The recent Rolling Stone article about sexual assault at the University of Virginia has sent the Internet into a raging tailspin. Again. Everyone is disgusted by the brutality, shocked at the nonchalance of the administration, disheartened by the victim’s friends’ responses. Again.
The cyclical nature of the Internet’s upheaval with outrage and settling with loss of interest is routine. These shocking, thoroughly disturbing stories come to light, are obsessed over for a few days, then fade back into obscurity.
True, all fraternities at UVA have been suspended. This is a step in the right direction, as well as an admission of the flagrant problem. But it’s not enough.
According to two different studies (Foubert, Newberry & Tatum, 2007; Loh, Gidycz, Lobo & Luthra, 2005) fraternity men are three times more likely to commit sexual assault on college campuses than regular men. Three times more likely.
Fraternities foster unhealthy conditions for men during a very soul-searching stage of life. At a time when young men are trying to figure out who they are and who they’re going to be, concentrated peer pressure and a misogynistic environment can be a toxic combination.
Especially at schools like UVA, where fraternities define students’ social lives, this additional power given to men in compromising situations can lead to the disgusting, brutal violation of students like Rolling Stone’s Jackie.
When is this online fury going to transfer into real change? When will it no longer be enough for schools like UVA to put their fraternities in a time-out for bludgeoning and raping their female students? When will we admit that the frivolous, alcohol-infused socializing that fraternities bring to colleges is not enough to justify their existences when scores of girls are getting brutalized within their walls?
Sexual assault is rampant on college campuses. And it’s no secret that fraternities are hotbeds of rape and cover-up. It’s time that college administrations take on their responsibilities as governing bodies, as protectors of their students and as human beings by standing up for their young women rather than cowing to the social pressure of an old boys’ club.