Sex and gender at work, in bed, and on the street

GW responds to study on campus rape perceptions

December 22, 2010 - 03:00 PM
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Last week, a student in the George Washington University School of Medicine teamed up with the Younger Women's Task Force to release a report on student perceptions about campus sexual assault at GW. The report [PDF] found that GW students were undereducated about the school's assault resources: 89 percent of students said that rape kits are available at GWU hospital; 62 percent said the kits were available through the school's student health services; and 74 percent of students said that GW didn't properly educate students about its sexual assault resources.

Today, the university responded to the findings—by quickly ticking those resources that 74 percent of students said weren't adequately explained:

The report "was written by a George Washington University Medical School student and is not a university study," university spokesperson Michelle Sherrard clarified, before listing off the school's sexual assault resources:

 

The George Washington University takes sexual harassment and sexual assault very seriously and has a number of services and resources available to victims. The GW Police Department provides assistance to victims and offers programs on sexual assault prevention, and the Sexual Assault Crisis Consultation Team comprises professional GW staff members who are trained and prepared to assist the survivor of sexual assault or rape. A Sexual Harassment Response Coordinator, located in the Office of the Senior Vice President and General Counsel, is a resource for students who believe they are being or have been sexually harassed, who have been accused of sexual harassment or inappropriate behavior of a sexual nature, or who have received a report of sexual harassment.

The university response provides a quick fix to the report, which found that a majority of GW's undergraduate and graduate students were under- or misinformed about the school's sexual assault services. But truly educating students about campus sexual assault services available in case of crisis takes more than a one-time statement e-mailed to the media.

The report had a few suggestions for increasing education on campus: Stage mandatory sexual assault prevention trainings for incoming students, student groups, faculty, security and staff; gear prevention efforts toward male groups and bystander intervention; more widely publicize the school's sexual assault policies. GW's statement did not mention any plans to examine these policy recommendations, but it did note one limitation: "it is important to note that hospital distribution of rape kits is decided by the Metropolitan Police Department." It's true that the George Washington University can't simply decide to provide rape kits on its campus. But it can better educate students about where they should go to find them.

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