University Efforts to Combat Sexual Assault and Misconduct and Results of Climate Survey

October 15, 2019*

Dear Members of the Georgetown University Community:

I am writing to share with you the results of the University’s second climate survey on sexual assault and misconduct, and how they will inform our ongoing work to address sexual assault and misconduct on our campus.

As one of the first institutions in the nation to hire a full time sexual assault response coordinator in 1997, Georgetown has long been committed to preventing and responding to sexual misconduct. In recent years we have significantly expanded our efforts, working together with students, faculty, and staff, with a focus on education and prevention, support for parties impacted by sexual misconduct, and a prompt and equitable process to address complaints of sexual misconduct.

Survey Results

In February 2019, more than 6,100 Georgetown students (representing a total response rate of 38.9%) participated in the Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Misconduct. The survey sought to examine the prevalence and incidence of sexual misconduct in our community, as well as engagement in bystander intervention and knowledge of policies and resources.

We conducted a version of this survey in 2016, and this year we coordinated with 32 schools convened by the Association of American Universities (AAU). This allows Georgetown to better assess its campus climate compared to other institutions and to track changes in key measurements since the first survey was administered in January 2016. The survey’s findings will continue to help us understand how we as a community can better work together and identify additional opportunities to prevent sexual assault and misconduct.

I encourage all members of our community to review the data in more detail and to review the full 2019 AAU report.

The survey found that students, particularly undergraduate women, continue to experience sexual misconduct far too often. According to the 2019 survey data, 31.6% of undergraduate women report having experienced non-consensual sexual contact since entering Georgetown. This figure includes behaviors ranging from unwanted penetration to unwanted sexual touching involving physical force or inability to consent. This did not represent a statistically significant change from the 2016 31.0% reported rate. By comparison, across all AAU schools that administered the survey this year, the rate for undergraduate women increased by almost 3% since the first climate survey, to 25.9%.

The survey found that 44% of students reported experiencing offensive or inappropriate behavior of a sexual nature since entering Georgetown; and 19.1% said that the behavior rose to the level of sexual harassment because it interfered with their academic or professional performance, limited their ability to participate in an academic program, or created an intimidating, hostile, or offensive social, academic, or work environment.* Those numbers are still far too high and tell us that we still have significant work to do to ensure all members of our community are treated with dignity and respect.

Student awareness of the University’s policies and supportive resources has increased significantly over the last three years, and more students are reporting incidents and seeking help after an incident. While this upward trend is encouraging, the numbers show that the majority of students still do not seek University assistance after a sexual assault. These trends are consistent with the findings across the AAU schools as a whole, and they highlight the importance of increasing trust in university resources, processes and procedures.

The survey results also suggest that many students are being active bystanders and looking out for one another. Encouraging bystander intervention and providing students with the skills and confidence to intervene has been a major effort, through the introduction of the University’s mandatory “Bringing in the Bystander” course for undergraduate students. According to the survey, among students who witnessed “a situation they believed could lead to a sexual assault,” 53.1% checked in with the person who seemed impacted by the behavior and 37.0% directly intervened.

An overview of 2019 key findings, the complete survey report and tables, and an executive summary can be found here.

Next Steps

The survey findings underscore that, as a community, we have significant work to do in order to achieve a campus environment free from sexual misconduct. We remain deeply committed to addressing issues related to sexual misconduct. Our work will address all of our students, and we will have a particular focus on addressing the experiences of students of color; transgender, genderqueer or nonbinary (TGQN) students; and students with disabilities.

Our immediate work will focus in the following areas:

Listening Sessions

The survey provides valuable data, but it does not present the full picture of the complexity of these issues. Hearing directly from our community, especially students, will help provide deeper insights into the experiences and feelings beyond the data, and how best to work together to reduce and address sexual misconduct.

We invite members of the community to participate in listening sessions focused on better understanding the information drawn from the survey results to inform our work going forward. These sessions will be hosted by faculty, staff, and administrative leaders from each of the campuses. We invite you to RSVP and attend one of the sessions indicated below. Additional sessions on the Main, Medical and Law Center campuses will be announced soon.

Coordinated Community Response Team

The University has established a new Coordinated Community Response Team (CCRT) Executive Committee, led by Dr. Vince WinklerPrins, Assistant Vice President for Student Health, Jennifer Woolard, Associate Professor of Psychology, and Jen Luettel Schweer, Director, Sexual Assault Response and Prevention Services and Associate Director, Health Education Services. This was a recommendation of our 2016-2017 Sexual Assault and Misconduct Climate Task Force. We are in the final stages of developing the full CCRT, which will include student members and will be charged with regularly convening members of our community to work towards systematic and sustainable change. Hearing from student voices is particularly important to inform the CCRT’s efforts. The CCRT will provide a multidisciplinary approach and consideration of issues around sexual assault and sexual misconduct. The CCRT model also relies on institutional assessment data to strengthen its understanding and help frame its work for the campus community.

Ongoing Efforts

As we prepare to host listening sessions and launch the CCRT, we will continue to strengthen our work in focused, targeted and comprehensive ways. Two ongoing areas include:

Bystander Intervention. This year’s survey indicated that students have gained an increased understanding of, and comfort with, intervening to help others in potentially troubling situations.

In 2016, the University introduced bystander intervention education training for student leaders. Since then, the education program, which includes an online course and attendance at a five-hour in-person training, has become mandatory for all incoming and transfer students. Last year, we had over 99% compliance for undergraduate students, and by next fall, all undergraduates will have participated in the same comprehensive first-year training program. Many student leaders are also required to complete a supplemental three-hour training, which covers additional important topics.

Resource Awareness. The university will continue to promote and focus on supporting survivors, and comprehensive educational training and prevention programs. We are encouraged to see that compared to three years ago, students are more knowledgeable about university policies and support resources. However, compared to the national average of students surveyed among AAU institutions, Georgetown students report being less aware than their peers.

Health Education Services (HES) and Counseling and Psychiatric Services (CAPS) offer on-campus confidential counseling services and links to other on- and off-campus services that support students. In addition, Georgetown has a variety of semi-confidential and non-confidential resources to support survivors. Improving awareness of these resources is essential to ensure students know where to go, how to report misconduct, and how to get help when they need it.

We have engaged in this work on our campus, and in the national dialogue. The University submitted a formal comment in response to the Department of Education’s proposed Title IX regulations in January 2019, following a series of 10 listening sessions with students, faculty, and staff on our three D.C. campuses and one session at our campus in Doha, Qatar. We have always gone above and beyond what the law requires and will continue to do all we can to prevent and address sexual misconduct. As we await the final regulations from the Department, we remain resolute in our commitment to ensuring a safe and welcoming community for all of our students.

Together, we can make a difference to prevent and respond to sexual assault and misconduct. We are grateful to all those who have shown a deep commitment to advancing this work, and we encourage all members of our community to contribute to our shared effort.


John J. DeGioia

*Updated to clarify the percentage of students reporting experiencing inappropriate or offensive behavior, and the percentage of students reporting experiencing inappropriate or offensive behavior rising to the level of “sexual harassment“.