As part of the “It’s On Us” campaign launched by the White House in September, the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee has produced a video to feature student-athletes taking a stand against sexual assault. The video follows a series of workshops in the Georgetown Athletics department to engage student-athletes on the issue.
First released through the Georgetown website on Dec. 10, the 30-second video features student-athletes urging other students to take an online pledge to promote bystander intervention. Produced by Gabriela Elvina (COL ‘17), Megan Schmidt (COL ‘15), and Brett Treacy (MSB ‘15) in conjunction with the Office of Communications, the video will be shown at halftime during home basketball games for the remainder of the season.
Javan Robinson (MSB ‘15), vice president of the Student Athletic Advisory Committee, believes the public stance taken by the athletic community demonstrates athletes’ awareness and their conviction to end sexual assault. Elvina, who acts as visual media coordinator for SAAC, suggests that those seen by many as “the big kids on campus” want to lead by example.
“You see them and idolize them. So if you see that they’re supporting this, you want to support it too,” Elvina said.
While the Sexual Assault Working Group agrees that the video increases awareness of sexual assault, representatives believe the video demonstrates little more than an outward display of support for an issue it is unqualified to address.
GUSA Secretary of Student Health and Safety Nora West (SFS ‘15), member of the Sexual Assault Working Group, believes the video will mislead students about student-athletes’ understanding of sexual assault. In her view, athletes’ portrayal in the video presents them as experts, resources, or “people who particularly care about the issue.”
“I understand they’re attempting to use celebrity, but what if that person ends up raping someone? Or what if any of the people in that video, someone goes to them because they did experience sexual assault, and because none of them have been trained, they don’t know anything?”
West additionally expressed concern that taking the online pledge is an insufficient attempt to address the issue of sexual assault. Those who take it pledge to recognize non-consensual sex as sexual assault, engage in bystander intervention, and support survivors of sexual assault.
“I can take a pledge to anything. That doesn’t mean that I’m going to live out those values, whether or not I’ve taken them on camera for an athletics video,” West said.
Last fall, the Athletics Department launched that the Power Workshops to engage student-athletes in discussions about such issues as sexual assault, hazing, and bullying. Every varsity sports team participated in versions of the workshop, described by student-athletes as a multi-media presentation led by Director of Student-Athlete Leadership and Development Mike Lorenzen.
“Student-athletes and coaches participated in the workshops, which were designed to inform and empower student-athletes and coaches to discuss how power and privilege can be abused in both group (e.g. hazing) and individual (e.g. sexual assault and bullying) contexts,” Sports Information Director Michael Carey wrote in an email to the Voice.
Incidents of hazing or sexual assault particular to Georgetown were not discussed in the presentations given in December, though student-athletes responded that they were not aware of any on-campus occurrences.
“We kept that under disclosure. It was kind of like, no one said anything. [Lorenzen] didn’t ask about anything. He was just telling us, ‘Well, you’re aware,’” Elvina said.
As a reaction to what it perceived as a danger of having unqualified spokespeople to speak on the issue of sexual assault, SAWG came to a general consensus in December “that if [the video] was going to be out there, athletes should have further training,” West said. Carey acknowledged the Power Workshops were not comprehensive trainings on issues of sexual assault, though they were not intended to be.
“In the coming weeks, we look forward to connecting SAAC with the Sexual Assault Peer Educator group to work together collaboratively as an additional avenue for student-athletes to be trained by peer facilitators on these issues,” Carey wrote.
“Right now, Athletics is talking the talk, and hopefully with these trainings they’ll have a better sense of what it actually means to, pardon my cliché, walk the walk,” West said.