April was Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Thousands of SigEp brothers participated in various campaigns such as Live Your Oath and local Sexual Assault Awareness Weeks. Brother Matthew Conley, Duke ’19, and the men of North Carolina Gamma have taken the initiative to change Duke’s campus culture daily, year-round. The university’s leaders have taken notice of their actions and see them as an example of where student accountability programs will go in the future.
The North Carolina Gamma Chapter has acknowledged the prevalence of sexual assault on college campuses, particularly at Duke University. From our university climate survey, we learned that 40% of undergraduate women at our university reported being victims of sexual assault. While this number is shockingly high when viewed alone, it was also important to recognize that fraternities are overrepresented in reports of sexual assault at Duke.
While this was the first time such numbers were reported at Duke, as a fraternity, we knew that this was a men’s problem. Men represent 99% of sexual assault perpetrators, and Greek culture at Duke promotes a remarkably hypermasculine environment that simultaneously objectifies women and treats sex as a conquest. Tackling the issue of sexual assault is not something that can be done through top-down approaches or awareness initiatives — it is an issue that needs a serious culture change coming from those within the community.
Who Can Help
As members of the Greek community, we have a serious amount of power and privilege just through joining a fraternity. Recognizing one’s power and using it responsibly is the best way for anyone to help.
Further, understanding the prevalence of sexual assault is incredibly important in bringing about change—while universities generally publicize statistics, many students remain unaware. Not only is this an issue, it is an issue that fraternities should view as their own to combat. All chapter leaders, even through small actions, have the ability to spark change.
What We Can Do
At Duke, we are lucky to have an Interfraternity Council Sexual Assault Prevention Team (IFC SAPT), started by alumnus Jake Son, Duke ’17. The IFC SAPT has brought about initiatives for chapters to follow, largely with the goal of recognizing the prevalence of sexual assault on our campus and conversing about the ways Greek chapters contribute to this culture.
All of our chapter’s new members undergo training created by the Duke Women’s Center in the Five Key Norms that perpetuate sexual violence on and off campus. These norms are:
- Limited Notions of Masculinity
- Limited Notions of Femininity
- Privacy and Silence
Understanding how these five societal norms can encourage and facilitate the continuation of rape culture is crucial in beginning to change this culture that allows for this high number of sexual assaults.
However, trainings cannot be the end of our actions. Recently, we have begun holding restorative justice circles as part of our various member challenges. These circles are a time when every member of our chapter has an actual chance to speak and be heard through the use of a talking piece.
Because we have been through training regarding sexual assault and the culture around it, we like to hold these circles around specific topics from the trainings. What we’ve come to learn is that the traditions our fraternity is rooted in often silence the voices of those who want to bring about this change and encourage the continuation of hegemonic masculinity. Getting all of our members to recognize this has brought about by far the most change.
Going forward, we see continuing these conversations as the most important part of preventing sexual assault. The restorative justice circle model allows us to best hold these conversations, and we hope that supplementing them with the training we require will start to encourage this shift within our organization.
For more information on SigEp’s sexual assault prevention awareness campaign — Live Your Oath — please visit liveyouroath.org.
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