Fraternities and Colleges perpetuating a culture of abuse

By Mariyam Quaisar, Living Arts Editor

Trigger Warning: This article contains mentions of sexual assault and rape.

On Friday, Oct. 8, a female student at the University of Delaware was kidnapped, strangled to the point of unconsciousness, and assaulted by her ex-boyfriend. 

Brandon Freyre, a 20-year-old student at the University, was arrested and charged with kidnapping, assault, and strangling of the victim for the alleged incident. Newark police said in a statement that Freyre allegedly damaged the victim’s property, struck her with blunt objects, sprayed orange paint in her eyes, and threatened to kill her if she contacted the police. Freyre allegedly strangled the victim and threw the victim down a flight of stairs. He was arrested the same day as the assault and later released on bail

On Oct. 12, university students rallied outside of the Kappa Delta Rho fraternity house where Freyre lived and the alleged assault occurred. As protesters chanted “silence is compliance,” members of the fraternity stood on the porch eating their breakfast as if nothing happened. 

The fraternity’s only response was two half-assed Instagram posts stating their disapproval of domestic violence and violence against women. Meanwhile, comments are disabled on the post where they claim to make the effort to become advocates for sexual assault victims.  

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The University of Delaware did not issue a public response until four days later because the alleged incident was not considered an “imminent threat.

Colleges and universities across the United States do not act with enough conviction, if any when students are victims of sexual assault and harassment. Instead of helping the victims seek justice, they hide or undermine the incidents for the sake of maintaining their reputations, or because they simply do not want to deal with it. Moreover, not only do administrations allow for this abuse to continue with little repercussions, but in many cases, fraternity culture is heavily linked to sexual assaults on campuses nationwide.

Emerson College is also to blame for the mishandling of such cases. In 2012, Emerson administrators told student Sarah Tedesco not to make a big deal about her sexual assault, and took months to begin the actual investigation. The day after her assault, Tedesco reported it to campus police, who did not allow her to speak with a female officer and did not allow a friend to stay with her for support. Even worse, Emerson violated Tedesco’s privacy by calling her parents about the assault without her permission. 

Another survivor, Jillian Doherty, sued Emerson in 2014 for the inadequate handling of her rape case. Doherty was raped in her dorm room and Emerson’s attorneys said, “Two students agreed to meet in one student’s room and engaged in consensual sexual intercourse, followed by non-consensual intercourse… There is no duty to supervise adult students in their dorm rooms or prevent them from drinking alcohol.” 

Emerson did not interview a key witness, nor did they allow Doherty a lawyer during the initial investigation. According to Emerson’s attorneys, “Inadequacy does not equate to ‘atrocious’ or ‘utterly intolerable conduct,’” thus, apparently, Emerson should not be held accountable. 

In 2006, the University of Colorado acted with “deliberate indifference” when students Lisa Simpson and Anne Gilmore were sexually assaulted by football players and high school recruits, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. The University not only had an official policy that hosts must show football recruits a “good time,” but also failed to adequately supervise the hosts and players under such a policy, resulting in the misconduct. Moreso, university officials knew of prior sexual assaults and harassment but did nothing about it. After evidence was put forth, proving the University of Colorado guilty, the University agreed to hire a new victim’s counselor, appoint a Title IX advisor, and pay $2.5 million in damages.

In 2008, Arizona State University argued that they were not responsible under Title IX to act when a campus athlete raped a student. While the rapist was initially expelled from ASU over several sexual harassment complaints, administrators went as far as to readmit him under no supervision

It was not until Jan. 8, 2009 when a settlement was agreed upon requiring ASU to appoint someone to review and reform policies for sexual harassment and assault cases, and paid the plaintiff $850,000. 

In 2015, two Massachusetts Institute of Technology students entered a Boston University dormitory unescorted and undetected. One of them went into a suite, opened a bedroom door, and sexually assaulted a sleeping student. Boston University’s response: the student had the means to protect herself by locking her bedroom door but chose not to. 

More recently, on June 30, 2020, Prisha Sujin Kumar, a Boston University student, posted an open letter on Instagram detailing her assault that occurred in 2019, asking for “serious change in policy.” This included a 60-day time limit to complete sexual assault cases and ensuring LGBTQ+ student have equal access to care and support. Kumar was forced to write a second letter six months later, on Jan. 10, about her experience, condemning the University’s treatment of survivors like herself. 

How many sexual assault and rape cases will it take for colleges to change their policies and help their students? How long until we stop reading about rape culture on campus as if it is a norm? How long until women can feel safe around men?

The issue becomes much deeper when diving into fraternities, and the often ugly realities of Greek Life. Sexual assaults are high on the list of insurance claims of fraternities nationwide. Freyre was a member of Kappa Delta Rho before the alleged assault, and it was all because the victim went to a rival fraternity’s party. 

As male students especially continue to expect sexual activity from their peers, and as our generation is so immersed in hook-up culture, it affects sexual assault cases on campus

Our society has grown in tremendous ways in terms of not considering sex as taboo as before, which is great, but with that also comes unhealthy expectations that disproportionately harm female students. Just because hooking up and having sex is more common now than 20 years ago, it does not give anyone an excuse to assault someone. 

Several studies have found that students in fraternities are three times more likely to commit rape, and that one in five women will be sexually assaulted while they are in college, and examples of this are far too prevalent. 

In 2013, three sexual assault cases were reported within one month at a Univeristy of Texas-Arlington fraternity. 

Emerson alum Jackson Davis ‘17 was terminated from NowThis amid sexual misconduct allegations from three other alumni on campus. Former students tweeted about him, calling him “a gross abuser,” “emotionally violent,” and “a known serial assaulter” from their time together on campus. Davis was a member of the Phi Alpha Tau fraternity, which faced backlash because of the accusations against Davis. 

In 2014, one of University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s fraternities was under investigation as to whether or not its members drugged girls’ drinks at a party. 

Also in 2014, a fraternity brother at Georgia Tech sent out an email labeled “Luring your rapebait” to his fellow Phi Kappa Tau members, instructing them on how and when to get girls in bed without their consent. 

A common refrain used on campuses to shut down the idea of going to Pi Kappa Alpha for parties is “PIKE spikes.” Yes, it has come to the point where people are using a play on words to indicate which fraternities are unsafe in terms of drugging drinks.  

As students rush fraternities, and eventually become pledges, their goal becomes to please their seniors. They want to live up to an idealized version of a fraternity brother, and if that means having sex tonight, then they will have sex that night. 

Ignoring sexual assault is systemic, whether it’s emdedded within college administrations or fraterntiy boards. Female students are seen as prey, and male students their predators—a concept drilled into the minds of fraternity brothers and ignored by college officials. 

It is hard enough being a part of a growing statistic of victims, but it is even harder when the institution that becomes your home turns its back on you when you need their support the most.