ODU Fraternity Fighting Stigma of Sexual Assault
Fraternities have a national reputation as a haven for college rape and sexual assaults. Several Old Dominion University fraternities are fighting against that stigma while others at ODU remain susceptible to it.
John D. Foubert, Ph.D., a former assistant professor in the school of education at the College of William and Mary, and Johnathan T. Newberry and Jerry L. Tatum, who are also affiliated with W&M, wrote a scholarly article addressing the frequency and circumstances surrounding college rape on college campus.
They wrote that “well known statistics such as the ‘one in four’ overview states that two different longitudinal studies have found that fraternity men are three times more likely to commit sexual assault than other college men. Women in sororities are 74 percent more likely to experience rape than other college women, and those who live in the sorority house are over three times as likely to experience rape.”
Despite, or because of, exemplified studies like this one, some fraternities have taken proactive measures to counteract a growing concern among college women that fraternities cultivate sexual assailants. Luke Glenn, president of Phi Kappa Tau, considers the statistics disheartening.
“When I see those statistics I don’t deny them. I know that fraternities are a nesting ground for that kind of activity and that is unfortunately a byproduct of the few ruining it for the many,” Glenn said.
Along with working closely with ODU’s Women’s Center, Phi Kappa Tau follows the standard set by the Fraternal Information and Programming Group, a national rules set for fraternity members.
Phi Kappa Tau also implements guidelines at their own parties that target the circumstances that could provide an opportunity for a sexual assault.
“We don’t have any rooms for people to go and do anything in the house, so they would have to leave the house if they were going to try and do anything like this. We have two sober people at the doors at all times so they are observing who is leaving and who’s coming. We also do not let anyone get in a car when they leave our parties. They will get into a car that is manned by one of our designated drivers,” Glenn said.
Fraternity members are also expected to practice bystander intervention in situations that might require it.
“If we see someone we don’t recognize, or a friend of a brother taking a girl who looks intoxicated at all we take active measures to break that situation. We try to pull the parties apart in the least awkward way possible,” Glenn said.
Fraternities at ODU pride themselves on molding men into upstanding gentlemen. Omega Psi Phi’s criterion for candidacy requires men “being appropriate in character and marked by moral excellence, courage, bravery and resolve.”
“Our fraternity, for lack of a better term, has been known to be womanizers,” said Allen-Michael Spurlock, vice president of the Omega Psi Phi fraternity.
“I don’t know how the trend started, but I guess back in the days, in the early on years, some of the older brothers of Omega Psi Phi… they were just really well with the ladies,” he said.
Rumors can damage a fraternity’s reputation just as easily as proof in some cases, causing many members of the organization to carry the burden due the actions of a few.
“Co-sponsorships aren’t as hard to come by, but sometimes they have been difficult,” Spurlock said, when speaking about sororities and other organizations.
Sorority life has seen the ugly side of sexual assaults first hand at ODU, with safety being a primary concern for both sorority and fraternity members.
“I know for girls in my sorority, a lot of girls have experienced sexual assault. A couple years ago one of our members was sexually assaulted by an outside [male] visiting Norfolk,” said one sorority member, who for the purposes of the article wished to stay anonymous.
A wary reputation concerning safety for women is an uphill battle for almost all social fraternities across the United States, and at ODU the challenges are no less difficult, and just as important.
“We have not had, in the history of my chapter at Old Dominion, we have not had any sort of incident [involving] rape or sexual misconduct. I can positively hold my head high knowing that we have never had an issue with that and that’s something that I advertise,” Spurlock said.
By Josh Whitener