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Students silently protest officials’ alleged mishandling of sexual assault cases

Grace Hromin | Senior Photo Editor
Students silently protested with their signs behind Commencement, facing the setup on the National Mall.

Updated: Oct. 4, 2021 at 2:04 p.m.

About 75 students marched by the site of Commencement on the National Mall Saturday to silently protest GW’s handling of sexual assault cases and demand a more detailed barring process for those with Title IX violations.

GW Protects Rapists, a student advocacy group for sexual assault survivors, organized a demonstration at Kogan Plaza before marching down H Street, turning onto Pennsylvania Avenue, proceeding down Constitution Avenue and congregating outside Commencement on the Mall until about 11 a.m. Participants said they sought to push officials to hold alleged assailants accountable for their actions through barring notices after denouncing communication issues throughout the Title IX process.

Students at the protest carried signs reading slogans like “Hold Abusers Accountable” and “When Will They Protect Me?”, silently protesting near the back of the Commencement seating area and facing the written messages toward the stage.

Barrett Liebermann, a sophomore majoring in international affairs who said she was sexually assaulted, said she’s hesitant to report her case to the Title IX Office because of the experiences she’s heard from other students who never received timely responses from officials.

“​​It does give me a lot of anxiety that if something were to happen that it wouldn’t necessarily be listened to or heard,” she said.

Protesters alleged the University has recently mishandled Title IX cases through delayed outreach and a failure to bar assailants from campus. GW’s Title IX and diversity, equity and community engagement offices responded late last month, saying they were implementing new case management software and hiring more staff to address students’ concerns.

Libermann said seeing multiple students post on social media about their struggles and the University’s mishandling of their cases has been “frustrating.” She said she hopes the University will listen to survivors and clarify Title IX protocols.

“To actually feel safe, I would hope that those changes that we’re advocating for and that students have, like SASA are advocating for, can be implemented sooner rather than later,” she said.

Izzy Vallance, a sophomore who serves as the designated Title IX reporter at Kappa Delta, said members of her sorority must share their experiences with sexual assault to her before she can relay them to the Title IX Office. She said she hopes officials will change this process so survivors can tell their own stories.

“I want them to come up and talk to me, feel safe talking to me but let them have that choice to be able to go to Title IX,” she said. “Obviously we disclose that to our members ahead of time, I tell the whole process, but still it’s not right that I’m telling their story.”

She said administrators don’t take survivors’ issues with Title IX and the campus barring process seriously enough, and she hopes the protest will help officials notice survivors’ concerns.

“​I hope that GW will stop protecting rape culture and really taking the survivors’ claims seriously,” she said.

Schuyler Van Tassel, a sophomore majoring in Chinese and international affairs, said the Title IX Office should hold assailants accountable for their actions, unlike how she views its current system of management.

“Right now, I feel like it exists so GW doesn’t actually have to go through with stuff,” he said. “I feel like a lot of the actions they take are very performative, and I want to see legitimate accountability for sexual assaulters.”

This post has been updated to correct the following:
The Hatchet misspelled Van Tassel’s last name. The correct spelling is now reflected. We regret this error.

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