Assault Scandalizes Universities

Elysia Self, New Media Manager

Sexual assault.

It’s a phrase we as a culture have heard more in the last decade than seemingly ever before. More and more victims feel safe and empowered enough to report their cases and tell their stories. I had hoped that the courage of these survivors would lead to a decrease in the overwhelming number of cases reported, so when I first heard of the FIJI scandal I was so saddened.

A fraternity at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, UNL, was shut down in late Aug. after reports of alleged rape. Chancellor Ronnie Green issued a statement on Aug. 25 detailing the seriousness of such allegations and their plans of shutting down the Phi Gamma Delta, FIJI, chapter. The fraternity was already on probation for the previous violations when the allegations were made. In his statement, Green says that no one should be a victim of sexual assault and that the campus will work tirelessly to resolve the issue. While those are nice words, I have a hard time believing them.

The school has had multiple reports of other sexual assault cases at this fraternity and has failed to follow through on them. Students at UNL rallied around the survivor and spent hours in a peaceful protest outside the house chanting things like “What do we want? Justice.” So why are allegations such as this swept under the rug so often and how do places like the FIJI house get away with years of this kind of abuse? The University of Nebraska-Lincoln is not the only fraternity to have sexual assault allegations ingrained in its history. Our own University of Kansas, KU, is in the throes of its own scandal as well. According to The Kansas City Star, a petition started by students of the university has been signed by over seven thousand people in support of shutting down the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity. The petition reads, “This is only one of many reports. We are trying to make our Greek system and the University of Kansas a safer place. Please sign this petition to remove Phi Kappa Psi from our campus to stand in solidarity with those affected.” Just like the protests at UNL, hundreds of students gathered at KU chanting and waving signs calling for the fraternity to be shut down and for justice to be served.

As a young woman about to enter into my college years, I am both so relieved that awareness of these crimes is being spread, and also scared to hear how commonplace it is for female students to be drugged and assaulted. I have been hearing the phrase “guard your drink” by my female family members and friends since I was in middle school. It has become so normalized that women have to be on alert to getting drugged.  There is a company dedicated to creating eco-friendly and biodegradable lids to put over open-mouthed cups, such as Red Solo cups, that are commonly used at parties to prevent drugging. While that may be a great idea, I think it is so sad that there is enough of a prevalence in sexual assaults for that to make sense. Not only does it make sense, but the company is also widely popular with an Instagram follower count of 19 thousand people.

My question is why do people think it is okay to drug and assault someone at all?

I know that this is a hard question and one that I will probably never get a satisfactory answer to, but I wish that everyone, male and female, young and old, would ask themselves that question. Or ask themselves if they would be okay with it happening to them, or their little sisters or brothers, or their mom, or their nieces and nephews. I think awareness of the problem and publicly shaming the vile people who chose to do that to someone in the form of the protests that are being held at universities like KU and UNL is a great first step. But that is not where action should end. Have hard conversations with your friends, ask them if they feel safe if they think something is wrong, pay attention to the signs.

Changing these statistics and making sure no one has to be a survivor takes courage. Courage on behalf of parents to teach their children to respect their bodies as much as everyone else’s, to teach them that each and every person is sacred and to be respected and under no circumstances to be violated. It takes courage on behalf of young people to report crimes they know or suspect, even if it means reporting their friends.

Most of all, it takes an immeasurable amount of courage on behalf of the survivors to report their assaults and to seek help. If these people can manage to do that, then the rest of us owe it to them and to any future survivors to stand with them and do everything in our power to prevent an increase in the statistic.