Sexual Assault, Sororities and Statistics: Featuring Jordan Gelber

“I like to think Denison is a forward thinking community, but until consent is commonly understood we still have work to do.” - Jordan Gelber

Bi-weekly, in the spacious Higley Auditorium on Denison University’s campus, meets the DCSR, or Denison Coalition For Sexual Respect. Originally formed by the Title IX office at Denison, the mission of the group is to bring awareness to sexual respect and responsibility particularly in relation to college students. Members can be those who are individually interested in promoting those ideals, or delegates from larger groups looking to promote the values through their institutions. A portion of these delegates are from Greek life organizations.

Jordan Gelber is both a delegate from a Greek organization, Delta Gamma, and also an avid individual proponent for sexual respect on Denison’s Campus. She says her roots in this issue grow deep, starting with experiences she had while attending a small, all girls high school where open dialogues and conversations regarding sexual respect were welcomed. “I was privileged to be in a place that supported my values of womanhood,” she told me. Jordan recounted numerous instances when students in her high school discussed sexual harassment and assault in college, but found that there was little room for those same kinds of discussions on Denison’s campus.

“As a member of a Greek life organization, which I never thought I’d be a part of to begin with, I found myself in an interesting situation,” she told me, “I’d never had a great respect for Greek organizations. I never thought that sexual respect and Greek life went well together.” Earlier this semester Jordan learned that a position for a Delta Gamma representative in the DCSR meetings was open and available, and she volunteered herself without hesitation. “It was important to me morally to be involved in promoting sexual respect on this campus because obviously Greek life throws the parties, and a lot of the sexual respect issues on this campus happen at parties. Not all of it, but a lot of it. It happens more frequently when alcohol is involved, and you’re going to find that at parties.” Nationally, 1 in 5 women will be assaulted during their college career. Raising awareness is an important step in fighting this epidemic.

October is Sexual Respect Month on Denison’s campus, and DCSR hopes to start discussions on a plethora of issues including consent, domestic and dating abuse and reproductive rights. DCSR will be hosting a number of events to correspond with those issues with the hope that public awareness will lead to continued patterns of change at the university. Jordan is running her own school wide campaign called, “My Costume Does Not Equal My Consent.” Her mission for this campaign is to bring attention to consent as a whole, but more specifically the fact that the outfit a person is wearing does not equate to the individual’s consent. This is a hotly debated topic, especially in instances of rape. Far too often victims who report an assault are dismissed after being asked, “what were you wearing?” Halloween can be a particularly dangerous time for this ideology, as many women find freedom in wearing costumes that are sexualized by mainstream society.

As part of her campaign, Jordan plans on scattering flyers and posters across the entirety of campus. However, a couple of locations were much more paramount to her. “It’s important to hang these messages up in residence halls, especially party dorms, not necessarily Knapp Hall or ‘daytime places’ where we’re used to seeing, and ignoring, other flyers.” She hopes that greater attention to consent in areas which are away from the formality of academic buildings can draw attention to the issue in the places where it matters most.

Jordan hopes her campaign can be the beginning of a better future for Greek life organizations on this campus. She reminded me that what we tend to think of as “bad Greek life” usually revolves around fraternities. However, Jordan believes it “can be a mess anywhere.” She hopes that in the coming semesters more fraternities and sororities will send delegates to DCSR meetings, and that the dialogue will stay open and evolving. “Organizations’ have both immense responsibility and power on college campuses,” she said, “especially relating to parties and alcohol. Greek organizations need to realize this responsibility and begin to use their power to create good.”