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Fraternities & Sexual Violence On College Campuses

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The main problem being discussed is sexual assault on college campuses targeting fraternities as being the most frequent place for this to take place. Fraternities are notoriously known to be a dangerous place for women. Sexual assault on college campuses has been a serious issue but thankfully, there have been non-legal options, activists, and legislative acts that have been put in place to counter sexual assault.

Some statistics for sexual assault, according to National Women Veterans United, include 25% of college women report that they have survived rape or an attempted rape, every 21 hours, another woman is raped on a college campus today, 91% of victims of sexual assault are women, 75% of the women who reported a rape while on college campus were under the age of 25, 25% of victims surveyed were sorority members, and fraternity men are three times more likely to commit rape than their non-Greek peers. The real question is why are fraternities a place where frequent sexual assault occurs? There are four general topics for setting the scene at a fraternity party: loud noises, dark setting, a lot of people, and a lot of alcohol. At these parties both men and women are consuming heavy amounts of alcohol and not in the best mindset to make proper decisions. Being under the influence can cause sexual violence to be a more frequent event.

There are two factors that play into fraternity men committing sexual assault: toxic masculinity and hazing. Toxic masculinity, or ‘macho personality’ refers to the socially constructed attitudes that was crafted by Mosher and Serkin in 1984 which describes the masculine gender role as violent, unemotional, sexually aggressive, and describe the experience of this type of danger exciting. To back this up, according to KPBS news, a man named Episcopo who is a part of Sigma Phi Epsilon (does not specify college) discusses how both fraternity men and non-Greek men are told that they have to get laid by a girl at the party. If they don’t, they’re considered a low-life or a ‘pussy’. This creates an extreme social pressure to ‘blend in’ and having this mindset can cause someone to be more aggressive, especially when adding in alcohol, with women at the party. In addition, from experience I have noticed that girls dress in provocative ways to fraternity parties and this certainly gets the guys’ attention. Some people say that since they dress in this way that they’re almost asking for it. I completely disagree with this and having this mindset causes sexual violence to be a frequent occurrence at fraternity parties. Hazing also plays a role in sexual violence: in my presentation I showed a picture of three pledges woken up abruptly early in the morning, told to strip naked, and had flour poured all over them by brothers. Hazing causes humiliation and also causes built up anger among the pledges. These men who have experienced this hazing feel submissive to the brothers and after becoming initiated feel that they need to be dominant to compensate for their humiliation. One can see how hazing can be linked to sexual violence.

An example of hazing and sexual assault by a fraternity on college campus occurred at Indiana University. The fraternity, Alpha Tau Omega (ATO), was shut down after a video surfaced of a crowd of shirtless men surrounding and shouting as one guy was forced to perform oral sex on a woman while another naked female was kicking and slapping him. The Alpha Tau Omega national CEO Wynn Smiley told FOX 59 that the video “speaks for itself” and that this chapter “does not in any way reflect the fraternity at large.” This is just one of the many examples of sexual assault and hazing that take place in fraternities on college campuses.

While the case that occurred at Indiana University had plenty of evidence to provide to justify the use of both sexual violence and hazing, there was an incident that occurred at Phi Kappa Psi fraternity party at University of Virginia where there wasn’t enough evidence to prove that a sexual assault case took place. Rolling Stone magazine wrote about the horrific story about a freshman girl named Jackie claiming that she was gang raped by seven young men. While researching this fraternity I came across the University of Virginia fight song called “Rugby Road.” The song goes like this “from Rugby Road to Vinegar Hill, we’re gonna get drunk tonight; the faculty’s afraid of us, they know we’re in the right; so fill up your cups, your loving cups, as full as can be; as long as love and liquor last, we’ll drink to the U of V.” One can see how alcohol can play a huge role in sexual violence not just in this fraternity, but all fraternities that have this mindset. To continue on, this naïve girl wasn’t really a drinker but decided to drink because she didn’t want to come across as a goody-goody at her first fraternity party. She also wanted to impress her date who was a brother at Phi Kappa Psi. Her date, Drew, invited her upstairs and she said yes but according to the article “[her] heart quickened.” Drew and Jackie had met as lifeguards at the university pool. Drew led her upstairs shutting the door behind them. The room was completely dark and while in the room sensed movement and felt someone bum into her. From this she screamed and then heard a man’s voice say ‘shut up’. Someone barreled into her knocking her into a low-glass table shattering the glass. From there, a heavy man went on top of her spreading her legs, while another person was holding down her hair and her arms pinned to the floor with a lot of excited voices surrounding her. She claims that this event lasted three hours and in that time, seven men took turns raping her while two other men, Drew being one of them gave them instruction and encouragement. Jackie vividly remembers how some of the men there were egging one of the guys on to finish the job because he was struggling to “keep it up” and one man asked him “Don’t you want to be a brother?” From this, she realized that the men raping her were pledges and this was their initiation process. Even more dark a brother said “We all had to do it, so you do, too.” This is where the toxic masculinity and hazing comes into play: being heartless, aggressive men to be accepted into the brotherhood.

On the ABC news report they discuss how sexual violence cases are “handled internally; [with] little punishment of perpetrators.” They go on to discuss the “prevalence of sexual assault” on this college campus and how many do not get reported. Unfortunately, sexual assault cases occur on college campuses but some victims are thrown away by the school because their case might be considered ‘smaller’ than another case. Why do they do this? A school or university solely cares about their reputation above all else.

The Virginia Alpha Chapter was shut down for some time but then was reinstated after “consultation with Charlottesville Police Department officials, who told the University that their investigation has not revealed any substantive basis to confirm that the allegations raised in the Rolling Stone article occurred at Phi Kappa Psi.” This is just one example of a women claiming that she was sexually assaulted, and while the story told is fairly convincing, there wasn’t sufficient enough evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that sexual violence occurred at this fraternity.

Since sexual assault is a pressing issue on college campuses, there has been legislative history to counter this sexual assault. Some examples of the legislative history directly linked to my topic include Title IX (1972), Alexander v. Yale (1977), and the Campus SaVE Act (2011).

The first form of legislative history is Title IX which states that “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.” The first time Title IX was implemented was in Alexander v. Yale (1977). The court ruled that “sexual harassment resulting in a loss of educational benefits is a significant injury, redressable by law.” The significance of this case was that it broke the silence of campus sexual harassment with the following stories of five women who were among the first female students to enter the gates of Yale University. Three of the five girls had sexual assault cases that directly affected them. Ronni Alexander, and Margery Reifer claimed that they were sexually harassed by a flute teacher and hockey coach. Sadly, Yale provided no place for them to go to complain. Pamela Price claimed that a course instructor offered to give her an ‘A’ if she complied with his sexual demands. Again, Yale did not provide a safe place to go to complain. Why? College campuses care about their own reputation above the victims’ needs.

Another form of legislative history is the Campus SaVE Act (2011) which requires incidents of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking to be disclosed in an annual campus crime statistic report. This act also provides students with lawyers, advisors or advocates and, in addition, institutions have to provide education on sexual violence prevention and awareness through orientation programs.

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When it comes to activism against sexual assault and harassment, there is a woman named Jess Ladd who is 29 years old and the CEO of Sexual Health Innovations. She was sexually assaulted at Pomona College as a freshman. Ladd stated that “there are a lot of reasons that college survivors take an average of 11 months to file a report.” I feel that the reason for this is because being sexually assaulted must make an individual feel submissive and have many emotions jumping through their head at the same time and don’t feel that they are ready to discuss it. Another statement that Ladd made was that she found the process “of reporting to be more traumatic than the assault itself.” The reason for this is because the actual assault is shorter lived than the aftermath of the assault. The individual will constantly think about the assault after it happened and would have to constantly keep telling people what happened and, in turn, keep reliving the same nightmare. To counter this, in 2015 she launched her website called Callisto, which is one of my stakeholders, and it is a digital sexual assault reporting system. Here, users are able to document details of their attacks and learn about reporting incidents directly to the university and law enforcement officials and in addition, search for resources and support. If the victim isn’t ready to report their incident, they can archive their information and submit it when they’re ready. I feel this system is beneficial because it gives victims the ability to report incidents at their ‘fingertips’ sort-to-speak and they do not have to talk to someone one-on-one if they do not feel comfortable doing so.

My second stakeholder involved with sexual violence is End Rape on Campus (EROC) with their mission being to end rape on college campuses worldwide and providing direct support for survivors and their communities. They believe that a way to prevent or reduce sexual violence is through education. Their direct support includes support networks, filing federal complaints, and overseeing student activists. Most importantly, EROC supports fair and equitable sexual assault by statewide affirmative consent standards, and federal accountability for Title IX and the Clery Act.

Another stakeholder involved with sexual violence is SafeB.A.E (Before Anyone Else). Interestingly this organization was survivor-founded and the mission is to end sexual assault among both middle school and high school students. They help promote ending by sexual violence by giving teens the resources to become activists and raising awareness when it comes to dating violence, both sexual harassment and assault, what consent is, how to be a good bystander in these types of situations, survivor care, and all the rights provided under Title IX. Some of the goals for this organization include engaging all students to take part in the solution by using art, activism, and especially social media. Most importantly, they provide and promote consent education legislation in every state.

According to the Washington Post, Brown University and University of Connecticut both had 43 rapes take place on the main campuses in 2014 which was the most rapes taken place compared to every other school. Having Callisto, EROC, and SafeB.A.E as resources, can significantly reduce the amount of rapes occurring because it can educate people on how to prevent sexual violence and how to get involved if an individual witnesses a sexual assault taking place.

Some non-legal options that have been made to help victims get through sexual assault include a 24/7 rape crisis hotline, victim witness assistance, center for women and community rape crisis services, and RAINN (Rape Abuse & Incest National Network).

The 24/7 rape crisis hotline gives victims the ability to call and discuss their recent sexual assault or an assault that occurred a long time ago. In addition this 24/7 hotline according to, provides “counseling, information, and referral, will go with survivors to hospitals and/or police stations 24/7, assist survivors in court, provide one-to-one counseling and support group counseling, [promote] primary prevention education, [and] professional training.” My cousin, who is also a legal studies major, works at a 24/7 rape crisis hotline and has spoken to countless victims about their recent attacks on college campuses and has helped many get through this traumatic time in their lives. She has told me that she went with the survivors to hospitals and police stations and even went to court with some of them. I did not know much about these hotlines and simply thought it was an outlet where a person can just talk about their recent assault but didn’t know how much this program truly provides. The Victim Witness Assistance is a program set up to help if the victim in the case goes to criminal court. If so, they will be assigned an advocate who will assist them through the whole criminal court process. The next program is the Center for Women & Community Rape Crisis Services which provides free and confidential crisis services for survivors of all genders in the Hampshire County and Five College Community. RAINN is a partnership of more than 1,100 local rape treatment hotlines that provides victims of sexual assault with free, confidential services around the clock. RAINN states that “out of every 1,000 rapes, 995 perpetrators will walk free. This statistic truly shocked me because the fact that out of 1,000 perpetrators, a single digit amount of people will be locked up for rapes.

While all of these organizations and non-legal options are very helpful in countering sexual violence and letting an individual’s voice be heard across the United States, for a victim who has been sexually harassed they may not want to call a 24/7 rape crisis hotline or report their case to the police. The reason for this is because if it’s a woman who has been sexually assaulted, she may not feel comfortable talking to a stranger about the traumatic event. The individual may want to have to go through the whole court process, and have feelings such as shame, embarrassment, or humiliation. Also, the individual may have little assurance that their attacker would be brought to justice. If underage drinking was involved when the sexual assault took place, the victim may not feel comfortable going forward with the process because they may feel that the case would just be classified as two individuals getting drunk and making an unsmart choice. To back this up, nearly 80% of women don’t report rape or sexual assault according to The Telegraph for the reasons listed.

There are punishments that have been set up and enforced on college campuses when dealing with sexual assault and violence but there aren’t that many specific ways to deal with Greek life sexual assault. I feel that there should be stricter laws enforcing a zero tolerance law for sexual assault involved with Greek life and focus on making laws and regulations directly targeting fraternities. A perfect way to jump start this process includes a nation-wide orientation program for all new students entering college which discusses the definition of sexual assault, stating that it is wrong and can be followed by strict punishments and how to properly report incidents of sexual assault either if you are the victim or have witnessed the incident occurring. To add on to this, I don’t feel that there should just be an orientation program set up for new students because I remember when I was at the new student orientation and I tended to get very distracted because they were projecting this message about sexual assault to 300 students at the same time. This is where I feel the methods colleges use to discuss sexual assault fall short. Instead of just having this one seminar during orientation, there should be multiple programs set up over the course of the year for non-Greek students and especially Greek-life affiliated students to discuss sexual violence and the ways that individuals can make a difference to counter it. Having multiple programs will significantly decrease, in my opinion, the statistics for sexual assault on college campus. While this may not be the best way, it is certainly a step in the right direction to have multiple seminars strictly enforcing anti-sexual violence.

From my personal experience with Greek life, the four general topics of loud noises, a dark scene, a lot of people, and heavy amounts of alcohol are all factual. My fraternity house has a decent size basement but does tend to fill up quickly. We can fit 150 people in there for maximum capacity and I have experienced how hard it is to get through the room to either go play a game of pong or just greet some of my friends. When trying to talk to people at the party, I just nod my head either vertically or horizontally because sometimes I just cannot hear what the girl or guy is trying to say to me. Obviously, girls are dancing with guys and making out on the dance floor but we haven’t had any issues of sexual violence directed at my fraternity. While my fraternity has a good reputation, there are some that do not. Some fraternities on campus have been shut down for sexual violence such as spiking girls’ drinks or rape. In addition, there are some fraternities that haven’t been shut down but have such a bad reputation that sororities have disaffiliated themselves from the fraternity. Even non-Greek life women have gotten this vibe from these specific fraternities and stay away because it is deemed a dangerous place for women. Our fraternity has a great reputation on campus and has a handful of girls show up to every party. I have witnessed and helped girls show up to the party near black out and we have a precaution to take them to the first floor with the girl’s friends and lay them across the couch and give them water.

One of the seminars we had involved a hazing lecture. Two mothers came in who lost their sons due to fraternity hazing. Toxic masculinity played a huge role in their deaths. One student named Tim Piazza from Pennsylvania State University was being hazed during a fraternity-sponsored event where he consumed a heavy amount of alcohol (18 drinks in less than 90 minutes according to a surveillance video) and then was left alone and fell down a flight of stairs causing traumatic brain injury. This was the result of his death at the age of 19. Eight members of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity were charged with involuntary manslaughter. The other mother discussed how her son, Maxwell Gruver, dying after being found unresponsive at the Phi Delta Theta house at Louisiana State University. The fraternity event was called “Bible Study” which was a ritual at this fraternity. The pledges were forced to drink if they answered specific questions about the fraternity wrong. Gruver’s BAC was .495 at the time of his death. Ten people, eight of which enrolled at LSU, were arrested and charged with hazing and faced charges of negligent homicide. This lecture was very depressing to listen to and I feel that the 300+ Greek-life affiliated students in the lecture hall truly got the message. These mothers are considered activists and have made an impact visiting many schools sharing their son’s story about hazing. This has made a substantial impact among Greek-life students.

One can see that sexual violence is a pressing issue facing the United States as a whole but more specifically targeting Greek-life on college campuses. Toxic masculinity and hazing are a major factor to sexual violence. Toxic masculinity describes a male as a violent, unemotional, sexually aggressive, and describe the experience of this type of danger exciting. Hazing causes new members to feel submissive to their superiors and after becoming initiated causes them to stray away from submissiveness and sometimes leads them to be unemotional, violent individuals which can lead to sexual violence. Hazing is another pressing issue mainly affiliated with Greek life. The two mothers who came in to share the stories about the deaths of both of their sons due to hazing is a perfect example of activism for countering hazing. Having organizations and selected individuals making it their missions to counter sexual violence across the country can make a big impact and could potentially lessen these frequent conflicts of sexual assault and hazing on college campuses.

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