photo of notebook with words "dude, if she's hot enough, she doesn't need a pulse."

Frats lobby Congress to make it harder to report campus sexual assault

Much like the gun lobby, the Fraternity and Sorority Political Action Committee (FratPAC) is exploiting the efforts of student anti-violence activists to advance its own agenda — making campuses more dangerous and less equitable as a result — all under the pretense of “improving campus safety.”

Yesterday, a Bloomberg piece covering the FratPAC’s efforts announced:

The groups’ political arm plans to bring scores of students to Capitol Hill on April 29 to lobby for a requirement that the criminal justice system resolve [sexual assault] cases before universities look into them or hand down punishments.

There’s so much wrong here (not the least of which that the fraternity lobby’s proposal directly violates a longstanding civil rights law, Title IX) that I can’t possibly list it all. But here are four (of the many) reasons the FratPAC’s agenda deserves our censure:

1) It forces survivors to report to a system that isn’t working. As survivors, advocates, law enforcement officers, and policymakers have tirelessly explained, the criminal justice system isn’t helping survivors. Alexandra notes, “Only a quarter of all reported rapes lead to an arrest, only a fifth lead to prosecution, and only half of those prosecutions result in felony convictions. Additionally, not all state laws cover sexual violence perpetrated by women or a person the same sex as the victim; some don’t recognize men as victims at all.” For many survivors (particularly of dating violence and stalking) reporting to the police, to then have their cases inevitably dismissed, will mean violent — even fatal — retaliation from their perpetrators.

2) Consequently, it will drive down reporting rates and allow perpetrators to avoid accountability. As survivors repeatedly attest, forcing victims into a system in which they want no part will make them less likely to report their assaults — to anyone, including law enforcement and campus administrators alike. That means FratPAC’s nominal efforts to reduce violence will fail, as perpetrators are left to reoffend with impunity. And these efforts will harm thousands of FratPAC’s own members: fraternity members (and sorority sisters) who were — or will be — assaulted by their brothers.

3) It will have discriminatory effects. Without access to a prompt and equitable campus disciplinary process, many survivors — the vast majority of whom are women, queer, and/or trans — will be forced to withdraw from classes and social activities, transfer universities, or even drop out of college entirely. That’s already a reality for survivors at schools failing to live up to their Title IX obligations; let’s not make it a fact of life for women and LGBT students everywhere.

4) All this makes FratPAC’s efforts terribly disingenuous. Not that that’s surprising. (In 2012 FratPAC fought federal anti-hazing legislation. How’s that for “improving campus safety”?) The notion that FratPAC knows better than rape survivors what will make campuses safer is absurd — a paternalist fantasy that just so happens to benefit fraternities tired of being told to be more inclusive and less abusive. We know that limiting survivors’ reporting options means fewer reports will be made — it’s hard not to wonder if perhaps that’s the point.

There are so many other ways fraternity members could have chosen to step up and do something right on sexual violence. (Some already are.) Reflecting on rape at my alma mater in relation to sports teams, a professor of mine once wrote:

One of the best aspects of team sports is that they can teach you how to subordinate your individual interests to — or meld them with — the aims of the whole. It would be great if some of the male participants in team sports at Amherst would step forward and argue for exactly that kind of decent self-subordination in relation to the college as a whole — if they would say something like, ‘Because I love playing on a team and hate sexual violence… I want to do everything I can to eradicate it.’

I think the point stands for fraternities as well. If you’re in Greek life and oppose this dangerous effort, please contact your national chapter. And make sure to let your Congressperson know that FratPAC doesn’t speak for you.

Header image from North Carolina State Pi Kappa Phi pledge notebook: “If she’s hot enough, she doesn’t need a pulse.”

New Haven, CT

Dana Bolger is a senior editor at Feministing.com and the co-founder (and former ED) of Know Your IX, a national youth-led organization working to end gender violence in schools. She's testified before Congress on Title IX policy and legislative reform, and her writing has appeared in a number of outlets, including The New York Times, USA Today, and The Nation. She's a student at Yale Law School.

Dana Bolger is the co-founder of Know Your IX and a senior editor at Feministing.

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