For the first time, New Student Orientation included a mandatory sexual assault education component this year after a recent push from student organizations, including the Voice and GUSA. Last year’s NSO held a voluntary ice cream social addressing the issue of sexual assault during Welcome Week. This year, however, sexual assault education was integrated into HoyaRealTalk.
Performers from the Georgetown theatre community put on a skit addressing issues within college culture, complete with videos from campus resources sprinkled throughout the show and followed by small group discussions with IAmReady facilitators.
The humorous skit showed what sexual assault can look like on a college campus by using a stereotypical party setting to highlight the how the actions of a drunk guy hitting on a tipsy freshman girl are inappropriate. The character’s friends sat him down in a chair for a game-show style quiz on what is and is not proper, or legal, behavior—including the fact that if a girl is under the influence of alcohol, she cannot legally consent to any sexual encounter. The skit’s comedic tone changed quickly, however, when the actors and actresses stepped out of their roles to start a serious conversation.
“Consent is never assumed, implied, or pressured,” said one of the HoyaRealTalk performers. “Only yes means yes,” said another. They shared the statistics that one in four females and one in 33 males encounter sexual assault while in college, reinforcing the importance of their message.
The event also included an interactive feature in which students could text responses to questions, including “Do you know someone who is a survivor of sexual assault?” to which 54 percent of freshmen respondents in the first session anonymously responded “Yes.”
Overall, feedback on how HoyaRealTalk addressed sexual assault was positive. “I think it was effective—it’s hard to do that without being cheesy,” said freshman Robert Cortes (COL ‘18) after attending HoyaRealTalk. “I think it was good to say ‘what is consent, what is not’ to be clear about it. I didn’t know that when someone’s drunk, they can’t consent.”
The success of HoyaRealTalk was in part due to the openness of its planning process. “[The organizers] continued to take feedback and suggestions on what to include in the skit up until basically the last rehearsal, which I thought was great,” said Orientation Adviser Trishla Jain (SFS ‘15). “They even solicited and incorporated feedback from NSO Captains and OAs after we saw the skit during training.”
By mixing in education about sexual assault with other common issues faced by college students, HoyaRealTalk emphasized its dangerous presence on college campus—particularly during the “Red Zone,” the first six weeks of fall semester, when sexual assault incidents are most common.
The event’s discussion component invited incoming freshmen to the important conversation. “We spent the first 15 minutes of the discussion talking about the general topics covered by the skit and then the IAmReady facilitators led a discussion about the sexual assault component of the skit for the last 45 minutes,” said Jain. “I was so impressed by the facilitation skills of the IAmReady facilitators in my room and I was in awe of the way that the students were engaging with these extremely sensitive issues of sexual assault in a way that I never did as a first year student.”