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Norris-LeBlanc ’13: Rape happens here, too

Guest Columnist
Wednesday, November 28, 2012


Nearly a month ago, former Amherst student Angie Epifano published her horrifying account of being raped in The Amherst Student and the subsequent mistreatment she suffered at the hands of college administrators. If you haven’t read it yet, you owe it to her to do so. 

Her revelations came in the wake of an Amherst fraternity printing T-shirts for its annual pig roast depicting a battered woman in her underwear roasting over a fire on a spit. Amherst, a supposed bastion of progressive thought, was unmasked, and its ugly core of misogyny was exposed.

I am writing this column to tell you that what happened to Angie, from her rape to her experiences with an ignorant and unsympathetic counseling system, has happened here at Brown, another supposed haven for progressivism.

A Brown student was raped. But she doesn’t like to use the word rape because she doesn’t want to be dubbed hysterical or weak or a liar – like Angie was. So, she has resorted to the euphemism “he had sex with me without my consent.”

She immediately took the steps that Brown Health Services recommends. She reported her rape a day after it happened to Brown’s Psychological Services, which then sent her to a dean in the Office of Student Life.

The dean was sympathetic but never even suggested the idea of calling the police. She was told that she had two options. First, she could request a disciplinary hearing on the grounds of “sexual misconduct.” There would be witnesses, faculty advisers and hours of face-to-face time in a room with her rapist. To make matters worse, the dean informed her that her rapist would at most get suspended for three semesters, meaning she would still be on campus when he returned.

Her other option was to pursue a no-contact order. This does not function like a restraining order, and though it stipulates that neither student is allowed to contact the other, they could still see each other anywhere on campus or in the city.

Eventually, she broke down. Just seeing her rapist triggered full-blown episodes of post-traumatic stress disorder. And while she was forced to take a medical leave, her rapist remained here as if nothing had happened.

While he enjoyed his freedom, she had to listen to a psychiatrist who told her that at her age, she should want to have sex anyway. She also had to sit at home, unable yet to return to Brown while her rapist walked through the Van Wickle Gates.

I am telling her story because for survivors, anonymity is the only refuge. If you are going to feel isolated, you might as well not trap yourself in a panopticon at the same time. I am intimately familiar with this reaction: I am also a survivor of sexual assault.

This story should send a shockwave through the University. Brown administrators need to see the damage they are inflicting on their students with their current policies on sexual assault. During the whole process, contacting law enforcement was never offered to her by administrators, nor was she given anything resembling a viable option to confront her rapist within the framework here at Brown.

At Amherst, when Epifano’s story was published, President Biddy Martin called for an open meeting to discuss policies on sexual misconduct. Within a week, the college’s policies had been overhauled. This same response is desperately needed here at Brown. President Paxson, this is your chance to make your first mark on our community.

It is time to confront this issue on a systematic level as well. Even if we change things here at Brown, which we must, how many times will this scenario have to replicate itself before we change the way we think about rape? How many more survivors will it take?

The fraternities are a place to start this conversation. Nearly two years ago, I wrote a column about the dangers of sexual assault here at Brown, particularly in the frats on Wriston Quad. I received a huge response, mostly positive from the majority of the Brown community and overwhelmingly negative from the Greek male community. I was even told in an email from one fraternity member that I “do not know of anyone sexually assaulted at a Brown Greek house because we make sure it doesn’t happen here.” 

Well, the woman I am writing about was raped in a frat. And I know a lot of other women who have had issues there as well. While I am in no way suggesting that fraternities are the only place where sexual assault is a concern, they are symbols of the sexism that exists on college campuses nationwide.

Fraternities are just the tip of the iceberg, though. We need to confront the attitudes surrounding sexual assault from all angles. The idea that there are “gray areas” in the definition of rape and that “violent rape” (i.e. Rep. Todd Akin’s “legitimate rape”) should be treated any more or less severely than any other kind sex without consent, needs to be eradicated.

The lid needs to be blown off of this horrible system of terror and repression. We can begin by making changes here on campus that will better protect the survivors of sexual assault and make sure a just solution is found.



Chris Norris-LeBlanc ’13 is from Rhode Island. He can be contacted at

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  1. Fraternities are symbols of sexism? Unqualified hyperbole weakens your otherwise legitimate argument.

  2. Current Female Brown Student says:

    I have read the Amherst student’s article, and I do not doubt the existence of these rape incidents across college campuses and beyond. My thoughts are sympathetic to all of the victims.
    The concept of rape is absolutely horrifying and should be thoroughly condemned. If true, the University’s (whether it be Brown, Amherst or others) responses and actions are also completely unacceptable.

    That said, I do not quite understand why victims do not reach out beyond the school’s administration? Why not reach out to the police and authorities who actually have the ability to take legal actions against these offenders? And I don’t mean this at all in a victim blaming way.

    Yes, the school’s actions are wrong. But, ultimately, the University do not have much power other than to at most expel the offender. I believe the price to pay for rape and sexual assault is beyond just expulsion from school, but rather legal repercussions in form of jail time, being on the sex offender registry, etc.

  3. Victim’s don’t reach out to law enforcement because when you have just been raped, your ability to pick yourself up, dust off and take care of yourself is not really intact. This is why it is of the utmost importance that this option is offered to rape victims; which, according to the story in this column, it never was.

  4. Female student Brown '14 says:

    in response to “current female brown student,” I do agree that legal actions must be taken against rapists. However, it is often very difficult to prove a rapist guilty, unless the incident is reported immediately and a rape kit at a hospital is used. Therefore, it becomes the victim’s word against the rapist’s word in a court. This can be scary, knowing that if the victim’s rapist is not convicted, the victim is potentially in danger.

  5. I think it is appalling that there is a hushed response to dealing with incidents of rape at Brown, or any other university. It should be at the forefront of the University’s agenda to make all students feel safe and eradicate spaces which foster sexist attitudes or worse, such as violent attacks.

    Fraternities, which I agree are symbols of sexism, are a serious detriment to a healthy and supportive community. They have aggressive induction methods and facilitate exclusivity that often creates a code of silence that only exacerbates the problem. President Paxon should immediately respond and readdress Brown’s policies in response to the courageous survivor who chose to share her story. My thoughts are with the survivor and all those who suffered violence from within the community.

  6. Rape on a college campus is a tricky thing. Obviously there are clear cut examples out there, including but not limited to violent and/or drug related assaults, but then there are also more ambiguous cases that require more nuance – for example, is it rape if a guy sleeps with a girl who’s drunk? What if they’re both drunk? Is it rape only if she’s more drunk than he is? Is it still rape if a girl sleeps with a drunk guy? Can you give “consent” while drunk at all?

  7. No one is condoning rape, but you can’t just use a few examples to whitewash the entire fraternity community as conducive to it.

    Rape is one of those things where it can be tricky to know what really happened in the situation, especially if alcohol is involved. If a girl accuses a guy of rape, should the university simply drop everything and expel him on the spot before investigating the claim?

    Also, keep in mind that men can be raped too. While violent rapes against men are less common, situations involving murky amounts of consent can arise for both genders. If you find the notion of a man being raped absurd, then you should recognize it as a double standard.

  8. the attack on fraternities is absurd. If you’ve been out at Brown, you realize that other institutions function similarly to fraternities in a social setting. For example, the lax house is a place that throws parties and has all-male inhabitants. Would you ban the men’s lacrosse team for the same reason you would lash out at fraternities?

    they have the same level of exclusivity (hinged on your ability to play lacrosse) and the same gender requirements (IE mens or womens lacrosse). I am not ignoring the problem but to argue that fraternities are symbols of sexism and the core of the problem is unfounded.

  9. I am so grateful that this anonymous student was willing to share her experience, and I hope that the bravery that she and Angie have displayed offers some comfort to the countless others who have been in their position. That the victim of a violent crime would ever be made to feel like the crazy one, or to bear all the consequences while the perpetrator goes unpunished–and that the officials responsible for their care would prove to be so ignorant and unresponsive–makes me profoundly sad.

    Fraternities might be so committed to their unwritten compact of omertà that each individual brother manages to protect his own plausible deniability, but when the stories of the sexual crimes committed within their houses are so horrifying and so common, these gender-discriminating good ol’ boys clubs could be fairly called worse things than “symbols of sexism.” Their reflexive rejection of their own culpability only further stigmatizes and discourages rape reporting, and any serious attempt to improve Brown’s support for survivors has to include a discussion about whether the frats should be allowed to remain on campus.

  10. Its safe to say that most people agree rape is bad and want nothing to do with it. I’m pretty sure that most of these date rapes occur and the perpetrator is actually clueless. May I suggest that perhaps a reason rape culture still exists is that for males being the aggressor by and large works and may at times be the only means to pursue a relationship? When I say aggressor, I am not saying violent, I am saying the instigator, the initiator, the agent. Since we were young we’ve been told fairytales where girls sit pretty and wait for suitors to present them gifts to win over their affections. Girls are an object and guys are the actor. As we age and mature, we realize that usually the aggressive macho/ alpha guys get their way. Girls allow things to happen and the guys do those things. Its a feedback loop that rewards behavior that walks the fine line of date rape and it sadly isn’t a surprise to me that the line gets crossed.

    Ending this culture requires a a rethinking of courtship norms. It needs to make things like Sadie Hawkings dances irrelevant as it shouldn’t be weird that women ask guys on dates. That women initiate. That women are also the actors. That things just don’t “happen” to them. Then and only then do you end the detrimental incentives for hyper-aggressive behavior that may lead to date rape.

  11. Out come the rape apologists and victim blamers, casting aspersions on rape accusations right on cue. If you can can read this tragic story about a sexual assault victim completely abandoned by the University and the justice system, and your first response is to worry about false rape claims, then you need to check your priorities. (And, just maybe, the unspoken realities that make you so anxious.)

    And if you’re arguing that there are other social settings just like frats, then all you’ve managed to prove is that the frats are part of the problem but not quite all of it.

  12. As a male, the gender responsible for the vast majority of sexual assault, I still truly cannot fathom how anyone who wasn’t’ brain-dead could be so incredibly callous and lacking in empathy as to knowingly inflict such pain and trauma on another human being.
    On that note, I have done work with Brown’s Coordinator of Sexual Assault Response on this issue, and I was actually quite impressed by her; she certainly seemed committed to working towards creating a safer Brown. I think it’s critical to remember that it’s comparatively easy to condemn a broken system, much harder to make gainful progress in successfully fixing it. As a community, I truly hope we do far more of the latter than the former (though this article is welcome in starting a necessary conversation). Indeed, as the McCormick case showed, a system which swings too hard towards guilt by accusation alone is arguably nearly as immoral as the system which too often is stacked against a victim. Sadly, short of a fail-proof lie detector test, it’s an immensely complex issue. Yet, it’s resolving these complex issues that test a community, and (at the risk of being overly optimistic) I think few communities are better placed to handle it than our own.
    Finally, we must go forward cognizant of the fact that this is hardly a university-specific problem – the current state judicial system in regards to rape is fairly woeful; of those rapes reported (a fraction of the total, and usually those most ‘clear-cut’ from a judicial perspective) the conviction rate is app. only 25% (last I was aware), and often just cause more trauma to the victim.

  13. My thoughts go out to this brave woman. Thank you for sharing this story.

    It is well-known secret among my female friends at Brown that a lot of what goes on at the fraternity houses is not okay. I am fortunate enough not to know anyone who has been sexually assaulted, but I do know several woman who have been roofied at frat parties. For many members of the community, these organizations are clearly more than just symbols of sexism.

    This isn’t to say that fraternities are inherently bad organizations. In fact, they are in a powerful position to be leaders for change with regard to the culture around sexual assault. I hope the members of Greek life at Brown will respond to these events and take action to turn these perceptions around.

  14. another female student says:

    “Out come the rape apologists and victim blamers, casting aspersions on rape accusations right on cue. If you can can read this tragic story about a sexual assault victim completely abandoned by the University and the justice system, and your first response is to worry about false rape claims, then you need to check your priorities. (And, just maybe, the unspoken realities that make you so anxious.)”

    …Come on, you’re way overreacting. The article is about the current system and how it’s broken: how it doesn’t act quickly enough or harshly enough. The commenter pointed out that in constructing an alternative system, we need to be careful not to be too quick or too harsh. Chill out.

    Sure, the fact that the commenter chose to mention this may demonstrate some insensitivity on his/her part, but it’s also likely that s/he took for granted the awfulness of this student’s story and didn’t feel the need to comment on it, instead choosing to contribute to the discussion in a different, more pragmatic way.

  15. All fraternities are not made equal, and that last bit was a little stretched to make a point, but the fact remains that particular official (or more to the point, no-longer-official or never-official) male program/greek houses do indeed foster a negative environment for women. On the other hand, there are frats on campus (AEPi for instance) that I make a point to commend for their wholehearted support and respect of women.

    Re: the woman in charge of sexual assault response and safe sex at Brown – I believe she was hired this year. She is amazing, and everyone should attend an event/meet with her at some point. That said, the administration as a whole has a LONG way to go to make up for the awful, awful things they have done to actively protect (often multi-offence) rapists on campus at the expense of their victims.

    Thank you for this article.

  16. Rape probably takes place at all college campuses, even schools that lack a prominent culture of frats. What is essential, and what Brown desperately lacks, is good leadership amongst the administrators. As many at Brown know, there is a lot of dead wood. Those folks aren’t going to do what’s necessary. Now, if the new President rises to the occasion and leads, there’s the possibility that something could start to change.

  17. Not only is Brown being insensitive and reckless in terms of the victim, the school is being irresponsible in terms of the rapist. Specifically, they are allowing him to graduate without learning that rape is unacceptable in society. So, he will go on his merry way and perhaps rape others. What does that say about Brown?

  18. Brown Student says:

    In response to Current Brown Student: I haven’t been raped, but I’ve experienced domestic violence. I tried to press charges through the Providence court system but was shut down because despite the fact that the offender was still harassing me, we had been out of the relationship for too long for it to fall under their jurisdiction.

    There is a really nasty system out there that narrows the definition of rape, sexual assault, and harassment such that it can become very difficult — not to mention intimidating — for the victim to come forward and accomplish anything.

  19. I’m sorry, but could you at least tell us what you would have changed about the process that Brown followed? Evidently what happened to your friend is horrific, but obviously a disciplinary hearing is going to have people in the room to investigate the matter, rape is very difficult to prove, that’s not Brown’s fault, it just is what it is. And I don’t think its outrageous that the rapist should have the right to be present and defend himself at the hearing, in fact the whole judicial system is predicated on the same notion. Furthermore, how would you go about enforcing a restraining order on a campus as small as Brown? Lastly, your friend could have, and is still able to pursue criminal charges. Now what you would seem to recommend is that the Dean takes unilateral action on the spot and expels the rapist. Even though that might have been justice in this case, it does not offer the appropriate protection for the convicted party. All your article has done is suggest that we should raise awareness about how wrong rape is, which Brown actually does to full measure. I’m sorry about your friend, I really am, but saying we have to stop this doesn’t solve the problem.

  20. To anonymous from 08:20:

    Not contacting the police right away makes it much harder to prove that a rape occurred. Of course, situations like this often turn into cases of he said/she said, but it would be helpful for prosecutors to have a rape kit performed on the victim.

    Also, I think you’re losing sight of the larger problem: private universities often take measures to avoid having their names tarnished in the media (for example, not reporting rape to the relevant authorities in order to avoid nasty headlines).

  21. 1. Not every guy at a frat party is a brother of the fraternity.
    2. There are many other organizations and off campus houses that have a similar gender/social makeup to greek houses — why are you not also attacking them? The hockey house, the crew house, the football house — they’re all known to be even more “dangerous” then the greek houses. Fraternities might be known as the “bastion of sexism” on other campuses, but that does not mean they’re our biggest problem at Brown.

  22. I’m really sorry to hear about this situation. It’s awful.

    I wanted to correct one thing you incorrectly stated in your article–This woman may have been told that her rapist could be “separated from the university for three semesters, at the most,” but by the standard of the student board of conduct, that’s just not true.


    Sexual Misconduct

    a. Sexual Misconduct that involves non-consensual physical contact of a
    sexual nature.
    b. Sexual Misconduct that includes one or more of the following:
    penetration, violent physical force, or injury.

    Comment: Violations of Offense IIIb will result in more severe
    sanctions from the University, separation being the standard.


    5. Expulsion. Expulsion is permanent separation from the University. A student who
    has been expelled is prohibited from entering any University premises and
    participating in any University activity or program without explicit permission. An
    expulsion may be accompanied by a transcript remark (See “Accompanying Terms for

    I don’t know whose error this is, the dean’s or whatever, but rape is considered serious at this university and is treated with expulsion.

  23. We need to maintain some objectivity with stuff like this. This article doesnt give us much to base our opinion on what might have actually happened with this girl, so it’s not fair to immediately jump to saying that her claim is 100% valid and that the administration and this accused student are at major fault.

    Of course, I’m not saying it didnt happen – I’m just saying that, because of the sensitivity to the case and the anonymity, we as readers dont actually know the full story. This goes both ways – maybe the facts of the case show that she was definitely raped, or maybe they show that it was some kind of misunderstanding. Without more information, we really dont know what this case falls into.

    IMO, rape really has to deal with intent, or rather the intent of the attacker to ignore the consent of the victim. If you’re having an encounter and you suddenly change your mind, you have to indicate to your partner as such to give them a chance to respect your wishes. If you say no and they continue, then it’s unequivocally rape. If you dont say anything, you might consider it a rape, but your partner could be none the wiser and walk away thinking you two had a nice time together, which leads to a bunch of issues.

  24. As someone who is inovlved with disciplinary procedures at Brown, I want to emphasize that Expulsion is certianly an option when a student come before the Student Conduct Board with a sexual misconduct case. I have personally seen students expelled for misconduct in the past year. Certainly the Brown system is not perfect, but to claim that the maximum sanction is a 3 semester suspension is blatantly false. Additionally, while testifying in front of your rapist can be undeniably difficult, it seems like a necessary part of the process to me in order to ensure that a students’ right to a hearing is not abridged.

  25. Thank you. This needed to be said, and I’m glad you were brave enough to say it.

    And to Anonymous at 9:10…that was not the point of the article. He said that frats are the place to start the conversation. They have the make up that they have, and have a huge amount of power vs. similar houses to start the discussion and start to change the culture. He even states, “I am in no way suggesting that fraternities are the only place where sexual assault is a concern” Read the article before you comment.

  26. I think any indictment of the Greek community as a whole is off base. AEPi has a totally different temperament and makeup from DPhi, which has a totally different temperament and makeup from Thete. I am not going to say that fraternities are not part of the problem; they definitely are. But is it fair to say that ALL of Brown’s fraternities are ALL of the problem? Doubtful. I think it’s absolutely unacceptable that any of these houses should ever become an unsafe environment for a woman, and I think this is a constructive conversation to have within the Greek community, but the blunt instrument that is this article is not a good place from which to start that conversation.

  27. What is a good way to reach out to fraternities and male athletic teams in a non-threatening way? Does anyone have any suggestions to address this demographic without attacking them? I do not want to insult fraternities or men’s athletic teams. The individuals who compose these institutions are good people but can feel pressured by a somewhat misogynistic group dynamic. How can we have frank discussions with these groups, and really all demographics on campus, that do not threaten?

  28. Gabe Schwartz says:

    In response to 9:39: The FBI reports that, according to their estimates, people like about sexual assault and rape around 2% of the time, or exactly the same rate as they lie about any other federal offense. Insofar as that is true, being skeptical of every rape victim’s account is akin to being skeptical about any other report about any other crime. If your friend told you they had been robbed on the street, would you doubt they were telling the truth given how traumatized they seemed?

    Doubting rape reports, however, is especially pernicious, precisely because the public generally demands in the same vein that your comment has, if not worse: doubt, skepticism, blame of the victim in the worst cases (though the latter is not uncommon), shaming of the victim. Given that that is true, why would anyone make this up? Why invite intense societal scrutiny on yourself for no reason? Further, there really isn’t a thing called a “misunderstanding” in these cases. If a person had sex with another person, and the latter did not give consent for that action, that is rape. Being unable to see that as the perpetrator does not give you a free pass for committing the act. It is a still a crime, and is still punishable under the law.

  29. Gabe Schwartz says:

    **people LIE, not like. Sorry for the incredibly unfortunate typo.

  30. To the potential administrator stating that the penalties are harsher than they are portrayed in this column — of course the maximum penalty for sexual assault needs to be expulsion, officially. However, in practice, Brown upholds the idea that there is a scale of severity when it comes to rape, and they dole out their punishments accordingly. Not all people found guilty of sexual misconduct are expelled. This is a problem.

  31. @Gabe Schwartz

    I dont disagree with you, I was just reiterating something I say to people regarding any hot-topic issue (politics, religion, etc), in that the opposite opinion might be true, and that you need to keep an open mind about controversial issues in general. It may or may not be as applicable here, but it’s good practice regardless.

    However, I think your comment about consent is a bit idealistic and unrealistic. Is a guy supposed to know the instant the girl changes her mind, through some form of sexual telepathy? Because “technically” it becomes a rape the instant one party decides they want to end an encounter. Should I have to stop every 10 seconds every time I sleep with someone and make sure I have their consent to continue? Even then it could still be called a rape if she changed her mind in between that 10 second interval and we continued having sex before I asked her again. Obviously this is a bit hyperbolic, but you get my point.

  32. “But is it fair to say that ALL of Brown’s fraternities are ALL of the problem? Doubtful.” -Anon.

    This is spot-on, but also happens to be what the author states in this piece, when he claims that the fraternities are a “place to start this conversation.”

    I think he’s right; his point is that sexual assault is more likely to occur in male-dominated settings where women might find themselves isolated or in uncomfortable situations. This is obviously not the case in every frat party, nor is it even the case in most frat parties, but anyone who has been to one (at least in the last 4 or 5 years) can attest that environment in many frats can be extremely misogynistic, and create the sort of disempowering environment that makes this sort of thing more likely to happen.

    So it seems like the assertion about frats isn’t terribly radical: just that, as a campus community and as a larger society in general, there is sometimes space for rape culture to rear its ugly head, and that it makes sense to focus attention and resources to intervening in places where the living situation/structure/culture is most susceptible to creating these spaces where women are most vulnerable. This seems like an inherent risk in any setting where there is a high concentration of men living together (so including sports houses, etc as well), especially if there is a tradition of parties, and perhaps a culture of expecting sex (especially with fraternity/sports house members) that surrounds those parties. These insidious environments need to be talked about without knee-jerk reactions or accusations of blasphemy if someone critiques the culture of a frat, or any such setting; there’s too much at stake.

  33. things i’ve heard spoken by brown university frat members: “it’s not rape, it’s just surprise sex.” “if girls don’t want to get raped they shouldn’t dress the way they do for frat parties.”

  34. To add to my comment below–again, starting point means starting point: these issues definitely exist outside of greek contexts, and outside of just male/female contexts. But addressing consent-blurring environments in a Greek context might be a useful place to start to get at the larger issues of how expectations, male-dominated institutions, and substance abuse all play roles .

  35. “IMO, rape really has to deal with intent, or rather the intent of the attacker to ignore the consent of the victim.”

    That’s not how it works. It’s up to people having sex to make sure their partner is consenting. If you’re having sex and don’t notice that your partner isn’t consenting–it’s easy to do, you just have to pay attention to the other person–then you’re doing sex wrong. Silence doesn’t equal consent. You don’t need to stop every 10 seconds to make sure the person continues to consent, but if your partner suddenly stops talking and freezes up, you should probably ask him/her if everything’s ok. If you start having sex with someone without their enthusiastic consent (which can be communicated in any number of ways), then you are very likely raping them. Making sure your partner is into your sexing isn’t un-sexy or mood-killing. Usually it’s good not just for rape prevention, but also for the promotion of good sex.

    Everyone who’s arguing that intent matters in determining rape…I pity your past and future sexual partners, even if they are consenting.

  36. A Brown Survivor says:

    I was sexually assaulted at Brown, on my sixth night of college. I am male.

    It took me a long time to come to terms with what happened. However, I can articulate the options that were presented to me during my decision process.
    (1) I was told that it was my choice to pursue a police case against my attacker. I decided not to.
    (2) A no-contact order was issued the moment I filed my report. I do acknowledge that this is not enough in some cases.
    (3) I went through the disciplinary hearing, and the result was expulsion. For the hearing I was given the option of having my assaulter phoned in or present. It was my choice. I was also allowed to have an “advocate” in the room with me during the hearing, which was very helpful.

    This is not to delegitimize what happened to Angie or how the administration treated her case, but rather to provide another story.

  37. Thank you for writing this column. I knew someone who was raped at Brown. There is too much silence.

  38. There are a tremendous number of uncourageous comments on this article. Many of them seem more concerned with subtly casting doubt on the incident and defending their own frats as “not the problem.”

    Let’s get serious. We know this is a problem, and we need to fight for better solutions first, keeping pragmatism and consideration in mind once the conversation has started. Instead, many seem to be pushing a small-minded conservative mindset, skeptical of the need for change. I would urge people to take this article to heart as a reminder to keep personal vigilance toward this sort of behavior. Even in the most enlightened frat in the world it only takes one messed up guy to rape someone. Frat members need to be true brothers, which involves making hard choices when your brother has done something wrong, not entering a state of denial.

    As a male, I have to say that I have abetted or stayed silent in conditions where women were uncomfortable or being harassed by other males. With the benefit of experience, I see this behavior as the height of cowardice. It’s time for all of us to do better and take this seriously, not brush this off with quibbles, technicalities, or by saying “it happens, but not in my house.”

  39. I’m getting really annoyed by both sides of this argument. Rape is not always a black/white, cut and dry thing (especially when intoxicated co-eds are involved), but at the same time it isnt something that should be swept under the rug or pushed to the side by the fraternity community – not that it’s unique to them in any way.

  40. The silence needs to be addressed, absolutely, and I agree that the University needs to address issues of sexual misconduct differently. I also agree that male-dominated environments may be a jumping off point to focus on, but it is just as important to acknowledge other male-dominated, non-Greek entities like the houses of various sports teams, etc. Most of the horror stories I have come across (not to diminish the fact that frat parties can be notorious in their own way) have been placed at more in-formal, non Greek organised events, and that needs to be discussed. Things can happen during a party, but they also happen in other places than an official Greek-approved setting.

  41. Brown Alum '12 says:

    As a male, I agree that the issue is often complicated. If both parties are drunk, it’s sometimes difficult to know the extent to which something is consensual, even if both sides technically said “yes.”

    Having said that, I don’t understand how many of you can use that as an excuse to attempt to undermine the author’s argument. Just because it’s complicated doesn’t exonerate bad behavior. If you’re ever in a situation in which a girl is clearly intoxicated, back off and let her sleep it off. If she really wants to do it, she’ll do it at some later date. If you’re deadset on getting laid, find someone who is clearly in a position give consent before you do anything. Ambiguity doesn’t justify lack of responsibility or accountability.

    And more importantly, you guys really, really, really need to stop talking about rape so callously. Just because sometimes there are differing interpretations of consent doesn’t mean that the victim’s experience is any less traumatizing. It’s disgusting the degree to which some of you will criticize victims to make some broad, random political point about an issue you know nothing about. Are there situations when men have been wrongly accused? Sure. But that doesn’t mean that you should take rape allegations any less seriously, and it doesn’t mean that the woman’s status as a victim should ever be put into question.

    I will say this: I believe that the university needs to do a better job of confronting this issue head-on. I also believe that it shouldn’t be quick to judge or to suspend someone, simply based on allegations. However, there should be more resources and more policies that will help both reduce the amount of rape that happens on campus and allow victims to get the help and support they need if and when it does happen.

    Great op-ed, though. Makes up for the Oliver Hudson crap.

  42. In response to the comment:
    “This article doesnt give us much to base our opinion on what might have actually happened with this girl, so it’s not fair to immediately jump to saying that her claim is 100% valid…maybe the facts of the case show that she was definitely raped, or maybe they show that it was some kind of misunderstanding….If you say no and they continue, then it’s unequivocally rape. If you dont say anything, you might consider it a rape, but your partner could be none the wiser and walk away thinking you two had a nice time together”

    And I don’t think its fair to immediately jump to saying her claim is not 100% valid. Or that it’s your role as a reader to form an “opinion on what might actually happened with this girl”. Not only do I think it is a ridiculous and callous assertion that you as a reader have more validity to make claims about what happened than the survivor of the rape herself, but it plays into a narrative that says only certain types of rape or assault are legitimate. I hope this was not your intent, but your comments come off as you saying “well you know, we can’t be sure, so she was probably making it up. She might of even had a nice time”. The narratives that are pervasive in our culture about sexual assault (that women (or men) lie about rape, exaggerate it, or that even if they didn’t give consent they enjoyed it) are extremely problematic, and feed directly into perpetuating a rape culture. In a culture that actively delegitimizes victims’ reports, why would anyone come forward? This language is oppressive, and protects a status quo of an acceptable level of violence and assault. The fact that there have been numerous responses to this article that question the legitimacy of the claim speaks to the fact that the type of dialogue on campus the author is advocating for is extremely necessary.

  43. All these comments claiming that alcohol makes rape OK, or at least a “blurry line”, are ridiculous, as is the claim that “your partner could be none the wiser and walk away thinking you two had a nice time together”. If you shoot someone when you are drunk, is that a “blurry line”? And it is not even remotely difficult to tell if someone isn’t in to what you’re doing, let alone doesn’t want you to be doing it at all.

    I would also like to point out that rape isn’t just committed by men, and women aren’t the only victims. Some studies estimate that up to 25% of men have had nonconsensual sex initiated by a women, and it is drastically underreported because of social biases. It’s time to start talking about this.

  44. I once consented to sex at a party while severely intoxicated. After I consented, I blacked out several times. At various points, pain or hair in my mouth jarred me into consciousness, but I don’t remember most of what happened. I consented, but I regret putting myself in a situation that was traumatizing nevertheless, and wish very much that my partner had stopped.

    I want people to know that when they feel they are in a gray zone like the one my partner was in– they have consent, but sense their partner isn’t all there– the correct response is always, always to stop. My partner was also intoxicated, but was sober enough to feel guilty for taking advantage of the situation afterwards. What passes as consensual sex while drunk may not feel like it the next day– for either party involved.

  45. Chris – when was your friend sexually assaulted? I’m not trying to undermine her experience whatsoever, it’ll just help me place her experience somewhere within the evolving framework of Brown’s sexual misconduct policy.

    Brown takes claims of sexual misconduct and sexual assault very seriously. So much so that Brown even has a sexual assault advisory board composed of students who are hard at work on projects that will bring sexual assault to light and who meet with faculty to discuss the resources that students need and how sexual misconduct policies/procedures should change in order to be most healthy and effective for students. As well, there are plans being made to work with fraternities and sports teams on how to open up healthy dialogue about sexual assault/misconduct.

    SAPE (Sexual Assault Peer Education) also does a lot of amazing work with sexual assault awareness. I encourage all of my fellow students to attend their events, especially Bringing in the Bystander which trains students on how to be supportive of rape victims. Many of us unintentionally victim blame and shame victims into silence when we ask questions such as,”Were you drinking?” “Why were you alone with him?” “What were you wearing?” “Are you sure it was rape?”
    Most rapes are likely to go unreported and rape victims (the ones with courage enough to speak up) are most likely to confide in a close friend. Please be a supportive close friend and know how to handle the situation should that day ever arise.

    So has Brown silenced sexual assault? I don’t think so. I feel like there are a handful of us – SAPE, SHAG, SAAB, Brown Univ Health Education, etc who are shouting at the top of our lungs but are Brown students ready to hear it? Students need to become more receptive to breaking the stigma surrounding sexual assault so that more victims of sexual assault will feel comfortable coming forward. So let’s talk about it – openly and freely. Gather up a group of your friends and start a discussion. You may be surprised to learn that a few of your closest friends had a confusing interaction, were sexually assaulted or know somebody who was sexually assaulted.

    Brown has made significant changes in the past few years in regards to how sexual assault is handled. This is pretty much the current process:

    (1) You can pursue a police case against the attacker.

    Most students choose not to do this because while they want their assaulter to face consequences, they don’t want to get them in that serious of trouble. As well, local police departments don’t handle cases of sexual assault with sensitivity for the victim’s experience. Being questioned and interrogated by police may further traumatize the victim. Most shockingly, it’s almost something like 1 out of every 100 cases that go through the police ever end up in consequences for the assaulter.

    (2) A No Contact order is issued by the university. Even if the student does not ask for it. This is to ensure the safety of the student while a hearing is conducted. The other student is notified that a No Contact order is in place and is told that it is the University instituting the measure, not the accuser.

    (3) The hearing. Each student is matched with a University official/faculty member who serves to support them and guide them through the hearing process. You are never alone or being told to jump through hoops during what may be a highly traumatic time for you as a victim. As a victim you also have the opportunity to allow a university official to be your complainant. If you do not want to see the assaulter or be at the hearing then you do not have to – the university official will go through the hearing for you (after discussing all relevant information, etc). The victim also has the opportunity to be present via Google Chat.

    The investigation process involves both students supplying information concerning the alleged event, potential witnesses, etc. After which both students receive letters with potential charges and the steps thereafter.
    After the hearing, the board deliberates and both students get a letter detailing the consequences. Both students also get full copies of all documents used in the hearing. The assaulter has 5 days to appeal after the decision is made.

    If the university feels that a predator is on campus and there is substantial evidence then the university takes the student through a hearing…the complainant/victim can choose not to be a part of that whatsoever.

  46. Bennett Knox says:

    As a member of a fraternity at Brown (albeit a co-ed fraternity), I am frankly disgusted by some of the comments on this article, which often insisted that certain fraternities are not a problem and try to displace blame onto other institutions.They perpetuate a manner of thinking that ignores how sexual assault and rape can so easily be hidden by societal pressure to keep quiet about it, does not acknowledge how Greek life as a broad institution does perpetuate a culture of sexual assault, and serves as an excuse not to do anything about it.
    True, certain houses have a greater problem with sexual assault than others, but to insist that a certain house does not have this problem only serves to erase the possibility that people have experienced sexual assault there. The person insisting that their house is exempt is ignoring the fact that many cases of sexual assault go completely un-discussed for reasons such as pressure not to upset social relationships, knowledge that judicial systems are resistant to sexual assault charges, and denial as a coping mechanism for dealing with trauma (all of which are legitimate reasons). Saying that your house is exempt from having a problem with sexual assault only serves to further silence and delegitimize those who may have experienced sexual assault in your house without your knowledge (which may be more people than you think).
    Furthermore, insisting that your house has gotten past the issue of sexual assault only serves to promote the illusion that nothing has to be done about it within the house, and that the house has no responsibility to resist sexual assault in other places. If a place is cast as “post-rape”, then the tendency is for people not to be vigilant about sexual assault occurring within that place, because they assume it could not happen. Ironically, this makes a place incredibly vulnerable to harboring sexual assault. What is more productive than denying that your specific house has any involvement with sexual assault is to admit that sexual assault is a problem, especially within fraternities, and to then take steps to address this problem.
    And for clarity’s sake, I am not saying that this issue is only pertinent to frats, every aspect of this society and this university has to be better about this issue.

  47. Various studies around the world indicate that between 8% and 80% of rape accusations are false. The percentage of false accusations is certainly much higher than the 2% mentioned by some.

    False accusations of rape are as harmful, and as prevalent, as rape itself. There are two sides to this issue, and addressing only one side is not helpful in the long run.

  48. In response to Gabe Schwartz

    RE: “The FBI reports that, according to their estimates, people like about sexual assault and rape around 2% of the time, or exactly the same rate as they lie about any other federal offense”

    This entirely untrue, the FBI does not report that. Nobody really knows the rate of false accusations, though most estimates are around at least 8%. Please check you facts.

  49. To 14:03

    Most if not all police departments are required to have someone that has been trained to deal with victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, etc. Saying that they are not sensitive is insulting to police departments who have made great strides in trying to help victims.

    Also your “1 out of 100” statistic is blatantly made up. Regardless if the rapist faces jail time, being accused of rape and being brought to court for it (regardless of whether found guilty) will remain in that person’s file for some time. Although not a punishment in itself, it will cause problems and make this person face the consequences of their actions for some time.

    Also rape is a crime. Rapists should be getting into serious trouble for their actions.

  50. Thank you.

  51. I believe that this article misrepresents Brown’s current policies regarding sexual harassment and sexual misconduct. When I filed my sexual harassment complaint last year, I received nothing but understanding and compassion from every single administrator that I interacted with. I was even commended for the personal strength it took to come forward! In the months leading up to my formal hearing I got so much extraordinary support from psych services (they went well over the normal seven sessions), the sexual assault advocate on campus, my faculty advisor, every Dean I worked with in the Office of Student Life, as well as an amazing and caring network of friends. My heart truly goes out to Chris’ friend who was raped. I hope she is starting to heal and has been able to find some peace. But I still feel as if this article is not describing the many improvements the administration has made to the disciplinary policies surrounding sexual harassment and sexual misconduct on campus.

  52. Rape is always a tricky thing, be it on a college campus or elsewhere. Rape doesn’t stop at the sexual violation; what rape does is rob someone of their sense of self. Someone who might see themselves as a strong individual can have that image shattered in one moment, and as a result might not have a clue as to how to pick up the pieces. How can anyone be expected to know how to pick up the pieces after that?

    It doesn’t help to sling around the responsibility for what happened, either at the fraternities or at Brown as a University. That’s not going to bring a victim back their peace of mind, or their sense of self. My heart goes out to Chris and his friend, and I hope your strength may inspire other survivors to share their own strength and find their peace of mind again.

    A survivor, not a victim

  53. What is Brown doing to prevent rape? What is Brown doing to encourage sensible alcohol consumption? Until the University is aggressive about educating students on both alcohol and rape, things won’t change.

  54. Thank you for writing this.

  55. To all the commenters below — first and foremost, thank you for those who have shown support. You have no idea how much that means. However, please, do not let your support end with a comment or a facebook like. If you agree with me, something has to be done! I’m not sure what that means just yet, but I would love it if you all would help me figure that out.

    To the people who disagreed on any bases — I would love to talk more. I don’t think these things are worth doing unless they create a dialogue, change minds and mobilize people. I will get coffee, trade emails or have a phone conversation with anyone who wants to discuss or refute any of the things I said. There is one ground rule — you must be interested in a dialogue, not in yelling at me about why i am wrong. And, I will not entertain arguments apologizing for rape or take them seriously enough to respond to.

    So, please, those who agree, lets try to turn this into meaningful change. Those who don’t, reach out to me and lets have a conversation about why.

  56. Not anonymous: lex. Another misogynistic frat brother. says:

    If we are going to say that Greek life is the problem, we have to be ready to explain the fact that, at a given frat party, most of the people there are not members of the frat. To blame phi psi or sigma or aepi or dtau for what attendees of their party do is unfair. If you believe that, as a result of these instances, fraternity parties should not exist, then that is a valid claim, although I disagree with it because I believe that they provide a lot of positives to the campus. But if you think that, as a result of these instances, even when the crimes are not committed by fraternity brothers, the fraternities should be punished or even eliminated, I need you to explain why. Not implying that everybody is arguing that, but I know that there are many on this campus who think that a fraternity, by its nature, inherently leads to sexual assault, and at brown I do not believe that to be the case. People who are going to commit terrible acts like this are going to find ways to commit terrible acts, regardless of whether they are in a fraternit or not.

  57. Frat brothers: really need to calm down. Nobody is accusing you of all being mysogynistic, or all being date rapists. But you can’t deny that there is a high rate of rape in frats across the country in general. There’s an element of group think that goes into an all-male group. And by your defensive tones, it sounds like you guys aren’t taking it seriously enough.

  58. I think you have done the rape debate a real disservice with your piece. I was hoping you would discuss how college life complicates already flawed gender relations between young people and contributes to a culture where too often consent is devalued and victims are blamed. By making this about your petty grudge against fraternities that you falsely lump into one group you do a disservice not just to your friend but any victims on and off campus. Your choice to focus on fraternities instead of more fundamental problems with campus life and university policy is self-serving and pathetic. With issues as sensitive and important as this one you only get so many chances to start a productive and enduring debate and your article has ensured that this won’t occur in the near future. Instead the conversation will focus on Greek life and the larger issues at play will go unaddressed as evidenced by the previous comments. Congratulations I hope your ego is satisfied.

  59. I mainly agree with the last poster. It may be some that some fraternities and other organizations (I would argue that sports houses, being off campus, are more of an issue because there is a sense of less accountability and more anonymity) do regularly partake in conversations and activities that lead to the normalizing, and even encouraging, or rape for members of these organizations. But these same organizations also foster positive values, and serve as strong communities for its members. Communities have a lot of power, for good and bad. It is not the organizations that need to go away, but rather the conversations, words, and behaviors that normalize and encourage rape. Such conversations and behaviors may take place in fraternities, sports houses, and all over campus. It is those social patterns that need to be stopped, not the organizations which may or may not happen to be a part of that larger pattern.

  60. Angela Mellon says:

    Frats are easy targets for rape culture, but singling them out lets so many other people off the hook. As if we’re post-rape, but the frats and the admin just haven’t gotten the memo yet? I wish. I’ve experienced attitudes and narratives that make rape seem okay in a self-consciously not-Greek social group at Brown. It’s been all the more frustrating because it’s harder to spot and call out beneath the jokes and good intentions and PC language.

  61. thanks. i never stepped into a frat while at brown — quite the contrary, my friends were mostly hipsters, aggressively “post-frat” — and i found similar frustrations on the silence surrounding this issue, particularly among my male friends. my peer group was painfully disengaged with rape culture; rape, to them/us, was a distant, foreign hypothetical that almost never came up as an issue with personal relevance to any of our peers. there was no space for anyone to talk about it, nor any consideration of the possibility that any of us could have been, or could be, subjected to sexual violence. first and foremost, rape on campus needs to be addressed in terms of the school’s policies. but it also needs to be filtered centrally into brown’s discourse. it is shocking to me when i think about how removed my peers and i were from any kind of frame of reference for sexual violence. if we have more tools to think about and discuss it, we’ll be better equipped to support our peers, to address the more “gray” situations that come up, and to break silence on something that is remarkably low-profile in brown’s campus conversation.

  62. As a member of a different fraternity at Brown, kudos to Bennett Knox. My experience, at my own fraternity and others, confirms his story.

  63. I don’t agree that all frats are symbols of sexism. But thank you very much for writing this. People tend to believe that rape just doesn’t happen unless a story like what happened at Amherst is published and right in their face. So I’m very grateful that this was written to raise awareness.

    My heart goes out to this girl. It is a terrible situation and although I’d like to think that I would pursue justice against the rapist if I were in that situation, the truth is that, just as described here, the courses available to take are incredibly emotionally difficult. It’s not fair and it’s extremely frustrating. I hope the administration takes this plea seriously and reviews their policies to make sure they are as fair and simple as possible. There are structures in place that could help girls and other students in situations such as these — I am referring to the WPC program, and there may be others — but they are not supported by the University as much as they should be to make an impact.

  64. Male Student '14 says:

    It’s interesting to see you mention the fraternities but neglect to mention the big corporations and global warming that are also clearly to blame

  65. This makes me sick to my stomach.

    As a (female) senior in high school, I have been vigilant regarding stories of sexual assault/rape and possible cover-ups at the various schools I’m applying to. The stories you describe from Amherst were the final straw for me regarding that school, and knocked if off my list.

    I love Brown. It’s my dream school. I’ve immersed myself in every aspect of it that I could. I’ve developed correspondences with various current students here, read the Daily Herald blog regularly, and have scoured the website inch by inch.

    This article was like a slap in the face. I wasn’t naive enough to think that there weren’t instances of sexual violence and abuse on campus, but I would never, EVER have fathomed that the administration/staff would try to cover them up or be this unsupportive.

    Suddenly, I’m scared. I am no longer certain that Brown is truly a safe place for me as a woman. I’m both glad and horrified that I read this story. Thank you for the reality check.

    Keep pushin’ for change, Brunoians. Hopefully I’ll get to fight by your side next year.

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