According to national statistics one in four women will be sexually assaulted in college, but many groups at Georgetown are trying to reduce that statistic. Their efforts receive support from the Sexual Assault Working Group, a collection of students, staff, and community members dedicated to the issues of sexual assault and relationship violence on campus. But unfortunately for the cause, the group has not met in a year, indicating SAWG might be apathetic toward its mission.
“A few examples of work that has been done by SAWG include making recommendations around changing the definition of sexual assault in the Student Code of Conduct to make it more survivor-centered,” wrote Jen Schweer, the Sexual Assault and Relationship Violence Services Coordinator for Georgetown, in an email to the Voice. SAWG has also been the leading force in bringing the Sexual Assault and Relationship Violence Liaison position to GU’s Law Center.
SAWG is reaching out to other groups on campus and in the D.C. area that want to foster discussions on sexual assault.
“The University worked extensively with the Office of Victim Services in the Mayor’s Office around the UASK [University Assault Services. Knowledge.] app, in addition to other programming and outreach,” wrote Rachel Pugh, Director of Media Relations at Georgetown in an email to the Voice.
Involvement from student groups and the Women’s Center has also been an integral part of addressing sexual assault.
“For over 20 years the Women’s Center has been involved in raising awareness about intimate partner violence and sexual assault and has provided a safe space for survivors to come forward and share their stories,” wrote Laura Kovach, the Women’s Center Director in an email to the Voice. “The work of ending violence does not take one group or one approch.”
Some Georgetown students, however, have voiced concerns that SAWG has not done enough to push these efforts forward.
“I agree that SAWG has not been sufficient to address sexual assault on this campus, and there are many institutional barriers to them doing so,” wrote Lisa Frank (COL ’13), a Women Advancing Gender Equity Fellow at the Georgetown Women’s Center. “Some are Georgetown-specific, like the Catholic tradition which can often stifle conversations about healthy sexual relationships, and others are near-universal, like the view that sexual assault is a woman’s problem.”
Even though some students do believe Georgetown’s Catholic background can deter discussion on sexual assault, other students and administrators disagree.
“If anything, our Catholic background should be a positive influence. Georgetown is incredibly open-minded and bold,” wrote Jordanna Hernandez (COL ‘15), one of the directors of the Vagina Monologues.
The larger issue remains that the main committee of SAWG has not met this year.
“While SAWG hasn’t met as a larger group this year, I know that they have been working in smaller groups around various initiatives, including being in contact with the GUSA Sexual Assault Working Group as they try to work toward making sexual assault a larger conversation on campus,” Kovach wrote.
These subcommittees have worked on initiatives such as mandating sexual assault education, collaborating with student leaders, and implementating letter campagins to Congress.
In conjunction with student groups, such as GUSA Sexual Assault Working Group, SAWG is pushing to reach out to freshmen during New Student Orientation to educate them on sexual assault, because the most likely time for sexual assault to occur on a campus is during the first six weeks of school.
Part of this involved advertising the UASK app, which provides information about medical help and locations for victims of sexual assault to get help at universitis around the city. “The app was announced at NSO and included in the materials for the play,” Pugh wrote .It is unclear how many students have the app.
“They want to add a sexual assault education component to NSO, so they want to have some sort of workshop that every person goes through, like Pluralism in Action,” said Lindsay Horikoshi (NHS ‘16), another director of the Vagina Monologues.
Students and administrators with SAWG and other groups focusing on women’s issues on campus believe that these initiatives will better address the issue of sexual assault on campus, but even those heavily involved with events such as the Vagina Monologues have not felt the effects of SAWG.
When asked what she thought about the effectiveness of SAWG, Horikoshi said, “I don’t know exactly what they’re trying to do.”