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Submission: Discussion of sexual assault needs to become personal to make a difference

By Nicole Shafer

Oct. 31, 2016 9:52 p.m.

A fraternity brother here at UCLA raped me over the summer. Sadly, I am just one of many women this has happened to. But nobody seems to care. And I know why.

We’re desensitized. It’s impersonal. We’re required to go to these meetings once a year where they throw numbers at you like “1 in 5 women” or “a small percent of men.”

Let’s make it personal.

I cannot speak for fraternities, but at a sexual assault presentation given to sororities, I remember the presenter asking us to raise our hand if we knew someone who had been assaulted. Almost every hand went up. I guarantee the few who didn’t raise their hands were unaware of the stories around them.

I could write all day saying women are people, get affirmative consent, the importance of active bystanders … and your eyes would glaze over. It’s boring and nobody really cares. You should.

At a time when Greek life is under such scrutiny, we must look to address the inequalities and systemic problems from the inside, rather than denying all arguments as the evidence piles up. There are power dynamics surrounding what it means to be in Greek life that make men act entitled to women’s bodies and make women afraid to say no.

“Not all men rape.” True. Most don’t. But staying silent as someone boasts about their “conquests,” or looking away when a woman who is too drunk to walk is taken upstairs makes you part of the problem.

“Men can be raped too.” Even more of a reason to talk about this issue.

“Women lie about rape because they feel guilty the next day.” This assumes a woman would willingly open herself to attacks and hatred from others. Look at the news: Every aspect of a woman’s personal life is scrutinized when she reports a rape. Men post addresses and phone numbers of victims online. Slurs and threats. Countless attempts to delegitimize her. Filing a false report means extensive pain, and for what? A moment of satisfaction instantly destroyed when fraternity brothers and friends jump to the accused’s defense and attack her. There is no gain in lying.

Only 1.3 percent of rapes get referred to a prosecutor, meaning a rapist is irrefutably more likely to live without consequences than an innocent man is to go to trial.

We all know rape is inexcusable. But it’s happening at UCLA. In your fraternity houses. At your events. By your brothers.

A 2005 Ohio University study found that fraternity affiliation makes a man three times more likely to perpetrate sexual assault.

Be disgusted that so many women are assaulted. Be just as disgusted that fraternity men on your campus are involved with it. Do you want to call a rapist your brother? Call someone who commits sexual assault a member of your fraternity? I doubt it. But you already do. There is a serious problem here. We must fix it.

Speak up. Everything comes down to the fact that you need to speak against words and actions that promote, insinuate or otherwise suggest sexual assault. When someone engages in “locker room talk” that makes you uncomfortable, it is making everyone else uncomfortable too. If you all stay silent, the perpetrator will continue to think he is in the right.

If you see a woman at a party or other event who is visibly uneasy, give her a way out. Ask if she wants to pick a song, and help her escape. Or jump in and talk to the man. Don’t let yourself be pushed away when something isn’t right. Same thing if one or both parties are too drunk/high/under some influence. Hesitation because you feel it “isn’t your place” is not a reason. The worst that happens is both parties shoo you off. The best is you save someone from a traumatic and criminal violation.

Don’t laugh at rape jokes. Call out anyone who does.

Remember it’s not someone’s fault if they’re assaulted. That’s saying if a drunk driver hits people, the victims shouldn’t have been outside.

Know you have power to help. Fraternity brothers don’t have to be the bad guys. Choose to be an ally.

Fraternities, and all Greek organizations, must turn inward. Not “later,” but now. Before more people get hurt. Look at your actions and the actions of your brotherhood, and confront any problems or people contributing to this issue. Do it to protect your friends, sisters and all the nameless women who have been victimized. For that female friend who hasn’t yet told you it happened to her, at the hands of your brothers. To be proud of your fraternity affiliation, rather than look back on a failed system that allowed hundreds of thousands of crimes.

Do it because it’s the right thing to do.

Shafer is a fifth-year English student.

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Nicole Shafer
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