Greek life perpetuates rape culture

by Marissa Ochoa, Staff Columnist

As sexual assault on college campuses garners increasing media attention, San Diego State has stepped into the limelight in perhaps the most infamous way possible. SDSU has taken steps to combat sexual assault and campus administrators deserve some recognition for their efforts. Unfortunately, that’s all down the drain now. Recent actions taken by members of SDSU Greek organizations have solidified what many students have been thinking. Greek life has institutionalized rape culture within its community.

Take Back The Night was an anti-sexual assault march held on Friday, Nov. 21 that took place at SDSU and off campus near Greek housing. As an ex-Greek member, I can honestly say that even I was shocked at what happened that fateful night. Members of Sigma Phi Epsilon and Delta Sigma Phi yelled crude obscenities and waved sex toys (classy) at the marchers. What began as an event raising awareness of sexual assault ended up raising awareness of the rape culture cultivated and sustained by Greek organizations.

Sexual assault has become an infamous aspect of SDSU’s reputation, and the fraternities’ behavior demonstrated how proactive Greeks are when it comes to preventing it. There have been at least seven reports of sexual assaults at parties this semester alone. The fraternities involved in the offensive behavior toward the Take Back the Night marchers was just a sweet cherry on top of the existing problem.

National chapters have defended the Greek system for decades instead of taking a step back and realizing what the system has been condoning all these years. A mass email sent out to students by Associated Students President J. Cole said the SDSU Greek community is working hard to educate Greek members on sexual assault. I completely agree that this system is in dire need of education, but a few extra seminars about rape and sexual assault isn’t going to mitigate what these organizations have been getting away with and perpetuating for years.

As much as its members will deny it, the Greek system suffers from a systemic rape culture. If one looks at the big picture, there’s no arguing the fact that Greek organizations across the U.S. engage in behavior that promotes sexual violence, and SDSU is apparently no exception.

The University of Virginia is currently being investigated for a fraternity gang rape allegation. Just 24 hours after the Take Back the Night protest, SDSU sent out a crime alert for sexual assault in the area where the march took place. A recent article published by inewsource pointed to two studies suggesting that “fraternity members are more likely than non-fraternity members” to be rapists, and that “women in sororities are 74 percent more likely to experience rape than other college women.”

How many sexual assault and harassment cases at SDSU will students have to endure before the rape culture within the Greek system is taken seriously?

I know fraternity and sorority leaders require mandatory sexual assault courses for all members, but this has clearly been ineffective. The instant those seminars are over some fraternity members apparently decide to do whatever they want. Forget about the one in three women who will be sexually abused during their lifetimes, and don’t pay any attention to victims who are less than 30 years old. After all, they only make up 80 percent of sexual assault victims.

All I see are organizations that turn a blind eye toward sexual assault for the sake of preserving their definition of a good time. What’s most alarming is that these individuals are members of the SDSU community. The so-called leaders of this campus are the same people preserving rape culture within the system.

But these are only a few “bad apples,” right? Why would somebody demonize an entire system because of the actions of a few? Maybe it’s because the organization didn’t prune those bad apples in the first place. The fact of the matter is the Greek system utterly failed to weed out those who think it’s acceptable to harass fellow students as soon as their behavior was evident. I don’t care if it’s one out of 100. That one person is enough to taint the whole system.

SDSU exists in a rape culture that’s currently thriving through Greek organizations and there’s no reason to think this incident and countless others won’t just be swept under the rug by campus “leadership” in the future. Sure, Greek life may implement more sexual assault seminars and temporarily suspend social events, but a few administrators wagging their fingers and a self-imposed social activity ban won’t change an institutionalized culture.

Unfortunately, and perhaps worst of all, this isn’t the end of fraternity members harassing and sexually assaulting their fellow Aztecs. This incident gained more media attention than other events, but I guarantee that sexual assaults and harassments surrounding Greek organizations will continue to pop up like wildflowers every semester.

One would hope that in 2014 members of the Greek community would be less primitive and more civil than their predecessors. Sadly, judging from what happened during Take Back The Night, this doesn’t seem to be the case.