Following the death of a Penn State student because of “hazing,” the University has put new rules in place in hopes of curbing other problems within the Greek Community, including a number of, often unreported, sexual assault cases.
According to the most recent Sexual Assault Campus Climate survey, sorority women are 50 percent more likely than other female students to be sexually assaulted, and fraternity men are 62 percent more likely to commit a sexual assault than other male students.
Unfortunately, Penn State is not the only university where Greek women are confronted with these types of disparities when it comes to sexual assault.
According to the National Institute of Justice, sorority membership is a “risk factor” for sexual assault due to its association with fraternity men, who are reportedly three times more likely to commit rape than their non-fraternity peers. This also has to do with the inclusion of alcohol within Greek culture, which often plays a part in incapacitating the victim.
At Penn State in 2017, State College police Lt. Keith Robb testified before a grand jury stating that 60 to 70 percent of all sexual assaults investigated by State College police are both alcohol and fraternity-related. Because of fraternity and sorority rules within organizations, often the supply of alcohol as well as the location of consumption is controlled by fraternity members. These party environments are often where sexual assault happens.
“Perpetrators deliberately embed themselves in this environment,” said junior Alyssa Salley, a sister of Pi Beta Phi sorority. “There isn’t really anywhere else where they can experience so many people in one place, and it makes it easier for them to get away with it.”
Since Penn State’s changes in policies regarding Greek Life, students have become more hopeful that these types of risks will decrease. Salley says that, since the change, she thinks that people have been taking the issue of sexual assault more seriously.
While sexual assault is a continuing issue in Greek Life across the country, it’s changes like these that prove we can truly come together to stop it. Sororities and fraternities are based off an ideology of familial connection that works for the good of one another and the greater community. There’s no reason why Greek-affiliated men and women cannot learn from one another about the causes behind sexual assault and the ways to combat it.
Greek involvement in programs like Greeks CARE, a six-week sexual assault prevention program taking place on Penn’s campus, is a vital resource when it comes to decreasing the number of instances as well as supporting survivors who come forward. The program educates sorority and fraternity members about “sexual violence, alcohol and consent, normalization of harmful behaviors, bystander intervention and supporting survivors.”
Although participation is not mandatory, it has doubled this semester to almost 200 participants.
Erin Farley, programming coordinator at Penn State’s Gender Equity Center, stated that she wants members of Greek Life to know that they “need to acknowledge the problem, that these numbers are higher than they are outside of Greek life, that sexual assault is an issue, that not all survivors in Greek life are (reporting). And then we can also acknowledge that most people aren’t OK with this. But it’s not enough to not be OK with it, we need to be doing something about it.”
While these changes are clearly a step in the right direction, they are not a solution to the problem.
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