miller’s alleged actions.
Irene Ly, a senior majoring in psychology, is The Hatchet’s opinions editor.