Recently, sexual consent and the issues revolving around a lack of consent education in the United States school system have become heavily highlighted topics as increasing numbers of sexual harassment and assault victims come forward to share their experiences, seek justice, and inform others. With emerging campaigns such as the #metoo movement, as well as numerous cases of sexual assault running through the headlines of our news outlets, it’s clear that as a society, we have a number of improvements that must be made in how we enforce clear and informed consent.
While consent is a concept that should be addressed in every community, one such community seems sexual assault seems most prevalent is Greek Life. While not all Greek organizations have significant consent issues, it is important we look at the facts: One in five college women will be sexually assaulted before graduation, and according to the National Institute of Justice, “sorority membership is a ‘risk factor’ for sexual assault — 25% of sexual assault victims surveyed were sorority members but only 14% of non-victims surveyed belonged to a sorority”. Furthermore, fraternity men are three times more likely to commit rape than their non-Greek peers. So with this in mind, why is the rate of sexual assault cases significantly higher amongst Greek Life members, and what can we change to solve this growing consent epidemic? Former University of Maryland student Ian Tolido and the fraternity brothers of UC Berkeley may be able to help us answer this question.
After hearing a close friend recount her sexual assault experience at college, and after having a consent talk within his own fraternity, Ian Tolino– a fellow fratnerity member himself–was inspired to join the fight for clear and informed consent on university campuses. Now a Peer Educator, Tolino visits fraternities at his university to educate his fellow Panhellenic brothers about what giving consent should look like. Tolino begins his presentations by asking the brothers what they think consent is. Of the various replies he receives, such as “when she starts banging you” or “sober”, the only corrects answer he will accept is that consent is a voluntary agreement to engage in a sexual act at the time of the act. In an interview with the Washington Post, Tolino asserts that he wants fraternity brothers across the nation to consider this: “do you want to do something to someone that will impact them for the rest of their lives?”
As of October 2016, the University of California Berkeley Interfraternity Council made the executive decision to greet their brothers and guests with a one-to-two-minute consent talk prior to entering any fraternity sponsored event. Unfortunately, this modification was a result of a number of sexual assault cases being unearthed at the University itself–22 rapes were reported on-campus or in student housing in 2015 and four rapes were reported off-campus. In addition to the consent talk, three sober monitors are required at all fraternity parties to report misconduct.
So why are consent talks the way to go? Well, as UC Berkeley student and fraternity member Thomas puts it, “Sexual assault and ending sexual violence is something that requires a change in the culture on college campuses.” Consent talks do just this. In order to remedy the consent crisis, college men must first internalize the nationwide conversation–they must understand consent in order to apply it. In giving these talks to fraternity brothers within their community, members are given a space in which they do not have to be afraid to learn and grow together.
Additionally, addressing the consent issue within individual fraternities allows for a more intimate and personal understanding of consent, in comparison to that which is presented in say a lecture on sexual education. Furthermore, consent talks both within the fraternity and prior to fraternity events address the issue of sexual assault prior to its occurrence. Influence starts on the ground, and in raising awareness amongst fraternities nationally, we will be able to fight sexual assault at its roots and help prevent assaults before they occur. Cultural change is a daunting task, but in starting the conversation (literally), we can begin to integrate consent into the everyday lives of university students, destigmatizing the taboo of consent talks and the often uncomfortable ere they currently exhibit.
Unfortunately, UCSB is no stranger to sexual assault cases, with 376 CARE student-clients who disclosed a sexual assault, dating/domestic violence, and/or had been stalked, either on or off campus, recently, or in the past. With this in mind, we as a community need to consider the effects of sexual assault on our own campus. UCSB should be a community in which all people feel safe and protected. So, let’s talk!
For more resources visit: http://sexualviolence.ucsb.edu/