A Penn State fraternity has been suspended after forming private Facebook groups that collected photos of nude women who appear to be sleeping, passed out, or otherwise incapacitated — apparently without the subjects’ consent.
Local news station WJAC TV obtained a copy of the police warrant, which accuses members of the Kappa Delta Rho fraternity of publishing inappropriate photos of unsuspecting women who likely didn’t know their images were being shared online. The Facebook groups also included some photos depicting drugs and hazing activity, according to local authorities.
Although the groups have since been scrubbed, the police were still able to find about 20 photos of partially naked women. “It appears they were passed out or sleeping,” Lt. Keith Robb, a member of the State College police, told WJAC TV.
According to police, about 150 current students and alumni had access to the private Facebook groups. After one of the victims found out that her photo had been posted to the first group, the brothers simply started a second one.
After the news broke, Penn State’s Interfraternity Council (IFC) suspended the Kappa Delta Rho chapter. The IFC says it will conduct its own review of the fraternity’s conduct separate from the police investigation.
“It is IFC policy to immediately suspend activity at any chapter undergoing an investigation,” IFC President Rick Groves told the Daily Collegian, Penn State’s student newspaper. “This is both to ensure an unhindered investigation and to prevent chapters from committing further wrongdoings.”
The news about Penn State’s Kappa Delta Rho chapter comes amid heightened scrutiny about the bad behavior of Greek organizations. Last week, the Oklahoma University chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon was shut down after a video surfaced of frat members participating in a racist chant celebrating lynching.
More broadly, fraternities have frequently made headlines for dozens of allegations of sexual assault, as well as for displaying a casually misogynistic attitude toward women. Frat brothers have recently come under fire for everything from proclaiming “no means yes, yes means anal” to joking about how to “get the bitches in the right state of intoxication.” Particularly considering the fact that fraternity brothers are statistically more likely to perpetrate sexual assault, some critics argue that Greek life should be disbanded altogether in order to create a safer campus environment.
Fraternities, meanwhile, have maintained that it will be more effective to allow them to reform their culture from the inside. Members of national Greek organizations have recently been making more of an effort to help tackle the campus rape crisis, largely by frankly talking to their members about sexual assault and consent in a way they hope will resonate with young men.
Even aside from fraternities, social media has provided a new opportunity for the violation of women. It’s becoming more common for perpetrators of sexual violence to photograph or record the assault and post it online. Last year, for instance, a 16-year-old girl’s rape went viral on social media after her fellow high schoolers mocked images of her naked and unconscious body. The infamous Steubenville rape victim also found out about her assault on social media. Across the country, there are plenty of young adults who think it’s funny to target women by posting vulnerable or degrading photos of them on the internet.
Earlier this week, Facebook attempted to take a step forward in this area. For the first time, the company has explicitly banned posting naked photos of women without their permission — an exploitative practice known as “revenge porn.” While the social media giant has always banned nudity and pornography, the new guidelines come amid a growing push to hold people accountable for violating people’s consent online.