Fraternity facades: Greek life breeds trauma

Fraternities are known for having a stigma of sexual misconduct, and they aren’t doing enough to stop it. In general, the culture of fraternities is joining to party and get girls, which are the main reasons I’ve heard students say they’re interested in rushing. 

University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s (UNL) Phi Gamma Delta chapter received a sexual misconduct allegation on the first night of classes, when one of its members allegedly raped a minor. The survivor attended the party with an 18-year-old friend. 

 A petition has circled and demanded the fraternity be banned for good. This is not the first incident of sexual misconduct, as 13 more women have come forward with claims of rape, in addition to more commenting they too have been sexually assaulted or raped at the fraternity house. 

“Fiji has lied about a commitment to changing their reputation. Every reinstatement the university gives them leads to another victim. They should have been shut down completely for their prior offenses, and continuing to let them operate is a mockery of the values the university claims to expect and uphold,” said an anonymous UNL source.

Students have continued gathering outside the Phi Gamma Delta chapter house in protest of their reinstatement, chanting “This is not the only fraternity who has done this.” These words are true regarding past claims of sexual misconduct, but also for current allegations.

Nearly a week after the sexual misconduct that occurred at Fiji, another fraternity on the UNL campus, Sigma Chi, received a sexual misconduct allegation. The incident occurred between Aug. 26 and 27.

The circumstances surrounding the reporting of this incident are suspicious. When they found out, members decided not to report the incident to the police, but instead opted to contact chapter headquarters and make an Instagram post.

The fraternity placed itself on a “self-suspension” and removed the member who allegedly committed the crime. Although these steps are helpful, I can’t help but feel they approached the situation in this way to paint the fraternity in a better light. 

UNL’s police department, along with the chief of communications and marketing, Deb Fiddelke, said they were unaware of the incident when the Instagram post was made. An obvious question is why members would address their chapter headquarters and the public, but not contact the police nor university. I believe they were trying to control the situation internally before reporting it to an outside source for a proper investigation. A police report was finally filed Aug. 30; I wonder why it took three whole days.

UNL’s Sigma Chi posted on Instagram three days after the incident at Phi Gamma Delta to express support for survivors of sexual assault. Not long after, a member of the fraternity allegedly sexually assaulted a woman. 

The toxic culture of fraternities’ acknowledging the issue, but not actually doing anything to prevent members from committing these crimes, is why incidents continue to happen. Meanwhile, an even bigger problem is emerging: The trend of sexual assault in Greek life continues to rise

An article from Sexual Abuse Law Firm regarding sexual misconduct among Greek life shows that women in sororities are 74% more likely to be raped than other college women. On top of that, men in fraternities are three times more likely to commit rape than non-Greek students.

Individuals interested in fraternities “scored higher on proclivity to perpetrate sexual aggression and some rape myths than non-interested nonmembers,” and the socialization process within fraternities “reinforces feelings of male dominance and control,” according to a study published by psychologist Rita Seabrook and colleagues. 

Fraternities aren’t typically known for their philanthropy work, even though they are labeled as philanthropy-based campus groups meant to raise money for nonprofit organizations. 

Yes, according to fraternity bylaws, chapters are required to fundraise, volunteer or help their organizations in other ways throughout the semester, but those efforts aren’t what come to mind when someone contemplates fraternity life. 

If students, professors or community members look at sorority life versus fraternity life, they will see a major difference. Sororities are known for their philanthropy work, and members are expected to be on their best behavior at all times. That standard does not translate to the culture of fraternity life.

According to a Princeton study from 2011, fraternity members tend to be upper-class white men. The demographic is unfortunate, because I believe this group of people is already used to doing what it wants — and with minimal consequences.

This goes to show that Greek life in general isn’t the issue. If sorority members can be upstanding members of society while doing the same work as fraternities, why can't fraternity members reflect the ideals of the chapter and university? 

For the women who attend these events, it’s the lack of action within fraternities that continues to put them at risk. If fraternities truly wanted to end all sexual misconduct, they would take every allegation seriously, conduct thorough investigations alongside police and change current practices for initiating members. 

As stated, the fraternity socialization process reinforces the idea of control and overall male dominance.

In order to instigate actual change, fraternities should look to other parts of the community for members and not toward the typical ‘frat-boy’ type college students consistently see. Members should change their practices to truly reflect chapter ideals and philanthropic work, rather than perpetuating the cloud of sexual misconduct allegations that we currently see. 

As it relates to members and sexual misconduct claims, fraternities have a known tendency to be on the accepting side. A culture has developed — ‘this is just something that could happen to girls at a frat party’ — and more attention needs to be drawn to this exact stereotype. 

Women should feel safe enough to attend a university-affiliated party and not be worried if they will be sexually assaulted that night or return home safe and unharmed.

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