On a hot and sunny September afternoon in DC, a fraternity at American University hosted a fundraising event to raise awareness around rape culture and contribute support and partnership in the fight against campus sexual assault. Reflecting recent initiatives taken by 7 other fraternities nationwide, Lambda Chi Alpha invited PARC to speak and participate in the day's event which rallied a raucous crowd of fellow fraternity and sorority members to carve, roll, toss, and eventually slip-n-slide in a whole lotta watermelon. All totaled, the day raised $1500 for PARC, and immeasurable fun and community building as we spent the afternoon connecting with young and engaged college students who are taking seriously the call to all of us to fight rape and sexual assault on campus. College campuses are a hotbed of sexual assault, and the more students join together as peers and allies to create cultures of respect and consent the further we come in our efforts to dismantle rape cultures and encourage healthy relationships and lives. A huge thank you to the event coordinators, and to all who came out to participate!
Fraternities are often front and center in discussions of campus sexual assault, with countless stories of assaults taking place at hosted parties and often by fraternity members. And it’s little wonder; if rape and sexual assault thrive in cultures that silence and shame victims, prize male heterosexual domination and encourage a double standard when it comes to sexual activity, then the frat house makes sense as a locus of high risk for many young college women looking to socialize alongside their peers. While not surprising, this reality stands in stark contrast to the language and the missions of many of these fraternal organizations, formed ostensibly as social clubs meant to enrich and nurture young men to be contributing and meaningful members of their communities, full of leadership and integrity. Thankfully, amongst the milieu of fraternities acting badly and ex-presidents speaking delusionally, there are some voices calling for that leadership and integrity and change from within.
Recent high-profile tragedies have brought Greek life into the same ignominious limelight the NFL is squirming under now, with enough public outcry from concerned and bereft parents, funders, and community members spurring big changes in how fraternities address safety. The Fraternal Health and Safety Initiative was recently launched as a consortium of eight prestigious national fraternities pledging to come together to change the way greek life contributes to sexual assault, binge drinking, and hazing. Just last week 21 fraternities at the University of Indiana released poignant and encouraging statements against sexual assault, and in just a few days, a fraternity at American University will be making a similar, if not messier, statement about how seriously they take campus sexual assault and the particular importance of their leadership and participation as fraternity members.
We at PARC were pleasantly surprised and thoroughly excited to have American University senior Colin Scott reach out to us on behalf of his chapter of Lambda Chi Alpha, to see if we would be interested in being beneficiary’s of their annual fund raising event. Lambda Chi Alpha is one of the fraternities to have recently joined the Fraternal Health and Safety Initiative, and Colin Scott and his brothers are walking that talk by organizing a fun event this saturday September 27th at American University designed to raise awareness, encourage responsibility and accountability, and support community efforts to fight campus sexual assault. At a time when the vast majority of news coming out of campus sexual assault is rife with victim-blaming, trauma and hate, it is refreshing and critical to hear stories like this of young men on college campuses talking about responsibility and engaging their peers to join them in creating cultures of respect and consent. Read on for an interview with Colin Scott and his brothers talking about why sexual assault is important to them and what they are doing about it.
PARC: Rape and sexual assault have really come to the fore of national public attention in the past few years, with key populations and institutions being revealed as likely spaces of cultures that harbor frighteningly high rates of sexual violence. Being that the ‘campus’ is one of these hot spots for sexual assault, and fraternities and their parties especially implicated, we were both surprised and excited to have you as a representative of your fraternity reach out to us for a fundraising event. Can you tell us how and why you decided to approach us as an organization?
Colin: Fraternities as a whole have carried the reputation of being hotbeds for rape culture for years, and frighteningly, it is not simply a stereotype. On campuses across the country, fraternities share the values of respect, duty and integrity, and if they are true to these values, then fraternity houses should be one of the safest places on campus for a woman to go to – but that is not the case. Instead, fraternity houses are one of the most dangerous places for a woman to go to. This is indicative of a systemic flaw in Greek culture, and it needs to be addressed.
It is not our intention to sit here and condemn other Greek organizations of being part of the problem, because up until now, my own organization was content to sit on the sideline and take the “Well, we’re not like that” approach. I wanted to redirect the focus of our philanthropy toward this cause, but I wanted to find the right organization before really pushing the idea on the rest of the chapter.
I looked through dozens of organizations both on the national and local level, and finally settled on PARC, because I think that it is working to address the root of the problem. There are many other organizations out there that are doing amazing work for survivors of sexual assault, but I was really drawn by the idea of this education program having a ripple effect, and stopping sexual violence before it ever happens. Once I decided on PARC, I introduced it to the chapter and they were fully onboard with it – they are so excited to put on this event and support an organization that is making a positive impact on the world.
PARC: As college students and members of the Greek system, you are perfectly positioned to observe rape culture on campus, and it’s various manifestations. How do you approach this culture and it’s discourses? How does Lambda Chi Alpha discuss and approach sexual assault and rape culture?
Colin: As a group, we take our values and teachings very seriously. Respect is one of our seven core values, and we hold each other accountable. Our teachings are not geared specifically toward fighting rape culture, but when we hold education sessions, that is always a topic that is discussed, especially in regards to respect.
PARC: Some key messages around rape and sexual assault involve things like consent, bystander intervention, victim-blaming, and responsibility. How are these messages filtering down to you and your cohort? That is, what is the general interpretation(s) or response to these messages, and do you see areas for improvement?
Colin: Even before the recent events on our campus last semester, I, and the rest of my brothers, took all of these seriously. Before freshmen are eligible to rush, they are given multiple lectures during orientation about sexual assault prevention. I would never expect to hear about any problems from our members when it comes to consent and victim-blaming. Any kind of incident that might occur where it’s clear that a brother did not listen to these messages would be grounds for an investigation into the matter and formal punishments laid down from the Executive Committee, with immediate dismissal on the table. All of our brothers know that a breach like that would be a metaphorical middle finger to all of the values we stand for, and we would not associate ourselves with that criminal behavior.
Bystander intervention and responsibility are trickier beasts. Our values and expectations are clear when it comes to consent and victim blaming, but these other two subjects are a bit harder to lecture about and discuss in a focused manner. Much of it can be common sense– keeping a watchful eye on your friends and others when you are out, helping out those who may be unable to help themselves, etc. Those are obvious and I can confidently (and proudly) say that all of our members would do the right thing in a situation where it was clear someone intervening could make a difference. However, I also think that we, myself included, need more help. We still have work to do in a number of areas, whether it’s keeping a better lookout, talking about it in the right ways and caring for any survivors.
To help with this, we are arranging for experts and trainers to come in and conduct Safespace training for the chapter. Hopefully, we can learn more about nonoffensive language on the subject (so we aren’t unintentionally offending people or sending the wrong messages), how to talk to survivors that may approach us as friends, how to confront offenders or somebody who may be about to commit an assault, etc. All of our members mean well, and hopefully a session like this can give them a chance to learn and ask questions from people who have dealt with these issues for years.
PARC: What do you think are some of the better ways students and especially fraternity members can do to foster communication and cultures of respect to uproot cultures that trivialize, naturalize, and excuse rape?
Colin: We know we are small fish in a big ocean, but that should not be discouraging. On a college campus, we are in a unique situation where we can easily reach out to people on a peer-to-peer level. Events like this are great for raising awareness, but they are ineffective unless people can take away from the event that this is a serious problem that we need to be sensitive about. If you can reach out to your friend group and really imprint on them that this kind of culture is toxic and shameful, then that can be a step in a chain-reaction that marginalizes those who continue to perpetuate this culture.
Ignoring the problem like you would a dog that’s acting up isn’t going to change anything, but screaming at somebody who might be cracking jokes on the quiet floor of the library won’t help the cause either. The people you are best-poised to impact are your friends around you who respect your opinions and care about what you have to say – start with them.
By Charlotte Stasio
Nerd culture has become mainstream culture. What was once pejoratively thought of as the domain of a few basement-dwelling social outcasts has risen over the past several decades to become a major influence over our society and a huge economic driver. Many of top grossing movies in the past five years have been based on superhero comics, video games are now a $100 billion industry worldwide, and the sales of fantasy literature such as Harry Potter made a billionaire out of author JK Rowling. The public’s insatiable appetite for all things nerdy drives this incredible financial growth; as a result of this demand, scores of fan conventions, expos, meetups and other gatherings have sprung up to celebrate every facet of geekdom. However, the darker elements of nerd culture hamper the inclusive potential of these events - ultimately turning away fans and leaving money on the table for artists and organizers.
These sort of conventions serve as massive gathering places for die-hard fans and feature celebrity guest speakers, merchandise booths, and elaborate home made costumes (known as cosplay). These events are huge opportunities for authors, artists, game designers, publishers, and film studios to present their work to a receptive audience. Conventions are also profitable for event organizers and local economies, as thousands of merchandise-seeking fans descend upon cities the world over for a chance to attend. Online event organizer Eventbrite estimated that fan conventions earn about $650 million in ticket sales alone every year. And how much do fans buy when at these conventions? Over 50% of attendees spend $100-$500 and about ⅓ spend over their planned budgets, according to an Eventbrite survey of over 2,500 fan convention ticket purchasers.
You could spend the better part of a lifetime attending all the fan conventions out there, but some of the biggest events include:
The following video from anti-street harassment organization HOLLABACKPhilly, shows just how widespread the problem of harassment is at fan conventions:
The incidents listed above and described in the video are anecdotal and do not represent the behavior of the majority of people at fan conventions, but events like these create an atmosphere of hostility for would-be attendees. If someone thinks they will be harassed or attacked at one of these events just for who they are or what they choose to wear, they won’t go. Organizers, working in cooperation with artists, filmmakers, publishers or other content creators, need to ensure that these conventions are safe spaces for all attendees. Geeks for CONsent suggests several methods for creating a welcoming atmosphere, including anti-harassment policies, sensitivity training for convention staff, and stepping in as a bystander if you spot harassment (as long as it is safe to do so). Organizers also need to promptly investigate any report of inappropriate behavior.
Nerd culture is too big to ignore. If we want to welcome everyone to this burgeoning world and increase opportunities for artists and organizers, we need to create an inclusive, safe and accepting atmosphere at conventions!
This piece originally appeared on LinkedIn.
intro image by PopCultureGeek.com, modified by author
1 in 5 is a lie.
I think of people in my life who had this happen to them. I think about all the women who've come up to me after teaching a class on relationships or consent. I think about all of the anonymous questions. They all sound the same, "x and x happened, did he rape me?"
I think about me. It just doesn't add up.
1 in 5 is a lie.
It's a lie because society talks us out of what we know deep down is....that thing...that thing we just can't name.
It's a lie because society makes us think, "well I shouldn't have done x thing." Even if you know better. You can't help but wonder what steps you could have changed in your day to avoid that thing. Maybe I should have worn that nail polish. Is it going to tell me if a man is going to treat me with like a human who deserves respect, dignity, and autonomy?
"I should have just given in like all the other times then I wouldn't have to be here. I don't know what I was trying to prove." That's when I realized it was a lie. When I thought to myself, "why didn't i just give in like all the other times..."
It’s a lie because people don’t know how to be there for you. I know what I need to do. I know what steps to take. I know why it was wrong. I know. Believe me. No one knows this better than me. But what you don’t know is that I need to feel like I’m in control of something. Pushing me to do what you think is right is not the way to give me that control.
It's a lie because he talks you out of it.
"Calm down. You know how much trouble you can get me into? You're making it sound like I raped you or something."
"Rapists are monsters! I'm not a monster!"
"I feel you slipping from me. I wanted that connection back."
"You're just making it worse for yourself by calling it rape."
It's a lie because you want to hate him so bad. But you can't. You can't stop wondering where society failed him. Why does he think what happened was anything other than what it was? Where did I fail him as a woman? Where did I fail him as his lover? Where did I fail him as his best friend?
It's a lie because of the police.
"Did you report it? Why not?"
I can think about a million reasons. The most important ones being:
1. No one would believe me.
2. I don't feel like having my life torn apart and ridiculed and judged by men armed with guns, and even worse, misogyny.
It's a lie because we silence people. It's a lie because we refuse to believe that rape culture is real. It's a lie because we refuse to teach men that they are not entitled to women's bodies. It's a lie because we judge. It's a lie because we don't trust women. It's a lie because we don’t talk to our friends, sisters, mom, grandma, aunts, cousins, etc, etc, about what consent is and isn’t.
It’s a lie because you don’t make the space for us to tell you the truth.
By Ashley Medley
It’s been a mild August (at least here in DC) and fall is practically here! This means the advertisements for Back-To-School supplies will soon come to a close! And pumpkin flavored everything is being stocked on store shelves!
This time of year is a complicated time for students and parents. For incoming college freshmen, there’s the thrill and excitement of a new academic year filled with new experiences mixed with (for some people) anxiety about social situations in an environment away from home. The “other Freshmen 15” is the first 15 weeks of college when students face the highest risk for sexual assaults. This is panic-inducing thought for both parents and students. But we can enter this period of time with an energy for awareness-raising and educating ourselves on how we can change such a horrible tradition. This summer, there’s been legislative progress and government leaders stepping up with initiatives to combat sexual violence, while some accused contest that these laws violate their rights. Here are a few article and clips on what we’ve been seeing across the country in the last couple weeks:
‘Yes’ is Better Than ‘No’: Michael Kimmel and Gloria Steinem on Consensual Sex on Campus (NY Times)
Bill Aims to Crack Down on Campus Sexual Assault (USA Today)
Can Men Help Prevent Sexual Assault? (NYTimes)
Some Accused of Sexual Assault Say System Works Against Them (NPR)
16 Things People Told a Rape Survivor After She Wrote About Her Rape (BuzzFeed News; This pertains to a student at Oxford university)
Gov. McAuliffe Forms Task Force to Combat Sexual Violence at Virginia Colleges (Washington Post)
Columbia Student Will Carry a Mattress Everywhere Until Her Alleged Rapist is Expelled (NY Magazine)
Why Educating and Empowering Teens is the Key to Ending Domestic and Dating Violence (takepart.com)
Ex-GWU President Knows Why Rapes Happen: Drunk Chicks (Jezebel)
These stories discuss sexual violence and rape culture. They may be upsetting to some readers.