Happening at Penn State: The Ugly Truth About Greek Life and Sexual Assault

This article contains sensitive content, and includes talk of sexual assault. 


Approximately 23% of women experience sexual assault or rape through physical force, violence, or incapacitation during their years of undergraduate studies. Penn State is not excluded from these statistics, and it is the lively greek life culture that causes these numbers to grow. 


Yes, fraternities are not the only setting where college women experience sexual assault, everyone knows that. But, it is where it is most commonly heard about. This is not a problem that is unique to Penn State, and universities across the country are responding in various ways to the increasing reports of sexual assault and rape involving fraternities. Even though there is a growing distaste for greek life culture and their involvement with violent crimes, it is still something that is often swept under the rug by organizations and universities. 


Only a few days into the spring 2020 semester, Penn State’s Alpha Epsilon Pi was suspended after there was a report of sexual assault that was carried out by four members of the fraternity. This is just one example that has recently occured within the Penn State community, but sexual violence coming from fraternities is not a new problem, in fact it is one that has gone on for quite too long. 


Do I think that being involved in greek life gives some people a superiority complex and gives them an excuse to believe that they are immune to the consequences of wrongdoing? Yes. And to those of you who are involved in greek life and are just as disgusted as the rest of us; do better and do not become part of the problem. 


These men in fraternities frequently get away with these crimes of sexual assault and rape and it’s often attributed to Rohypnols or better known to most, as roofies. These sedatives are easily slipped into drinks and cause the person consuming them to experience temporary amnesia. In addition to not being able to recall events, this drug also increases a person’s level of intoxication and can lead to a loss of motor control and dizziness. 


As a woman in college, you really don’t think this will ever happen to you. But the reality is it happens way more than you initially think. No matter how many stories you hear, it doesn’t really hit home until you know someone. It doesn’t fully sink in until the girl who lives next door to you tells you she can’t remember anything from the night before except for waking up in the hospital, or until you get a text message from a friend asking how she should help her roommate after she somehow stumbled home looking like she just went through hell and back. 


Naturally, there are a lot of questions and concerns of what to do if someone you know approaches you while they are in this state. Something that is really important is to look out for each other and to have a plan if there is ever a medical situation like this. Know that you really should get them to the hospital, there they will get the appropriate medical care, and will probably get a blood test and a rape kit done. Another piece of advice is to have open communication with a friend or two about where you keep important medical information and who to call if you are ever in a medical emergency. Especially here at Penn State, it is crucial to know that you will be protected by the Responsible Action Protocol. If you believe that you are the first person to call for help for a friend, and you provide your name and stay with the person in need for help, you will receive amnesty. 


The time following a traumatic event like this can be detrimental to someone’s mental health, so while it is important to be there for someone during the event itself, it’s also crucial to be there for them after, and to reassure them that there are licensed professionals that can provide additional help. 


Sexual assault on campus can be prevented by things like appropriate consequences for committing such crimes, comprehensive sexual education, and the elimination of institutions that allow it to continue. But until then, and until people decide to not drug and or sexually assault women, it is up to us to look out for one another. It is up to all of us to do better and fix a system that has been flawed for far too long. 


There are links for resources and additional information below.