The Sexist

G.W. Paper Criticizes Sexual Assault Victims’ Lack of “Responsibility”

In a staff editorial, George Washington University newspaper the Hatchet reacted to two recent incidents of on-campus violence by calling for a "shared responsibility for safety." In the first incident, a stranger approached a graduate student in the bathroom of an academic building and hit him in the head with a hammer. In the second, a stranger approached several sleeping women in a Freshman dorm and sexually assaulted them.

"Both of these incidents exemplify ways that GW can improve security on its campus," the Hatchet editorial informed students. According to the camps paper, the bathroom hammering reveals how the university needs to "better expedite information in response to major security threats on campus." The sexual assault, meanwhile, "shows that students have a responsibility to keep themselves safe."

Perhaps it was not the best choice of words.

Both incidents, which occurred on Friday, Oct. 9, involved an assault upon students in a private on-campus facility. The male graduate student suffered a "non-life-threatening head injury" after he was "using a urinal when the suspect . . . came out of one of the stalls, stood behind the student and hit him in the back of the head with a hammer." Earlier that day, several G.W. freshman awoke to a strange man sexually assaulting them in their private dorm rooms. The paper, disappointingly, softens the man's actions as "sexual advances":

One female student who lives on the eighth floor reported that the man woke her up by trying to kiss her, and "attempted twice to place his hands down the front of her shorts," according to the police report. The female began screaming and the man ran across the hallway to another room, where he woke up another girl. She said he told her he had met her at Josephine, a popular nightclub.

"That's when I knew I didn't know him—I've never been to Josephine," the second female student said in an interview. "Then he grabbed my head and tried to kiss me."

In the editorial following the incidents, the Hatchet board wrote that the sexual assaults constituted a "valuable reminder of the necessity for students to lock their doors at all times and to take responsibility for guests you bring into residence halls."

These general safety precautions—lock your doors and don't leave your guests unattended—are good to know, but it doesn't take a G.W. Hatchet editorial for students to finally understand the arguments in favor of locking doors. Actually, a sexual assault on campus is not a "valuable" public service announcement, nor is it an appropriate opportunity to inform victims that they're lacking in personal responsibility. The Hatchet noted that the assault victims had "accidentally left the door unlocked" before they went to sleep. Compare that lapse in "responsibility" to the guy who illegally gained entrance to a private dorm, climbed to the 8th floor, and systematically sexually assaulted a hallway full of sleeping women. Oh, well. At least he taught those girls a valuable lesson!

Why doesn't the Hatchet see the a student getting hammered in the head as a "valuable reminder" that using a public urinal puts men in a vulnerable situation to a surprise attack? And why is the campus' latest head injury victim not reminded that he has a "responsibility to keep himself safe" from deranged criminals? Maybe it's because that sort of teaching moment works to place the blame on the guy who's just taking a piss, instead of the unpredictably violent guy with the hammer. Take away the hammer, unlock the door, and turn the bathroom victim into a hallway full of sleeping women, and all of a sudden, nobody's responsible for your sexual assault but you.

The G.W. Hatchet is writing to a pretty small campus community. The women who were sexually assaulted read that editorial. They know that their experience is being used by the campus press as a "valuable reminder" of campus irresponsibility. I hope they write back.

  • Rick Pierce

    "These general safety precautions—lock your doors and don’t leave your guests unattended—are good to know, but it doesn’t take a G.W. Hatchet editorial for students to finally understand the arguments in favor of locking doors."

    ...I'm confused, isn't it the students failure to lock their doors precisely what led to the opportunity? And then wouldn't it require the newspaper to point it out for the future? Safety precautions are exactly that - precautions. It's your responsibility to employ them and I don't understand exactly how it's a failure of this editorial in identifying that.

    I hope your editor writes back and explain how an illogical and poorly argued blogpost made it onto the web under the CityPaper brand.

  • Kate-Madonna

    What an illogical argument on your behalf, Rick.
    I suppose the next time you forget to lock your doors in an environment you feel safe and a robber comes, and harms your family or steals your valuables... maybe you'll just shrug and say, "MEH. Not their fault- shoulda locked my doors."

    I find it hard to believe you have no compassion for these victims.

  • Kate

    This isn't the first time the Hatchet has had questionable attitudes about sexual assault. Here's a gem from last year:
    "Just like people think they normally wouldn't get up on a bar and dance, but after a few drinks, there they are on the bar dancing, people start to drink and do a lot of things they normally wouldn't do - like sexual assault[...]"

  • Christen

    No one would say a man going about his business in the restroom was an "opportunity" for assault.

  • Joe Schmoe

    "No one would say a man going about his business in the restroom was an “opportunity” for assault."

    Actually, a man is quite vulnerable taking a piss. A lot of assaults and pick-pocketing occurs.

  • Emily

    The GW Hatchet has not and is not generally a place where compassionate reporting on sexual assault occurs.

    Take Back the Night, which occurs every year on campus, is shoddily covered, and sexual assaults are usually used as "teaching moments" for "irresponsible women".


  • Emily

    *has not been and is not currently a place, sorry

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