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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    The greek mythology of sexual assault

    Allison Dumkacolumnist
    Allison Dumka

    Everyone hears warnings about fraternity parties; according to stereotypes, they’re full of aggressive drunks attempting to take advantage of freshman girls. What creates a problem – far more than kegs of crappy domestic beer – is that this stereotype does nothing to actually inform people about sexual assault, which is a real problem.

    Here are the facts.

    Rape, or sexual assault, occurs more frequently on college campuses than in the general population. In 2000, the U.S. Department of Justice supported a study entitled “”Sexual Victimization of College Women,”” which interviewed 4,500 female students.

    In one of the most comprehensive studies on sexual assault to date, women were asked if they had experienced different situations in the last seven months. Slightly less than 2 percent of surveyed women had experienced completed rape (unwanted, completed penetration by force or threat of force).

    The study explains the difficulty in extrapolating the data to five years (the average time to get a degree) but still indicates that sexual assault poses a serious threat. Approximately 19,600 female students attend the UA – 2 percent equates to 392 women in the past seven months.

    It’s scary because it’s true, and it’s a problem.

    Sexual assault on campus “”is probably highly underreported,”” said University of Arizona Police Department spokesman Sgt. Eugene Mejia. National data finds that men commit sexual assault against female victims in 98 percent of cases. The rape victim knows her attacker in nine of 10 cases. Accordingly, women are most likely to be assaulted by a guy they know and trust in social situations.

    Many college social scenes involve heavy drinking. Alcohol consumption relates to sexual assault in a very complicated way. “”Liquid courage”” is supposed to embolden drinkers. Many students think booze will help them act in a more powerful, uninhibited and aggressive manner than normal.

    So, drinks could translate to boldly (and stupidly) climbing your apartment’s fire escape, or boldly (and stupidly) putting the moves on someone who wants to be left alone. Drinking also assists one’s decisions to act impulsively and aggressively.

    Pima County Deputy Attorney Kristen Kelly explains: “”If someone is intoxicated, they are incapable of consent under the law. If a perpetrator knows the victim is drunk and cannot consciously consent to sex, he is taking advantage of the victim.”” And if the offender who committed the crime is drunk, that is not a legal defense for his behavior.

    Well, beer pong and cocktail parties aren’t going to disappear, and tipsy make-out sessions probably aren’t going to stop, either. But drunken sex is generally a bad idea; you might boldly and stupidly not use a condom. Slurring or puking isn’t sexy, either.

    If you can’t feel sexy without tossing back some liquid courage, you should rethink your ideas about sexuality. Your partners will thank you, and you can prevent miscommunication by clearly assessing if your partner wants to be sexual.

    This clear assessment is called consent. Sexual assault is when someone intentionally or consciously has sex without the other person’s consent, Kelly said. To get consent, you have to verbally check in with your partner.

    Sexual assault myths claim a woman needs to say “”‘no”” so her partner knows she doesn’t want sex. Actually, it’s up to both people involved to get consent from the other.

    Michelle Dorsey, psychologist for the Oasis Program against Sexual Assault and Relationship Violence, says, “”It’s not about hearing ‘no.’ It’s about hearing ‘yes'”” to ensure your partner wants sex. The process of consent in your sexual activity demonstrates respect for your partners and can prevent miscommunication.

    Oberlin College policy famously tells students to get consent for every step of a physical act – as in “”Can I have consent to take off your shirt?”” Another college sells t-shirts proclaiming “”Let consent pitch yer tent.”” These two examples may not be entirely sexy, but consent can be succinct, as long as it happens. My friend Jess’ partner asked her, “”Is this cool?”” and that worked for her. You can figure out which sexy words you like.

    Here are a few things that aren’t sexy:

    In 2004, the Department of Justice did not renew the Oasis Program’s grant funding, which had paid for a significant portion of its programs. Now Oasis is a very small staff providing numerous services, and the demand for services has not decreased. Oasis also gives presentations, training and information to some greek houses at UA, which do not return the favor by donating to Oasis.

    “”It’s not about hearing ‘no.’ It’s about hearing ‘yes.'””

    Although UA Panhellenic, National Panhellenic and the UA Interfraternity Council adopted a “”Resolution of Sexual Assault”” in 1986 and 1995, many houses do not comply.

    The resolution recognizes “”that approximately 20 percent of women on college campuses have been victims of rape or attempted rape. … (D)ate acquaintance rape and sexual assault often result from inadequate communication between parties concerning expectations and sexual limits and often involves the use of alcohol and/or drugs.”” It also says chapters should provide literature and the contact information of professional resources for dealing with rape.

    Unfortunately, two fraternity presidents I spoke with said they had no knowledge of such a policy in their houses. This definitely doesn’t make them rapists, but they’re still not complying with rules, which were intended to disprove that label.

    Some greek men work to improve this misperception; the Interfraternity Council shows pledges a video about consent on bid day. Some greeks act as Health Advocates in their chapters and educate their houses on health and sexuality issues, one of which is sexual assault.

    Rhys Williams, president of Sigma Phi Epsilon, informed me his house “”absolutely does not tolerate disrespectful behavior toward women on any level.””

    In an ideal world, large campus groups would use their influence to raise awareness about important campus issues. Many Greek houses play sports for philanthropic causes – volleyball for veterans, ping-pong for premature babies, etc.

    I know efforts go to worthy causes chosen by the national chapter, but I’ll give up all stereotypes when I see Greek Olympics donate to the Oasis Program. Now that would be sexy.

    Allison Dumka is a political science senior. She can be reached at If you have been sexually assaulted, you can reach the Oasis Center at 626-2051 or Southern Arizona Center Against Sexual Assault at 327-7273.

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