By Vinitha Raj
This past week, Georgetown celebrated Take Back the Night week, standing in solidarity with survivors of sexual assault and raising awareness about healthy relationships. This week, and the organization in general, aims to foster an environment of respect, not abuse—especially exigent as headlines of sexual assault injustice have been plastered across the country, especially on social media. Some of the most elite, well-known universities have received the most heat. These educational institutions boast well-rounded, conscientious students, so it is shocking that so many have gone through this horrific violation. Even more disappointing are the echoed stories of the lack of university administrative action in righting the wrong and bringing the survivor justice. Student groups have taken it into their own hands to advocate for justice and change stigmas. Unfortunately, these issues do not disappear in the future for college students.
Sexual harassment in the workplace remains extremely prevalent. According to a study published by the American Sociological Association in 2012, “1 in 3 women ages 18 to 34 has been sexually harassed.” More surprisingly, the study found that only 11% were able to identify behavior they had experienced as sexual harassment. Verbal harassment was the most commonplace method, followed by physical contact. Electronic harassment in the form of lewd messages, pictures, or links has also become a concern. These high statistics beg that the fight for equality, especially in the eyes of men who were the highest perpetrators, is not done. Even though some argue women are close to achieving professional equality with men, this recent survey demonstrates the need to continue working towards true equality. It also shows that we must continue to empower women, providing them with the tools and knowledge to stand up against these actions.
Women are especially susceptible to these kinds of behaviors because professional atmospheres have historically belonged to men. As women surge forward with equivalent educations and competitive resumes, an unwelcoming environment can hold them back from reaching their full potential. Women have been forced to conform to men’s standards in the workplace in order to be recognized. From clothing to behavior, women breaking into professional careers sacrifice pieces of their own personalities in order to find acceptance and avoid confrontation. For example, wearing conservative business suits or acting overtly unemotionally so as not to be discredited as being delicate, women have had to maneuver their way into the workforce. (This is not to discredit women who choose to act this way as reflections of their identities.)
Sure, recently women are more greatly encouraged to dream and fulfill their career goals, whatever they may be. But how can we expect women to stay in the workface if they must always fear being treated as an object instead of as a person? How can they validate their educational accomplishments, if they are only recognized for their physical attributes? One comment can negate a woman’s entire identity—her character, her intellect, her achievements. However, sadly, many women have faced these stereotypes for their whole lives and have learned to turn the other cheek. That does not make it acceptable.
Forty-five percent of women with bachelor’s degrees have experienced sexual harassment. These statistics make college movements fighting for women’s equality even more important. After all, those students are the future of the professional world. These issues affect all careers, whether in the medical field, education, food service/hospitality, or the corporate world. Intersectionality, another important concept, has recently gained traction in the discussion for equality: women who identify with other minority groups of race or sexual orientation experience greater instances and degrees of discrimination. For this reason, college organizations striving for equality for all forms of diversity, from race to gender, significantly impact the perceptions and experiences of graduates for the rest of their lives. Although day-to-day progress may not be visible, these groups will literally change the mindsets of an entire generation, which will change the perspective of humanity as time passes. As such, GUWIL is proud to support Take Back the Night, and hopes that we can continue to work together to fight for equality and justice, on the Hilltop and beyond.
To find out more about Georgetown University Take Back The Night, check out their Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/gutbtn/?fref=ts