Girl on Girl: Go Greek, Get Real
Originally published on CUIndependent.com on September 4, 2015
This past Monday, on our very own CU campus, someone added a tagline to the “Go Greek!” chalk drawings all over campus. The addition read: “Get Raped! Sorority Girls have triple the probability of sexual assault.” The DailyCamera.com, who originally reported the story, reached out to CU representatives to report that the university is “aware” of the “chalk writings being vandalized.” Specifically, Interfraternity Council representative Marc Stine said that fraternity advertisements went unmarked, but that fraternity men have the “opportunity [to] support women” by helping clean up the chalk. Stephanie Baldwin, the coordinator for Greek Life and Leadership Programs, made no additional comments to DailyCamera.com.
Sexual assault in Greek life has been an ongoing issue. A search for a solution is still ongoing. For instance, The Guardian’s opinion writer, Jessica Valenti, reported last year that:
- University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee police are currently investigating a fraternity after several women were found labeled with red and black X’s on their hands after they had to be hospitalized with memory lapses from intoxication at a fraternity party. Last year, three sexual assaults were reported at one Texas fraternity within just one month. At Georgia Tech, a frat brother sent around an email guide called “Luring your rapebait.” Wesleyan had a frat that was nicknamed the “Rape Factory.” In 2010,fraternity brothers at Yale University marched through campus yelling, “No means yes, yes means anal.”
Valenti concludes that the Greek System is no different from when she was in college 18 years ago. As such, the time has come for drastic measures to be taken. Her solution is that the Greek system be banned; that there is no use trying to “fix something that is irrevocably broken,” as proven through years of failure and disappointing behavior by Greek members.
A New York Times’ opinion writer, Anna North, adds to this discussion. She writes about a Brown University fraternity removed of campus recognition “in response to reports of spiked drinks at one party and unwanted touching.” North spoke with Emily Schell, the student founder of Stand Up!, Brown’s sexual assault prevention group.
“Putting the blame on frats can be misplaced,” Schell said. North agrees that blaming Greek organizations for sexual assault on college campuses is diminishing the issue of assault itself.
The opinions on the matter are very split. Greek fanatics tend to be very defensive about the issue, but many also may feel as though they are exempt from the daring statistics. Those who are not involved in Greek life or have felt rejected by the Greek system tend to criticize it more. One side says go Greek, the other side says blame Greek for sexual assault in college. Here’s another idea to consider: What can women and men do to prevent sexual assault on campus?
I spent just under a year in a sorority, never lived in the house, was never very active, and still know of three women who were sexually assaulted in that time, one of whom was raped. The situation my friend experienced occurred in a CU fraternity house, and it continues to go unreported because of her fear in how the man’s brothers would respond to the charges.
Regardless of your feelings towards Greek life, here are the facts about sexual assault on college campuses in general:
- 1 in 5 women are sexually assaulted while in college.
- On average, only 12% of student victims report the assault to law enforcement.
- Most college victims are assaulted by someone they know, and parties are often the scene of the crimes.
- Many victims are abused while they are drunk, under the influence of drugs, passed out or otherwise incapacitated.
- Perpetrators often prey on incapacitated women and sometimes provide their victims with drugs or alcohol. Victims also are known to have participated in drinking or drugs prior to their attack. The belief is that a victim’s intoxication led to signals of wanting sex.
Obviously, sexual assault is not exclusive to Greek life involvement. However, schools which have an active Greek life tend to be a main source for the social party scene. In other words, the greatest amount of alcohol is being distributed within the Greek system and the biggest parties are being thrown by the Greek houses. The biggest social pressure leans on the Greek system for the greatest party scene, and it is for this reason that the system ends up taking much of the hit for sexual assaults on college campuses. Research from the New York Times has also proven that “fraternity men are three times more likely to commit sexual assault than other college men.”
The “someone” reported as “the vandalizer” of the sorority rush chalking is not wrong in what he or she wrote. The act may have felt aggressive but consider that the chalker may have been a victim of sexual assault within the Greek system. If they aren’t a victim, they may know a victim. The harsh letters come from a very real issue; one that is not being addressed significantly enough.
I do not believe that banning Greek life will solve the enormous issue that is sexual assault. While it may seem like a step in the right direction, CU has already removed involvement with fraternities, no longer recognizing any of them as CU affiliated organizations. This has not stopped CU men from joining fraternities. Even if these organizations go unrecognized by higher power, even if some are left houseless by unhappy landlords, the party does not stop. Rent a new house and call it something original, throw a better party than before.
But I do believe that the university is not doing enough to prevent sexual assault. Yes, we are autonomous adults and yes, we have a help and psychiatric center available. However, by removing fraternity life from CU, the administration has only dropped responsibility for an issue that has not changed. CU has only distanced themselves from their greatest responsibility: the students.
Furthermore, sororities are not doing enough to support their members. “Sisters” have responsibility over their fellow sisters to offer more information than what is available on the third floor of the UMC. Why should a woman fear reporting a man because of the backlash she would possibly receive from his brothers? If anything, a rapist should be petrified of a house full of sorority girls who refuse to see another sister assaulted.
Women cannot wait for sexual education to be taught differently, for perpetrators to be raised differently, for rapists to stop raping. Women cannot wait for universities to solve the problem because the problem continues after graduation. Women cannot wait for men to defend them when they are capable of advocating for themselves.
There needs to be more recognition than the University’s and the Greek system’s “awareness” to the chalking on Monday. The problem is bigger than that and deserves more attention. Greek organizations commonly say “you always wear your letters.” Well, isn’t it true that you are always a Buff? We are in an educational institution. Buffs should walk out of campus being better informed about the issue. They should walk out knowing how to make an effective change through advocating for one another.
Sexual assault needs to be a bigger conversation in Greek life. Not at Monday night meeting, but a real, personal, focused discussion. The conversation needs to be instilled in the policies of these organizations. Women cannot let women go unnoticed, unfought for, unrecognized, or unseen. Ending Greek life is not a solution; it is a cop out. Our university can try to shake off the responsibility, but we as students can claim it. We have to. We are capable of taking care of one another.
It is time that the Greek system stands for something more than what it has been. “Sexual assault” is only the name of the game. We are the players. We can make a difference by speaking up and having one good conversation. Rape is a reality. Women are hurt by men and men are hurt by women. But women and men can help one another. We can strive to prevent sexual assault on our campus.