Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
**TRIGGER WARNING: This article discusses sexual assault and rape**
Sorry I haven’t written in a while. It’s been a hectic time, as I’m sure you all know. Rather than an article for the community, my goal for this piece is to talk about my perspective as a survivor in response to the referendum. I acknowledge that not all survivors feel the same way.
I was raped by a Phi Psi brother in the beginning of the semester. I also recently reported him, and both Title IX Coordinators in charge of investigating reports of sexual assault Sharmaine LaMar and Joanna Gallagher have been extremely helpful, but that’s beside the point.
I am so impressed by all of the stories that people have shared by chalking, and I know that these situations are extremely difficult to talk about. In these cases, cases of rape and sexual assault in particular (but also homophobia, racism, etc), it can be hard to share your identity. Even I am hiding behind a kind of veil through my columns. There is so much criticism, so much counter arguing, so much victim blaming that I hear every single day. It takes a lot for me not to come out screaming that a frat brother raped me. And it disgusts me to hear and see frat brothers celebrating that the referendum didn’t pass because the chalkings were anonymous and you shouldn’t trust anonymity. Or because “they” were a “minority” of the population. Well, I’ll say this: it is really fucking difficult to come out to people when you’re afraid. I am constantly afraid of retaliation, as much as I like to say that I don’t care about what anyone thinks of me. So, I’ll say it again: I WAS RAPED BY A PHI PSI BROTHER. I reported it. And I say it here because I am deathly afraid of the stares and the things that I’ll hear. It makes me afraid that some brothers are so militant about this anonymity and use that as a reason to have voted no.
But I didn’t vote to ban Greek Life. I’ll tell you my story and then tell you why I made that decision.
Before him, I had not been raped by another member of the Swarthmore community. I’d been assaulted – grabbed, stalked, whatever – but I’d also had sex with plenty of people, and there are definitely members of frats on that list. But none of them had ever done anything to harm me. They were always very aware of how I was feeling and always asked every step of the way if I was comfortable. He, my rapist, was good up until that point.
I feel awkward calling him my rapist. I have to keep saying the word to myself: rape, rape, RAPE. Technically, he’s a “good guy” who would never do anything to hurt anyone. I had to keep repeating the incident in my mind and reread the slut-shaming/ victim-blaming texts he sent me two nights later to tell myself that it was really rape. Yes, I acknowledge that he didn’t corner me and leave me screaming and threaten me if I ever told anyone. So this story that I’m sharing is one that I shared before, but now in the context of him being a brother.
We had agreed that we would be friends, we wouldn’t have sex anymore, and everyone would be happy. But he fell asleep in my room after we were talking, so I let him stay, I put on my pajamas, and got into my bed next to him. He put his arms around me, and I didn’t care at that moment. He started to get hard, and I could feel him against my ass rubbing against me. I repeated that we would not have sex anymore. He said that he knew and stopped for a bit. But then he took his pants off. I again repeated, “you do know that we are not going to have sex tonight, right? What happened to being friends?” and he said “well I’m still pretty physically attracted to you.” So he proceeded, even after I said no, to take my pants off. At that point, I didn’t care anymore. I let go of my emotions, stopped breathing, my heart rate slowed down. I just wanted to sleep, and letting him put his dick inside of me was my way of getting sleep. See, even in that description, I couldn’t say, “and then he proceeded to rape me.”
There are bad people in the frats. He was a “good guy,” and I had friends who stood up for him. I know that there are other rapists in the frats, and needless to say, I am not friends with those people anymore. I also only told a few people about the experience, but with this referendum, I think it is important to know that there is at least one brother who is a rapist, for those brothers who don’t believe it’s possible. I’m sure there are people who don’t even see what he did as rape.
Outside of this issue, I have also suffered from major anxiety and PTSD that were triggered from members of the fraternities, although they are not the root of the problems.
I don’t believe that they are all bad guys or even all capable of doing shit like this. I can see that as institutions, the fraternities are trying really hard to do right by the community. They are going to consent workshops, they are working with different groups to talk about how they can change, they helped with the Clothesline Project. I am good friends with brothers in both of the frats. But also as institutions, they are in various ways standing behind those shitty people. They have not written a press release supporting a member of our community who was/ is being harassed by an external website. They have not gotten rid of or in some other way punished frat brothers who they know have assaulted members of at least our community, except for one instance. As one person summed up nicely, the brothers can do, and deserve, better. They can stand up for members of their community, and can speak against the brothers who have done wrong.
And while I write this, I still believe I voted correctly for my own sake. I don’t want to punish brothers who have done good. They are working so incredibly hard and I recognize that. I also recognize that there are shitty people who are not in Greek institutions who have raped or assaulted members of our community. Getting rid of the frats will not stop rape, and I do believe that if frats will be more willing to show that a brother will not be allowed to come back to the frat because he alone creates an unsafe space, that could change a lot of perspectives. And maybe this will have to be a fight, or a push, but I think that this referendum is showing that Survivors and allies are serious about wanting change.
I think that, if we look at the referendum as a binary issue, both sides have been extremely thoughtful. They have both passionately presented arguments that discuss why it is so important for them to either vote yes or no on the referendum. It seems that we all want to make this campus safer for everyone. And although the campus is extremely tense right now (I, for one, am super excited to graduate), I think it is important to note that we are in many ways also coming together as a community and recognizing our weaknesses and trying to persevere to become stronger.