A month after Rolling Stone published a harrowing account of a gang rape that took place inside a fraternity at the University of Virginia — parts of which have been called into question after conflicting details of the story emerged — the school’s administration is enlisting fraternities to help with damage control.
On November 22, University President Teresa Sullivan issued a moratorium on Greek activity until January 9 (though the fraternity under fire is still housing students), and asked that the University’s Interfraternity Council (IFC) come up with a list of reformed “party regulations” to lift the suspension of Greek activity. The proposed party regulations, which were presented to UVA President Teresa Sullivan on Tuesday, December 16, were recently sent to ThinkProgress by an IFC official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he said he was not authorized to speak to reporters. Sullivan will review the list and present a finalized version to IFC before January, the anonymous official said.
ThinkProgress contacted the North American Interfraternity Conference and the University of Virginia Communications Department for comment on this story but has not heard back.
The IFC proposals focus on eliminating factors that enable sexual assault — like drinking and party culture — rather than addressing its root causes and modifying campus policies that have expelled students in the past decade for cheating but never for rape. They are:
1) No liquor at parties after 8pm2) Food and water to be provided at every party3) Three sober brothers required at every party. They will have to wear a uniform of some sort that will be consistent throughout the IFC4) Doors of parties are to be worked by 3rd party security firms. And lists are required to have a record of who was in attendance5) One of the sober brothers needs to have key access to all rooms in the house.
“They’re trying to make our parties safer, which is a great goal. They reduce the risk of having people being too drunk and making poor decisions” said the IFC official. However, he added, “I really don’t think that those address the underlying catalysts of rape.” He cited serial rapists, which David Lisak, a former clinical psychologist who now consults the U.S. military and college administrations on issues of sexual assault, found account for more than 90 percent of sexual assaults on campus.
As ThinkProgress previously reported, the links between alcohol consumption and sexual assault are often nebulous. While some predators do utilize alcohol to prey on victims, many plan premeditated attacks that isolate prospective victims’ and test their boundaries without the presence of a drink.
“People don’t get raped because they have been drinking, because they are passed out or because they are drunk,” an expert explained in a USA Today story last year about the connections between sexual assault and alcohol. “People get raped because there is a perpetrator there — someone who wants to take advantage of them.”
Lisak arrived at a similar conclusion when assessing the nature of sexual crimes. In his paper, “Understanding the Predatory Nature of Sexual Violence,” he outlines common characteristics of “undetected rapists” — non-stranger rapists who are rarely prosecuted for rape and sexual assault. “When compared to men who do not rape, these undetected rapists are measurably more angry at women, more motivated by the need to dominate and control women, more impulsive and disinhibited in their behavior, more hyper-masculine in their beliefs and attitudes, less empathic and more antisocial,” he wrote. While Lisak acknowledged that some rapists use alcohol deliberately to render their victims more vulnerable to attacks, he concluded that the vast majority of on-campus rapes are committed by serial, violent predators — not “decent young men” thrown into dizzying confusion by blurred lines, party culture, mixed signals, and a few extra shots.
Additionally, sexual assault and rape has become a problem at many “Bible Colleges” with strict “morality codes,” many of which prohibit drinking, partying, unmarried handholding, socializing in garages, and hanging out in public in groups of more than ten without chaperones. Last week, the Christian nonprofit ministry GRACE released a report on sexual abuse allegations at Bob Jones University, a Christian university in South Carolina. The report found that more than half of abuse survivors said that the school’s response to their disclosures had been “somewhat to very hurtful,” and nearly 50 percent said that University discouraged them from filing police reports. In this context, strict regulations on alcohol and partying did not eliminate sexual assault, as popular opinion may have suggested.
In the same vein, reducing the amount of liquor available at UVA frat parties after 8 p.m. and providing water and food at parties does not address the root causes of rape, the IFC official said. When asked what the University could do to address campus sexual assault, he confessed: “I don’t know. I think it’s a cultural issue.”
Many sexual assault survivors at the University have echoed that opinion, citing the administration’s tendency to shield rapists from prosecution, and the existence of power dynamics that put young, party-seeking freshman girls at the whim of fraternity members with alcohol.
“If you are a freshman and you want to go out, you have to go to a frat,” said a UVA alumna who was sexually assaulted her junior year. “Guys are the only ones who are allowed to have alcohol. If you want to experience UVA, you go to a frat. The frat boys sit on couches above you and point out who can come in. If you’re not hot enough, they say ‘take some more girls to get in,’ or they tell girls to show more cleavage flashes if they want to get in. it’s so easy for a guy to point out a girl to his friends, the bartender hands her a drink. You can’t see what’s going on, it’s crowded and really dark, and all of a sudden you don’t know where your friends are. It’s very frightening.”
ThinkProgress spoke with IFC President Tommy Reid, who said that the IFC source was mistaken and the organization’s President did not meet with Teresa Sullivan on Tuesday, December 16. The five proposals, he said, “represent a basic skeleton of some of the proposals for party management” that will be formally presented to President Sullivan by December 31. He did not offer the full contents of the list. Reid also said that IFC policy does authorize members to speak to the media.