Director of Public Safety Jeffrey Van Slyke had a heartening message for the Georgetown community at the start of the school year: the Department of Public Safety was ready to get serious about Georgetown’s sexual assault problem. At a public safety open forum on September 3, Van Slyke announced that Georgetown would work towards offering classes in Rape Aggression Defense Systems (RAD), the nation’s preeminent self-defense program, to interested females. Four sexual assaults and nearly three months later, RAD is still in its planning stages. The neighborhood isn’t getting any safer, and Georgetown shouldn’t have to wait much longer for Van Slyke to fulfill his promise. If DPS really wants to reduce sexual assault at Georgetown, it should start offering the RAD program within the first month of next semester.
The reason for the delay? DPS hasn’t yet secured sufficient funding for the project, according to Van Slyke. Despite other efforts to improve security on campus, including bike patrols and the Adopt-a-Cop program, the frequency of sexual assaults in the Georgetown neighborhood is not letting up. Just this past month, one Georgetown student was groped as she was walking along O Street and one was sexually assaulted on Wisconsin Avenue, suffering a broken shoulder. The RAD program, which teaches risk reduction, avoidance, and awareness in addition to physical self-defense tactics, wouldn’t completely eliminate sexual assault at Georgetown, but it would give female Hoyas a fighting chance against potential attackers.
GUSA President Pat Dowd also realizes the need to address Georgetown’s sexual assault problem. After seeing the pain of sexual assault first-hand when a friend of his was attacked earlier this semester, Dowd has been working to expand SafeRides’ hours of operation to between dusk and 3 a.m. Dowd has done little to advocate for RAD though, and, perplexingly, he told a Voice reporter that he thought self-defense training “would do little to prevent sexual assault,” particularly when the assailant is armed. (The RAD program specifically trains students how to defend against knives and firearms.) The reason that the RAD program has been taught to over 300,000 women since its inception in 1989 is that it does a great deal to prevent sexual assault. Dowd would do well to recognize this fact. Dowd could be a powerful advocate for RAD at Georgetown and should work closely with DPS to ensure RAD is initiated as soon as possible.
Given the prevalence of sexual assault in the neighborhood, Georgetown can no longer afford to be behind the curve when it comes to self-defense training for female students. DPS must do everything it can to begin offering the program early next semester.