Francesca Gilles is business administration freshman. Letters to the editor do not reflect the editorial coverage or viewpoints of Mustang News.
Trigger warning at the author’s request: This article deals with sexual assault and may be triggering to survivors.
In light of the recent sexual assault at one of the Delta Chi houses, my thoughts toward the university’s approach of dealing with these issues has drastically changed; it seems to me that Cal Poly, and universities around the country, have reached a turning point.
With each sexual assault that occurs in conjunction with a greek event, I hear the same weak rhetoric flung to deflect responsibility from those who are actually accountable. A cursory scroll through Yik Yak, or a brief eavesdrop on passing conversations after the email notification this past Sunday yielded inadequate explanations and excuses for the actions of the offender, the failure of Delta Chi to prevent this incident, as well as downright misogynistic assumptions made about the victim.
My personal favorite was, “Girls make shit like this up all the time.”
My own issues with greek life aside, it pains me to realize that despite the tireless efforts of the administration, ASI and numerous on-campus organizations to promote gender equity at Cal Poly, some students still feel that victim-blaming and doubt is the proper route.
Let’s get something straight: A woman’s choice not to report a rape or sexual assault is not indicative of a lie. A number of factors influence this decision, the first being that a criminal or civil case is often emotionally taxing and can do more harm than good in terms of the survivor’s well-being; post-traumatic stress disorder and permanent sexual dysfunction are not uncommon effects of a sexual assault or rape.
Second, a criminal or civil case can be financially out of the question, especially for a college student.
Third, the social consequences that come with reporting a rape or sexual assault can often be the most profound deterrent for a survivor seeking justice. At a school where a girl’s social life is practically synonymous with attending fraternity parties, women who report rapes and sexual assaults can be ostracized, shamed for bringing negative attention to the crumbling ivory tower that is the fraternity system. Fear of this sort of long-term shame and humiliation would be a factor in anyone’s decision, and it is utterly inexcusable to subvert the guilt in this way.
So a survivor has a choice to make: either put her social life, emotional well-being and wallet on the line in exchange for justice (which is difficult to obtain in and of itself), or to pipe down, and accept that the system is against her — to move on with her life, all the while knowing that her attacker is safe from the hand of justice, protected by the iron curtain of his fraternity.
When a business incorporates, it effectively deflects liability away from the members (e.g., the CEO, the board, the shareholders), and the entity accepts liability — this way, shareholders in a company cannot be held personally liable for any torts committed by the corporation, and save their shares in the company.
The same is true for the fraternity system. In the many instances of fraternity-based sexual assault, not only at Cal Poly but also across the country, the fraternity, a national organization, has absorbed the liability of its members. It has gotten to the point that people seemingly join fraternities for this very privilege — to do whatever they want, whether or not it’s legal, and face none of the consequences.
Fraternities are regressive, and seemingly encourage the “brothers” to explore their most base and primal instincts. Because they provide free alcohol at parties, they believe that they have the right to demean, violate and humiliate the girls in attendance — a jarring quid-pro-quo that no woman in her right mind would agree to.
Women on this campus have a choice to make when they choose to socialize: Do I risk my own personal safety to have a good time, perhaps giving up some of my freedoms under duress? Or do I completely reject the predominantly greek social scene? Forcing women to choose between self-objectification in exchange for admittance is utterly disgusting, an injustice more aligned with the misogyny of centuries past.
They promote — nay, encourage — sexism and perpetuate rape culture, and I’ve had enough.
And I don’t think I’m alone.
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