TW: mentions of sexual assault
On October 20th, the University of Southern California (USC) community learned their Sigma Nu chapter was accused of drugging multiple people, with one person reporting to be a victim of sexual assault. USC’s President Carol Folt suspended the chapter, as USC’s student body mobilized into swift protests. “What if it was your sister?” and “You are all complacent” plaster Sigma Nu’s house, written by rightfully furious students who demand to know why sexual violence continues to be so fundamentally intertwined with fraternity culture. President Folt’s statement read, “We are sorry for the pain and anguish this is causing,” but the words fall short on ears that have become numb to the same apologies.
And now, USC has admitted the assault was reported three weeks before the news was reported. USC apologizes for the “troubling delay” in reporting of the incident that has lead to a “rare faculty protest” and continued outrage. Three weeks the university knew of the alleged assault and the student body knew nothing.
It would be convenient to simply blame USC or their chapter of Sigma Nu as the sole perpetrators of this crime. USC did not act with the immediate urgency this situation demands. The Sigma Nu case comes only 8 months after the university settled over 800 million dollars to over 700 women who were sexually abused by the campus’s gynecologist. However, it is naive to act as if this is an isolated incident, or to pretend our own campus is not vulnerable to this kind of sexual violence. Rape culture is so deeply embedded in college life. And, acts of sexual assault are not restricted to fraternity houses—it happens in dorm rooms, workplaces and even one’s own home. People are sexually taken advantage of everywhere. Why? Society continues to accept “Boys will be boys,” instead of forcing men everywhere to take accountability for their behavior.
In an interview with UCLA student and Sexperts Co-director, Chloe Rosenstock, we discussed the recent accusations at USC’s chapter of Sigma Nu and what college administrations should be doing to break the endless cycle of sexual abuse and violence. “Sexperts,” a sexual health empowerment club, is apart of a coalition of sexual health and wellness organizations on campus that deal with the prevention and aftermath of sexual assault and violence.
Chloe and Sexperts believe comprehensive sexual education is the first step to permanently ending sexual violence. “People choose to sexually assault other people. That is not something that happens accidentally… They choose to override silence,” Chloe said. USC’s chapter of Sigma Nu and fraternities across the country continue to override silence. Chloe reiterates, “These are not things that people slip into, or fall into, or don’t know better” because “not knowing is not an excuse.” Boys will be boys is only perpetuated by this excuse of “not knowing.”
Sexperts’ philosophy of comprehensive sexual education is centered around healthy, verbal communication. The student-run club hosts consent workshops with many organizations on campus, especially Greek life. However, in the two years Chloe has served as Co-director of Sexperts, not a single IFC fraternity has taken up offers for their consent workshops. While UCLA’s sororities and cultural fraternities are eager to participate in Sexperts’ consent education, UCLA’s fraternities refuse.
“I do wanna make it clear, we have talked to individual members of fraternities who love Sexperts…But the people in leadership… has not made that happen with us.” Chloe and her fellow Sexperts are baffled by UCLA fraternal leadership’s aversion to educating their chapters, when it is obvious that they need it the most. Not every fraternity member is resistant to learning about consent and sexual health, but the leadership of the organizations resist baseline education.
Personally, Chloe supports defunding fraternity houses on campus because “people underestimate the power of a physical place of ownership.” Members in these houses believe they are untouchable because the crime was committed in their own home, not inside a campus owned facility. Fraternity houses are social symbols. The stairs leading up to a fraternity house create a sense of dominance. Chloe believes taking away fraternities houses on campus would be a big step towards ending sexual violence at the hands of fraternity members.
I am a member of a sorority. My sisters and I climb up the stairs of fraternity houses on campus to have fun and engage in one aspect of college social life. But we never go in alone. We are taught from night one to go in with a group and leave with a group. Find a fellow sister to walk home with. While women are taught to carry pepper spray and “text me when you get home,” men are taught the power they hold over women. Boys will be boys continues to be the governing philosophy for governing women’s bodies.
After hearing yet another story of sexual assault on a college campus, it is easy for young women entering or in college to feel scared and hesitant to venture out into the social world. But, Chloe emphasized, “99% of [her] sexual experiences at UCLA have been positive, loving, consensual and have brought me closer to the person I was with.” We should be more open about our positive sexual relationships because it helps set more healthy and normal standards for consensual relationships. Clubs like Sexperts are working to change the taboo nature around sex that contributes to a lack of communication about consent. The general public still views sex as inappropriate for discussion in schools and when raising children, leaving the concept of consent as hazy one.
UCLA has so many resources to utilize. Use them. Lean on the women around you, as feminimie power is such a powerful force.
Unfortunately, assaults like the one that happened at USC’s Sigma Nu chapter will happen again. Even with comprehensive sexual education, society continues to accept the “boys will be boys” mindset. It is toxic and damaging. Chloe said, “Groups like Sexperts ideally shouldn’t exist, it should be the university’s responsibility to ensure that every student, especially those engaging in clubs and activities with high sexual assault rates, should receive comprehensive sexual and consent education beyond Title IX and punitive measures alike.” College administrations have the duty to hold men accountable for their actions, regardless of their participation in Greek life, social organizations or social status.
Towards the end of our interview, Chloe said “the majority of the people you encounter will love and respect your body as much as you do.” But, we must be conscious of this reality we live in and protect ourselves and others.
UCLA Sexual Health Resources: