Submission: A Response to "UCSD Greek Life Needs to Prove It Cares About Sexual Assault Victims"

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Warning: This article concerns sexual assault.

I’m appalled—appalled at the minimization of an epidemic of sexual violence across college campuses.

The submission published a few weeks ago covering Greek life at UC San Diego and sexual violence was highly simplified and largely based on a singular experience: a research article written in 1991 that only studied the University of Illinois, which has a completely different campus culture than UCSD. The solutions proposed to the Greek life community at UCSD lacked research. As a survivor of sexual assault and a longtime member of the Panhellenic community, I choose to submit a response showing a more holistic view of sexual assault and how the Greek community can attack it.

First, here is a list of ways UCSD Greek life can improve its approach to survivors of sexual assault:

  1. Do not force reporting. Mandated reporting is detrimental to mental health (University of Michigan). Forcing survivors to report in order to create a public database is very different from creating a community that fosters and encourages reporting through education and support.
  2. Do not discourage reporting. Reporting a sexual assault will not affect the imagined and constructed social standing of any organization.
  3. Create a protocol for any instance of sexual assault. Current intervention strategies might be harmful (UC Los Angeles, UC Santa Barbara). There is no protocol for Greek leadership to follow when approaching situations like this. What needs to get done? Tell us and we’ll do it!
  4. Create a stringent definition of consent and drill it into the brains of everyone on campus, not just Greek life (Pepperdine University). Stringent and clear definitions of consent are the only variable that showed an increase in reporting of sexual assaults.
  5. Be more inclusive in regards to female-on-male sexual assault and LGBT+ sexual assault; it happens and we need to be educated on it. Our community is diverse.
  6. Be more forthcoming with instances of sexual assault. If a member of a fraternity or sorority is accused of sexual assault, everyone in the community should know and be aware of an investigation going on. If the investigation determines conclusively that a sexual assault occurred, perhaps have a protocol consisting of expelling the member who committed sexual assault and having workshops on bystander intervention and the definition of consent. Have them teach a workshop on consent. After they complete a list of educational and positive tasks, welcome them back into the community. We grow through education and inclusivity, not through hate, stereotyping, or generalizing.
  7. Be a safe space for survivors. No one should be scared of reporting and everyone should be validated. However, recognize that everyone is innocent until proven guilty. Respect the investigation process without victim-blaming.

That being said, there are many problems that UCSD Greek life is powerless against. We are not trained counselors, lawyers, or law enforcement and as such, should not be expected to act as those professionals would. The most that student leadership should be doing is offering to report incidents and pointing towards campus resources while supporting and believing the survivor. Also, we cannot be responsible for people who are not part of our community.

At UCSD, in my personal experience, I have been in far more dangerous situations outside of Greek life than in Greek life. I have never felt unsafe at a Greek life event and have always felt supported and protected by a community. This is my personal experience and I in no way speak for others. I’ve witnessed and intervened in far more instances of sexual assault and binge drinking at non-Greek “open” parties than at any Greek party I’ve attended.

We cannot be held responsible for the failures of administration. My friends and I have been far more supported by our sorority than by administration. When I went to admin, I was harassed about reporting and my experience was minimized. When I went to my sorority, I was surrounded with love and support. They helped me get help and justice. We cannot be held responsible for failing to resolve issues where a survivor refuses to report. A survivor has that right, and we must respect their decision. All we can do in that instance is offer resources.

UCSD Greek life does care about survivors. Greek life is already taking steps towards a more supportive community free of sexual assault. As of June 2018, Alpha Chi Omega and Sigma Nu have officially partnered with RAINN, an organization that runs a sexual assault hotline, provides resources for survivors, and heads education initiatives across the country. Together, they hope to raise awareness and educate people about sexual assault, while also raising money for survivors. In the last four years, Greek life has mandated EDI (equity, diversity, inclusion) workshops every quarter to increase awareness within the community. Every member of Greek life is required to attend Greek 101, which educates on sexual assault among other issues. Alpha Lambda Mu and Alpha Chi Omega’s national philanthropies are centered on domestic violence awareness, and they actively raise awareness for survivors of sexual assault on campus. Also, Panhellenic Council is currently meeting to discuss stringent consequences for sexual assault within the community.

Although every experience is valid and should be taken as such, one experience should not define an entire community. I am grateful for my experience in Greek life. It was my saving grace and the only place I felt comfortable and safe at UCSD. Yes, UCSD Greek life has a long way to go. No, it is not the root of all problems nor should it be a scapegoat for a bigger cultural issue on this campus. Do not mistake sexual assault within Greek life to be the only instances of sexual assault on this campus. UCSD Greek life is unique as a Greek life community. We are aware of and committed to improving instances of sexual assault, and we refuse to have it swept under the table.

The author is a third year student who has been a member of the Panhellenic community since Fall 2015. She has requested anonymity due to the personal nature of the article. This article is her second published on sexual assault and harassment.

The positions stated here do not necessarily represent the opinions of The Triton, any of its members, or any of its affiliates. We welcome responses to opinion pieces. If you’d like to submit a response, or comment on a different issue affecting the UC community, please submit here.