Sexual assault perpetrated by fraternity members or at fraternities is such a frequent occurrence that it no longer comes as a shock when incidents of sexual violence are reported in our own community. Why is an institution that perpetuates and is deeply intertwined with rape culture not being dismantled? The possibility of banning frats altogether is seen as a delusional utopian ideal.
A nationwide ban on college fraternities is beyond the scope of my focus. However, the recent allegations of sexual assault at UC Santa Barbara’s Sigma Pi fraternity remind us that the issue continues to plague our own community and deeply affect our students.
Men in frats are more likely to commit rape than their non-Greek counterparts. A 2016 article from Noozhawk about rape and sexual assault in Isla Vista reported 56 rape investigations and 48 sexual assault incidents. The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department noted that this was an increase from previous years.
To understand the present situation, I need you to imagine a number in your head much higher than 56 or 48. These numbers are outdated and are insufficient for understanding the scope of the problem, as only 20% of female student victims report sexual assault cases to law enforcement.
There are three additional points to understand about sexual assault statistics. One: Many rape and sexual assault cases are missing from these numbers due to complications arising from the reporting process, such as failing to obtain a rape kit or believing that police cannot or will not be able to assist. Two: As noted in the statistic above, 80% of female students from the ages of 18 to 24 do not report incidents of sexual assault. Based on my own experiences and those of women I know, I can tell you that many women do not report out of fear, shame or longing for the situation to go away. Therefore, even updated statistics would not accurately inform us of the number of sexual violence incidents that occur at UCSB. If you take the time to have a conversation with a female friend about sexual violence, you will begin to grasp how common this phenomenon is — even if the numbers don’t reflect it.
Lastly, my inability to find statistics regarding the correlation between reported sexual assaults and fraternities left me dumbfounded. This lack of data does not reflect the reality of the situation. Quickly searching “frat rapes” on Google leads to link after link, story after story, of hundreds of abhorrent sexual assault cases across the country. UCSB is not alone. This lack of data sheds blinding light on the fact that women and our safety at UCSB are not prioritized by our university or within the college community as a whole.
If they were priorities, universities and community members would place more pressure on those responsible for collecting data about sexual assault on college campuses to expose the high rates of frat-related sexual assault incidents. If the safety of women at UCSB was valued, frats would be banned — or at the very least, the topic of banning them would be a prevalent conversation amongst students and community leaders. It is no longer a question of whether or not rape culture exists and whether it is perpetuated by frats at UCSB. It’s not, “Will any girls get raped in a frat or by a frat member this year?” Instead, it is “How many?” Your phones buzzing with emails reading,“This is a timely warning of a sexual assault incident” should be a strong enough reminder that sexual assaults are a repugnant reality in our community.
Rape and sexual assault should not be a partisan issue. Liberal or conservative, Greek life member or not — this topic does not deserve any form of tolerance. The fact that this argument needs to be made reflects the core of the problem: Issues pertaining to women do not receive the attention or gravity that they deserve. What atrocities need to take place in order for fraternities to be disbanded at our university? Because currently, rape is not enough.
Regarding solutions, banning accused fraternities and/or fraternity members is not substantial enough. Putting a hold on frat parties until “interpersonal violence prevention practices” are implemented is not effective either. These proposed solutions only slap a Band-Aid on a festering wound. Year after year, at universities around the country, one frat member after another is charged with assault. Universities that have tried enforcing “prevention practices” in frats still find their fraternities committing sexual assault. In 2004, SDSU implemented “FratMANers,” which stands for Fraternity Men Against Negative Environments And Rape Situations. Men in fraternities at SDSU have been cycling through this program for years, yet in 2014 there were 13 sexual assaults reported in just one semester. Whether fraternity members want to accept it or not, an all-male institution which places an onus on drinking and sex is bound to attract men who think they can get away with assault.
I end this piece with notes for the university, for all UCSB students and specifically for men and frat members. To our university: Why don’t you ban fraternities and dedicate your attention, effort and money to creating and promoting other institutions that students can safely partake in? In other words, what is the value in keeping frats around if they have been proven over and over again to perpetuate sexual violence?
I get it, everyone wants to have fun. People like to feel like they belong to something. A lot of people like to party. Why don’t we fill the space frats currently occupy with the endless list of clubs and societies which do not have a long, atrocious track record of sexual violence?
To students: Do not turn a blind eye to what happens in frats and the behaviors of certain frat members. Think about the institution you are supporting when you attend frat parties or rush frats yourselves. Instead of supporting these organizations, take action. The university needs to feel pressure from its students before it will even begin to think about disbanding frats.
And to the men who participate in fraternities: Rethink your decision to be a part of a fraternity. Is fraternity membership worth it when it is more than likely that someone you call your “brother” is a rapist?
Jemma Robson believes that universities and their students should consider banning fraternities altogether.
Jemma Robson is an opinion staff writer. She is a graduating Political Science major. But don’t be fooled, she’s not keen to chat American politics with you.