Greek houses aim to combat assault

by Sasha Dudding and Laura Weiss | 5/5/13 10:00pm

This is the third in a three-part series on sexual assault at Dartmouth. Part one was published on May 2 and part two was published on May 3.

For two years, Amanda Wheelock '13 did not consider herself a victim of sexual assault, although she had experienced unwanted advances from a fellow member of the Dartmouth Outing Club's trail crew during her freshman summer. One night, after the group had been drinking and playing a stripping game, she tried to go to sleep but was assaulted.

Although she never gave a verbal "no," Wheelock said she now knows that consent requires an "enthusiastic yes."

Wheelock did not think more about the assault until two years later, when she saw her perpetrator at a restaurant. She experienced a visceral reaction, freezing in place, and quickly exited the restaurant to wait outside. She left her dinner unfinished and cried while the rest of the party paid.

This year, Wheelock shared her story publicly for the first time at the annual "Speak Out" event, where she explained her perception of herself as a "strong woman" rather than a victim. She described her realization that she had been assaulted and the way that it conflicted with her initial understanding.

Since her own assault, Wheelock said she has felt a strong sense of community at the College, but believes fraternities have a negative impact on the campus culture.

"I do think that the incidents of sexual assault would decrease if our social spaces weren't single-gendered," she said. "If not getting rid of the Greek scene, changing it to coeducation would really help."

Greek Life

Any conversation about sexual assault on campus will likely mention the Greek system. From trainings to meetings to internal processes, the Greek system has come up with various proposals to combat the issue, though it is still frequently blamed for the prevalence of sexual assault.

"I think the role of the Greek system is as important as the role of any other system or student organization on campus," Dean of the College Charlotte Johnson said. "They all have a part to play in preventing sexual assault. I think it would be dangerous to scapegoat any one particular group, whether it be the Greek system or men or some other group."

Johnson emphasized that all constituencies on campus, including the administration, must work together, and she praised the Greek Leadership Council's recent efforts to address the issue.

On Feb. 12, the GLC unanimously passed its first systemwide sexual assault policy, which would protect the health and welfare of the student body and hold Greek members and organizations responsible for education, prevention and adjudication around sexual misconduct.

The first section mandates a minimum of two sexual assault education sessions for members of Greek organizations, which must be completed during the individual's first academic term as a member of the Greek house and during the following summer term. Education sessions may include Mentors Against Violence facilitations and Dartmouth Bystander Initiative training, or a program specifically approved by GLC.

Another part of the policy calls for a president and a designee from each house to attend one Greek Letter Organizations and Societies and GLC education session.

The third section outlines penalties for Greek house members found guilty of committing sexual assault by the Committee on Standards.

If COS gives the guilty student a one-term suspension or less, they must enter a reeducation program to remain a member of his or her Greek organization. If a student is found guilty and suspended for two terms or longer, he or she is automatically expelled from their Greek house.

"This new sexual assault policy is great in that regard, because it makes the rules clear that if you commit sexual assault, you're going to be punished and you're going to be suspended essentially from the Greek house that you're affiliated with if you're affiliated at all," Interfraternity Council President Gunnar Shaw '14 said.

The Sexual Assault Awareness Program also offers optional trainings to Greek houses, but only a few fraternities have requested this, SAAP coordinator Amanda Childress said.

GLC is creating an accountability chair position, an executive member of the council who will ensure that policies are implemented. GLC is currently screening applications for its first chair for sophomore summer, Panhellenic Council president Eliana Piper '14 said.

Last summer, students helped create an interfraternity network on sexual assault, which has been integrated into the IFC. Panhell is implementing a new measure for sorority presidents to be trained on how to talk to members about sexual assault, relationship abuse and other sensitive issues.

While the Greek system is not the sole place on campus where assaults occur, Piper said it is the largest social system on campus and offers an opportunity for Greek leadership to influence social change.

"As social leaders and as a community with a lot of sway on campus, it's important to keep a high standard of accountability and make each other better, and I think that's something that we really want to strengthen in this community," Piper said.

Shaw said he hopes the sexual assault policy voted on in February will bring positive change.

"Sexual assault has no place at Dartmouth," Shaw said. "I hope that the Greek community can lead Dartmouth to a more aware and better, safer place for everybody."

Chi Gamma Epsilon president Nick Allen '14 agreed that the Greek system has the potential to address sexual assault, and said that blaming fraternities, rather than working to enact changes, is the "easy way out."

"We strive to make sure that every brother knows that whatever happens in the basement is their responsibility, whether it's another brother or a stranger or someone they know who isn't a brother," he said.

Risk managers and social chairs at many Greek Houses look for dangerous behaviors in the basement, including signs that sexual assault may occur.

Allen noted, however, that while fraternities adopt policies and increase members' awareness, the problem of some individuals committing assault on campus will not disappear.

Anna Winham '14 said she was sexually assaulted during her sophomore year at the College after meeting a male student at a fraternity. She advocates for greater gender balance in social spaces to alleviate the problem of sexual assault, though she said fraternities are not the only place where assaults happen and men are not the only perpetrators.

She supports making Greek houses coed or replacing them with alternative gender-balanced social systems.

"Dartmouth provides an environment in which rape can occur, so things like the gender imbalance in most of the social scene is a large part of the contribution because men are providing the alcohol," Winham said. "Men control the flow of the alcohol and, also, they own the space."

Gender Divide

Three of Dartmouth's 18 sexual assault peer advisors are male students. SAPA Ethan Klein '16 said that because women more often report sexual assault, there is less of a push for men to become involved.

During this year's Sexual Assault Awareness Month, the College hosted an event titled "The Elephant in the Room: Men as Sexual Assault Survivors, Perpetrators and Allies," which offered insight into the male perspective on the issue. It was the first Sexual Assault Awareness Month event to focus on men's experiences.

Kip Dooley '12, a panelist and former member of Alpha Delta fraternity, said students and administrators need to start looking at sexual assault as a community issue rather than just a women's issue.

"It's really important to have men in the conversation, and it's important for men to see sexual assault and rape as that they're not just women's issues, they're community issues," he said.

Fraternity members should careful about the type of culture they promote in their organization, especially with respect to women and sex, Dooley said. He criticized the way women and sex are often discussed during weekly meetings.

"People who are in the Greek system need to or should be open to self-critique and reflection about what the role of the Greek system is in all of this," Dooley said.

While he said the problem is not unique to Dartmouth, talking about women as a game and sex as a measure of masculine performance is deeply problematic.

Dooley became involved in discussions about sexual assault on campus after he realized the male culture that he was a part of affected him and his female friendships, and he began to reevaluate his own thoughts and language.

While Dartmouth offers many great things, there are several unsolved issues and students often realize the issues late in their college career and graduate shortly after, Dooley said.

He believes this is why alumni need to stay involved and help solve issues at the College after they graduate.

Piper said women often lead the discussion and action on sexual assault, creating an "us versus them" mentality that can villainize men.

"It's a community issue," she said. "It's a woman's issue, it's a man's issue, it's our whole school's issue."

Many men also do not perceive the issue as one that affects them personally, Childress said. This occurs because men are not brought into conversations on the issue as frequently as they should, though this trend is changing.

"Men typically are not as aware around what's happening because a lot of women feel uncomfortable telling their male friends and male partners about assaults," she said.

Sanders Davis '14, a member of Kappa Kappa Kappa fraternity, said he has recently become involved with issues of gender and sexual assault on campus. The Greek system has the power to make changes on campus, but individual members must first recognize the extent of the problem.

"Once we become aware of ourselves then we can help others become aware," he said. "In a fraternity house it really only takes one strong voice in the house to wake people up."

If Dartmouth were to concentrate more on sexual assault within the community, Davis said that it could serve as a model to other institutions throughout the U.S. In the meantime, women face many challenges in their time at Dartmouth.

"I love this place so much, but I wouldn't feel comfortable sending my daughter here until it is more acceptable to address these campus issues," he said.

Dooley is a former member of The Dartmouth staff.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

In the initial version of this article, Shaw's position on the IFC was not disclosed. He is the president.

Advertise your student group in The Dartmouth for free!