Last month, an alumna sued GW alleging that the school actively created and was deliberately indifferent to a culture of “sexual hostility and violence.” These allegations are troubling because sexual harassment and sexual assault isn’t a new problem. And this culture at GW is not new either.
I graduated in the dark ages. We didn’t have cell phones. We didn’t have the internet. And more importantly, we didn’t have access to information related to the sexual assaults that were occurring on campus. It was all word of mouth – whispers.
Students today can find information at the touch of a button, and I encourage you to use this ability to hold administrators accountable for the sexual assaults that occur on school property.
Since I graduated, Congress mandated that all colleges and universities submit an annual report to the U.S. Department of Education of crimes that occur on campus through the Clery Act. This legislation requires reporting all crimes, including rape. According to the 2016 annual report, 25 rapes were reported in 2014, 23 rapes were reported in 2015 and 32 rapes were reported in 2016 – all on campus property.
But prosecutions, or other outcomes of these cases, are not reported by the University.
GW is not an outlier in failing to report this data. The U.S. Department of Education only mandates that schools submit allegations of crimes that are reported. The department does not require schools to include the resolution of the complaints in their annual reports. This egregious gap in information allows schools to claim a safe campus culture while only telling half the story. And it’s the missing half that shows the true state of affairs.
Without information about the resolution of these cases, students may think their campus is safe because crimes are being reported but they don’t have crucial information about whether or not these cases are actually resolved and if steps were taken to make the campus safer after an incident.
You can change that. As students, you have the ability to demand that GW provide information on the outcome of all the claims, but especially reports of sexual assault.
I also encourage you to contact your member of Congress and ask them to change the federal law to require prosecution data be included in the yearly crime report. Doing so ensures that all students have access to this vital information that keeps individuals and the community safe.
Knowledge is power, so the University should give its students all the information possible to feel safe in their community. Students should also have the power to understand how their University is dealing with these cases, so they can hold their University accountable to process these cases properly and provide support to the students who report these crimes.
I’m encouraging students to take these actions because in doing so, you’re creating a safer environment for yourselves and those that come after you. And for alumni, I encourage you to use your voice and demand change as well.
A school that tolerates a culture of sexual hostility is not one we should be proud of.
K. Denise Rucker Krepp, an alumna who graduated in 1995, is an Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner for Capitol Hill east neighborhood.