By Marcella Labellarte and Tiana Quattrucci II Contributing Writers
For those who are unaware, this past week, the Delta Sigma Phi fraternity of F&M proudly hung a sign on their house stating, “Fight Rape, Not Frat.” And while Delta may have taken down the sign, the damage has been done. Actions and words have consequences.
Let’s talk about these actions and words. Let’s talk about fraternity culture. Let’s talk about alcohol and sexual assault. Let’s talk about the epidemic of sexual assaults in fraternity houses and/or by fraternity brothers. Let’s talk about the responsibility of holding parties where alcohol is involved, whether by a fraternity or not.
We want to first establish the fact that we do not believe that every member of every fraternity in the country is a sexual predator. We also want to establish that we do not believe that sexual assault only happens at fraternity events and/or by fraternity brothers. There are many things to be said regarding the problems of social events held by athletic teams, as well as those held by individuals. The college campus as a whole is associated with problems regarding sex and alcohol. Although this article focuses on fraternity culture, it does not mean that fixing fraternities will solve every campus problem regarding sexual violence. However, when considering the gloomy statistics from a study done by Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education stating that fraternity members are three times more likely than non-fraternity members to commit rape, it certainly seems a step in the right direction.
What is the problem with “Fight Rape, Not Frat”? The motivations of the Delta Sigma Phi fraternity seem to be from tension-ridden interactions with the F&M administration regarding their sanctions after holding an unsanctioned event where a female student was assaulted by a Delta rush. The insinuation of the sign, that the administration should fight rape, seems well-intentioned. However, the simultaneous insinuation that fraternities are not connected to sexual assault on campus is a dangerous attitude, and one that many students on campus seriously disagree with. Although many seem to be sympathetic of Delta’s ongoing fight against the administration, that does not deter students from believing that the sign is “a step in the wrong direction,” calling it “distasteful,” “ignorant,” and “a problem with campus culture as a whole.”
This conflict begs the question: what is the responsibility of power structures, such as the F&M administration and Greek life, in protecting students? For one, institutions cannot be separated from the crimes that happen inside of them. This is not to say that the perpetrators are any less responsible for their crimes. It is, rather, the realization that institutions create an environment where things such as sexual violence, and violence in general, are expected, permitted, and justified. It is time for brothers to take responsibility for their own actions, as well as the actions of fellow brothers, pledges, and individuals within their household. It is the responsibility of these men to create a safe environment free from the perpetuation of gender norms and the dynamics of power. It is time for the administration to recognize that sexual assault needs to be addressed aggressively as a whole, and that it cannot and should not be pigeonholed into the responsibility of a singular fraternity.
The privilege of holding events where alcohol is involved comes with the responsibility of creating a safe space for all people to enjoy themselves free from harassment, discrimination, or any threat of violence. The connection between alcohol and rape is one that cannot be denied. The National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism found that approximately one-half of all sexual assaults are committed by men who have been drinking alcohol and approximately one-half of all sexual assault victims report that they were drinking alcohol at the time of the assault. Fraternity members are more likely than other men on campus to abuse alcohol on a frequent basis. According to the U.S. Department of Education’s Higher Education Center, 75% of fraternity men engage in heavy drinking compared to the 49% of other male students. Fraternity brothers must understand the clear connection between the alcohol supplied at their parties and the sexual assaults that are happening on campus.
So what can fraternities do to change? Become a safe space. Take responsibility for the happenings within your fraternity. Educate yourselves. Listen to survivors. Engage with other students on campus. Realize the tremendous positive impact you could have on the lives of the people who attend your events and live on your campus. Support bystander intervention and follow it through. Make sure new members are fully educated on the values of your fraternity and decide what impact you intend to have on the F&M community.
It is truly time for institutions that hold power on this campus to take a stand.