Early in April, I attended the campus organization recognition meeting at Bovard Auditorium to represent my sorority. As the speaker launched into a presentation about sexual assault prevention, the president of my sorority turned to me with exasperation — she had heard this same talk five other times as a leader in our house. Believe me, so has every other Panhellenic and Interfraternity Council president.
It’s no secret that greek life on any campus carries the burden and wears the blame for the vast majority of sexual assaults that occur on that campus. Although there are many reasons that fraternities and sororities should receive training to prevent these crimes from occurring, the stereotype is far overblown.I want to start this off by saying that I’m not dismissing anyone’s experiences with sexual assault. I’ve been sexually assaulted and so have many of my friends. Unfortunately, this isn’t an uncommon occurrence. Statistics cited by the Centers for Disease Control tell us that one out of every five women will be sexually assaulted during her time in college. They also say that women in sororities are more likely to be assaulted, and men in fraternities are more likely to assault.
One of the biggest stigmas around greek life at colleges is sexual assault. People will think of greek life and think that it’s an awful system because all they hear about in the news is incident after incident in which someone was assaulted at a fraternity party. This happens a lot, but realistically, it will happen anywhere on a college campus. It will happen in a dorm, it will happen with sports teams and it will happen between strangers and between friends.
A study conducted by psychologists David Lisak and Paul Miller found that around 6 percent of all college-age men will commit sexual assault in their time on campus. That means that any time you have a group of over a 100 men together, there is statisical reason to believe that someone in that group might be inclined to sexually assault someone. It doesn’t matter if it’s a fraternity or a football team or a religious group, because it’s not about the organization — it’s about the individuals.
It’s easy to blame greek life as a whole for the actions of the people within it, but we should remember that these fraternities are not telling their members to sexually assault other people. Sexual assault is the result of an individual’s actions, and that’s what we should be focusing on. Those individuals are the ones we should be blaming for these situations because they are the ones responsible.
Sexual assault is an issue that every member of greek life is aware of, and fraternities and sororities are constantly working to improve risk management procedures and educating their members on what to do in these situations. As a member of a sorority, I’ve heard numerous risk seminars in the two years I’ve been at USC. Anyone in greek life will tell you about the depth of education on sexual assault they have received as a member of these organizations. Fraternities and sororities go through more sexual assault training than any other campus organization.
Sexual assault is an issue that we need to continue to address, and as a greek system we will do so. But to blame fraternities for the actions of their individual members is somewhat illogical, especially when people don’t blame any other organizations for their members perpetuating the same phenomenon.
All this being said, I know that when I go out to a fraternity, I need to be aware of my safety and my friends’ safety. However, I’m not afraid to go to a fraternity party because on the whole, they’re pretty fun. I go to see my friends at their parties, and it’s nice to get out and dance for a night. They’re easier to dance at than off-the-row parties, and they’re steps away from where I live, so if someone I know is feeling uncomfortable, we can leave easily. Any party situation can become unsafe for a variety of reasons, but I’ve never felt that the fraternities created a less safe environment.
Overall, we do need to keep the conversation about sexual assault on college campuses going because it is a prevalent issue. However, we should take a step back from judgement of greek life and ask how to change this culture throughout every organization on campus. Education needs to happen for all members of the university because ultimately, these unfortunate occurrences happen due to the actions of individuals. Blaming greek life rather than taking actions to change this culture isn’t helping anyone.
Sophomore, Alpha Gamma Delta
Roche is also a staff photographer for the Daily Trojan.