You’re in a dark room and you can’t see much of what’s going on, but orders are barked at you from every direction. You’re told to do things you aren’t comfortable doing, but you want to be accepted as a brother in the fraternity you’re pledging to join. When faced with the decision to give into the peer pressure and do something you don’t want to just to fit in with a group of guys, how far is too far?
According to to CNN, the brothers of Alpha Tau Omega at Indiana University have been officially revoked of their charter after a sexually explicit hazing video surfaced. The Washington Post reported that the video depicts a young man in boxers performing oral sex on a naked woman lying on a dirty mattress. Although the man, an initiated brother of the fraternity, tries to move away from the woman, she holds him in place with her legs as a room filled with fully clothed men shout, laugh and encourage him to keep going.
Hazing is not a new issue, or one that is exclusive to our generation. It does not permeate just one type of culture or organization. However, hazing incidents related to Greek life are heard so frequently on the news that the two are often associated, whether it is justified or not. But the aforementioned hazing incident differs in distinct way from many others, one that is overlooked.
This isn’t just hazing — this is sexual assault.
Much of the media coverage following the release of the video focused on the frequency of serious fraternity hazing incidents. Seldom was a discussion surrounding the action of the woman and the members of Indiana Alpha Tau Omega: rape.
Our society views sexual assault through a very narrow lens. If a case doesn’t fit our predetermined mold.
As a society, we have a mold set in place for how we view such incidents. If a case doesn’t fit our Fitpredetermined process for how to deal with or discuss sexual assault, we tend to overlook key aspects that are salient to the problem. Had the gender roles in the Alpha Tau Omega situation been reversed, perhaps we would focused less on hazing and more on the gender violence issues involved.
The frequency of fraternity hazing in the media causes us to associate hazing solely with men’s Greek organizations, despite the fact that hazing occurs in many organizations, male or female, such as sororities, sports teams or clubs. Similarly, instances of sexual assault occur more frequently against women, causing society to discount victims of sexual violence who aren’t women.
However, these problems aren’t gender-specific. They happen to everyone and should be addressed as such.
Although this incident doesn’t fit the traditional molds for how society views sexual assault, that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be addressed. According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, 91 percent of victims of rape and sexual assault are women. As a result, society tends to provide more preventative resources to women. For example, Lehigh has consistently offered Rape Aggression Defense training for women. Just recently the department began offering the program to men, as well.
Though the statistic trends toward women, nearly 10 percent of sexual assault victims are men, which warrants the same national discussion surrounding how we can combat and prevent gender violence. Women may face a higher risk for experiencing sexual assault, but it doesn’t negate the risk men also face.
The situation with the Alpha Tau Omega chapter at Indiana University should serve as an opportunity to discuss how sexual assault and hazing are not mutually exclusive, regardless of gender. We need to stop treating these issues as gender-exclusive, and begin working toward providing resources and support for everyone affected.
These are not gender-specific issues. They are people problems.