By Carol Faber || Contributing Writer
Fraternities and sexual assault don’t always belong in the same sentence, yet we usually associate them with one another. Fraternities are not blameless by any means, however it is wildly unfair to solely blame them for sexual crimes on our campus. An individual commits sexual assault, not an entire organization.
There is a stark difference between causation and correlation of fraternities and sexual assault. Due to the structure of the social scene here at F&M, as well as many other colleges across the country, most parties occur at fraternities. Because fraternities are hosting the highest number of parties attended by the highest number of people, there is indeed a correlation to the number of sexual assaults that occur within these fraternity houses, specifically during alcoholic events. The key here, however, is that fraternities do not cause, support, or allow these crimes.
In most accounts, it is always easier to blame the fraternity system for sexual assaults that occur on our campus. In the eyes of the administration, they are more likely to blame fraternities because it takes the accountability off of the institution itself, and places it on Greek life — something that they are constantly trying to “control.” This is much more appealing than admitting that sexual assaults occur all over campus including the dorms which results in higher liability for the action by the institution itself. Publicized reports of sexual assault only hurts the reputation of the college and rarely helps the victim.
There is a highly misrepresented relationship between fraternities and sexual assault that is supported by statistics across the country. Sexual assault statistics are extremely biased, and it is important to identify the underlying factors that affect the statistics. The victim plays a large role in the number of reported assaults. Consider the unfortunate cultural stigma against same-sex relations as well as the existing phenomenon of male dominance that creates the perception that men can’t be sexually assaulted.
When considering the viewpoint of the victim, it is also easier for him/her to blame a fraternity for many reasons. If a victim decides to speak up about a sexual crime, he/she has to first assign the act itself as sexual assault. Being touched inappropriately at a fraternity or by a fraternity member is easy to recognize as wrong, label it as such in the victim’s head, and then decide to report it. The same situation in a dorm, on the other hand, lends the possibility for the victim to blame him or herself, because it does not follow the stereotype of how we conceive rapes are “supposed” to happen. This is what scares me the most — that victims are less likely to report a sexual assault that seems unconvincing due to the location or association of the perpetrator. The victim has to first internalize the assault, and then be willing to share it with another person who then has the authority to believe or deny the victim of his or her assault.
No one is a hero for coming forward, rather they are labeled a victim. Coming forward as it is now, is essentially just publicizing your victimization. There is a painstaking process to prove that you are a victim, causing possible damage to the individual’s mental health, academics, as well as personal relationships. These implications highly affect the statistics of who commits sexual assaults and where it occurs.
It is easier to implicate fraternities for sexual assaults due to the reputation we, as a college culture, have assigned to them. Every individual is equally responsible for his or her own well being. It is time to stop blaming fraternities just because they are such and understand that the root of the problem lies in society’s expectations and presumptions of these fraternity members. Fraternities don’t commit sexual assault, individuals do. Sexual assault can happen regardless of affiliation, gender, class, or age — and it does.