Greek Sexual Assault Prevention Initiative

Greek Sexual Assault Prevention Initiative

The Greek Sexual Assault Prevention Initiative is a collaboration between the Office of Health Promotion’s Respect Program, the Office of Sorority and Fraternity Life, and the four Greek Councils (IFC, ISC, NPHC, and MGC) to end sexual violence on Eagle Row.  To get involved with this initiative, contact the Respect Program at respect@emory.edu

Objectives:

  1. To increase percentage of fraternity men and sorority women at Emory University who participate in the prevention program – Greeks Against Sexual Assault – to 50% by 2015. 
  1. To increase the proportion of fraternity men and sorority women who are trained in survivor response (including bystander intervention and consent), to 50% percent in two years.
  1. To increase the percentage of trained fraternity and sorority members who feel efficacy to impart knowledge, statistics, and tools related to bystander intervention and consent to incoming pledges by 10% in 2014.

Why the Greeks?

Most importantly, fraternity and sorority members at Emory care about ending sexual violence in their houses and organizations. Greek life at Emory embodies a significant portion of the social experience for undergraduates. “Eagle Row”, where most fraternity houses are located, is often referred to as Emory’s ‘downtown’; it’s proximity to the freshmen residence halls offers an easily accessible party scene for students who are experiencing campus drinking culture for the first time. A glance at the 2012-2013 Title IX reports collected for Emory University reveals that 48 percent of all reported sexual assaults occurred in a fraternity house, and 53% occurred in “Greek areas” (Title IX Reports 2013-2013.) Several experts have argued for more intensive prevention efforts for students who participate in athletics or belong to Greek letter organizations (Lonsway et. al, 2009), highlighting these groups as “high-risk.” Some research has found higher rates of sexual assault occurs across communities with high levels of “male peer support” for sexual violence as well as adherence to patriarchal attitudes, rape myths, and attachment to friends who themselves have engaged in sexually coercive behaviors (Schwartz and Nogrady, 1996; Schwartz and Dekeseredy, 2000.) Research by Mohler- Kou and colleagues (2004) found that living in a sorority house significantly increased the likelihood of experiencing a sexual assault while intoxicated – or, unable to give legal consent – as well as other sexual assaults when not intoxicated. However, some researchers did not find a relationship between sorority membership and increased risk for sexual assault. For example, based on a study of 674 college and university women from southern postsecondary institutions, Mustaine and Tewksbury’s (2002) findings reveal that it is not sorority membership that increased risk for sexual assault but rather, primarily, proximity or level of exposure that sorority members had to rape-supportive male peer groups.

Exploring this finding further, researchers Minow and Einolf (2009) found that 33 percent of sorority women in their study reported they had experienced completed rape in their college career compared with 6 percent of non-sorority women, and 14 percent of sorority women reported experiencing an attempted rape compared with 8 percent of non-sorority women. The researchers were also surprised to find that in a sample consisting of sorority members only, the relationship between attending events where alcohol was served and sexual assault became insignificant when alcohol consumption by sorority members was controlled (Minow and Einolf, 2009.) Whether or not these attitudes can be attributed exclusively to Greek organizations and thereby deemed “high-risk” can be debated; these students do however represent a highly visible, prominent group of people who may be influential in changing social norms on difficult issues (Katz, 2007; Moynihan and Banyard, 2008.) 

A longitudinal study examining alcohol use among Greeks before and after college found that variations in drinking patterns were determined largely by perceived peer norms for alcohol use among the Greek community, and not by Greek membership alone (Bartholow and Nanda, 2001.) Many of the normative influences that affect issues like high-risk drinking can be applied to sexual assault and relationship violence prevention. Several studies have found that the primary factor influencing men’s willingness to intervene to prevent a sexual assault was their perception of other men’s willingness to intervene (Fabiano et al. 2003; Stein and Barnett, 2004.) Therefore, approaching the issue of sexual assault and relationship violence – specifically its intersection with alcohol – with a focus on changing social norms is an integral part of the prevention initiative.