I’m told that your college years will be some of the best in your life, a time of newfound freedom and independence. Who we surround ourselves with at this crucial point in our lives will shape our new identities. The universities of the nation assure us that they hold our lives and our futures safely in their hands. This begs the question: how much responsibility do they take for making sure that we aren’t misled?
I became one of the many misled my first year at Long Beach State. Being a transfer student, I had never experienced college away from home. Because of this, I joined a sorority in search of new friends and relationships. I found exactly that. There were events to plan, parties to go to and a network of new people to meet. I was so overjoyed to be a part of this experience that I didn’t stop to think about the potential consequences.
The Greek community doesn’t tell you that sorority sisters are 74% more likely to be sexually assaulted, or that fraternity brothers are 300 % more likely to commit sexual assault. In my time in the sorority, I was sexually harassed on several occasions and then told by my sisters that “boys will be boys,” or “next time, stay closer to me.” My mind was molded to believe that that behavior was okay and that it was my fault for not being more careful.
My first summer in Long Beach would prove to alter my life forever. After having been at a frat party, I was sexually assaulted by one of their members. I remember being completely vulnerable; terror turned to sickness. I will never forget the feelings of unwanted hands on my body, being held down against my will even as I fought back. I will always remember the textured ceiling and the one lone cobweb that I stared at when I gave up fighting. My attack felt like a lifetime.
I was angry. I’m still angry, and I’ve been told by others with similar experiences that it will never go away.
Coming forward, in some ways, was harder than the experience itself, as I had to give in to the shame and embarrassment I felt. LBSU does not have an outlet that truly supports victims of sexual assault. With the revolving door of Title IX coordinators over the last year, as well as the lack of a Greek advisor, is the university failing their students? Greek life is a deep-rooted institution that hosts the most perpetrators as well as victims. That cannot be ignored, and yet it is, both by the college and the community.
I spent months waiting for my case to be finished. The process kept being delayed as a result of crucial administrative positions being left vacant throughout the process. My name was spelled wrong constantly and emails were not sent to the proper people.
I felt invalidated. I felt unimportant. I felt like I had been failed.
I was angry. I’m still angry, and I’ve been told by others with similar experiences that it will never go away. How could the fraternities protect the men who do this? Furthermore, why is their behavior encouraged by inaction? In my experience, fraternity boys are told that sexually assaulting a woman is no big deal. Sororities give no support to those going through it.
My own big sister in the sorority, the girl who was supposed to look out for me, chose to side with the fraternity whose member attacked me. To this day, she proudly sports their letters on campus. This lack of support caused me to leave the very thing that had come to be my home. I was now alone, with no one to support me through this trauma.
I was diagnosed with PTSD and have developed other physical health problems directly caused by the experience. Even though I’m two classes away from my degree, I dropped them both, as being on campus made me shake and triggered PTSD episodes. I will no longer be getting my teaching credential at LBSU because it’s impossible to sit through a class without tears forming in my eyes.
The fraternity responsible for my trauma does their best to remain in the community, despite the fact that they have disassociated with the school. I have to drive past their house on 7th Street every day. I see their social media posts and the women supporting them, I see the lack of accountability and their refusal to acknowledge the fact that their brothers are raping women.
My attacker was suspended for two years. He had sexually assaulted another woman before me, another sorority sister. The fraternity hired a lawyer in an effort to scare the survivors of their other attackers from carrying on their reports.
We don’t know the extent of the total damage this fraternity has caused, this one and the other fraternities nationwide. What we can measure, however, is the effort of our school and our Greek system. In both cases, there is very little. The emails sent from the school administration claiming to support the fight against sexual assault are a joke and their attempts at further prevention trainings are laughable. Simply telling these men to not rape, and telling women to not be raped, does not work.
It’s time for LBSU and its Greek community to wake up. They are breeding this behavior and continue throwing it on unsuspecting newcomers who are looking to the school for a home. As long as they continue to ignore this epidemic, the number of victims will grow. The blood will continue to be on their hands.