Friday, November 15

Letter to the Editor: Removing access to alcohol should not be focus in sexual assault prevention

As both an alumna of UCLA and a victim of frat party sexual assault, I read with great interest several articles this week on the alcohol ban imposed by the UCLA Interfraternity Council following the arrest of a former fraternity president for alleged sexual assault.

During my tenure as the risk management chair of Kappa Kappa Gamma at UCLA in the early 2000s, I saw a fair share of the effects of binge drinking on students. The intention of this letter is neither to condemn nor support the IFC ban. Rather, it is to question what steps UCLA is taking to combat campus sexual assault at its root.

To put it bluntly, this ban is nothing more than feel-good legislation. It’s low-hanging fruit for the university and fraternity leaders to assure students, parents and alumni that some reasonable course of action is being taken. However, the solution cannot be to simply remove the kegs from the parties. If that is seen as the answer, wouldn’t that imply that fraternity brothers are merely a few beers away from committing rape?

The alcohol ban implies that women’s otherwise friendly and helpful classmates, floormates, resident assistants and teaching assistants are just a few glasses of jungle juice shy of becoming sex-crazed, would-be predators. The idea that, given enough alcohol, any man is capable of raping women is a woman’s worst nightmare. In the past, we may have cautiously assumed that a few bad apples may lurk among us, but this ban asserts alcohol, not sexual assault culture, is the poison that turns an otherwise innocuous man into a predator.

Furthermore, we need to ask: What does this ban say to and about the fraternity men implied to be potential aggressors?

The university must take every opportunity to reshape and reframe the minds of its students to override the norms of rape culture. Students must learn to respect women as peers and fellow humans.

As a student at UCLA from 2001 to 2006, I know firsthand that there are world-class professors and lecturers who are knowledgeable about subjects such as human sexuality, race and ethnicity, women’s studies and LGBTQ studies. These faculty members have a wealth of information they can teach to incoming students. Freshman orientation, convocation, Fiat Lux seminars and RA floor meetings are all places where the messages of equality and respect as they relate to preventing sexual assault should be hammered at repeatedly.

The goal should not be to reduce binge drinking – although that is certainly worthy on its own merit – as a means of preventing sexual assault. Rather, it should be to systematically dismantle the mindsets that enable sexual misconduct and the culture of silence that has surrounded it for so long.

Katherine de la Fuente

De la Fuente graduated from UCLA in 2006.

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