Stepping Stones to Stopping Sexual Violence: Athletes and Greek life participate in supplemental education

By Gillian Murphy 14, Hawk Staff

An x-ray can elucidate the structural damage of a broken bone. A swab sampling can examine a sore throat for an infection.

But there is simply no test to evaluate the emotional and psychological trauma endured by victims of sexual violence. Instead, it must be prevented by maximizing awareness and education around the issue, ultimately trying to stop it at the source.

The metaphorical breadcrumbs evidenced by several analytical reports and case studies all trace back to the sources of two major collegiate groups: athletes and Greek communities.

According to a 2012 study published in The Dartmouth Law Journal, “male Division-I athletes are among the main perpetrators of domestic violence and sexual assault on college campuses.” Furthermore, the National Coalition Against Violent Athletes (NCAVA) reported that one-third of all sexual assaults in college are committed by athletes.

Regarding the association between Greek life and sexual violence, a study prepared for the National Institute of Justice in 2007 addressed some of the major trends on college campuses. The study found that 28 percent of incapacitated sexual assault victims, in addition to 14 percent of physically forced sexual assault victims, “reported that the assailant was a fraternity member at the time of the incident.”

Mary-Elaine Perry, Ph.D., assistant vice president of student development, believes that, in both athletic and Greek life demographics, alcohol consumption has a significant contribution to sexual violence.

“Nationally, the issue of alcohol misuse is an issue most prevalent among first-year students, athletes, and within the Greek community,” said Perry. “So if sexual assault most often occurs where there’s alcohol involved, we want to make sure that we’re addressing that.”

Perry is also the Saint Joseph’s University Title IX officer, and is chiefly responsible for overseeing the university community’s general adherence to Title IX policies, which deal with gender equality in “any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”

In 2011, the “Dear Colleague Letter”—an addendum to Title IX produced by the U.S. Department of Education and Office of Civil Rights—required that “… Title IX cover sexual violence … to remind schools of their responsibilities to take immediate and effective steps to respond to sexual violence in accordance with the requirements of Title IX.”

There is a spectrum of various actions encompassed by the term “sexual violence,” ranging from unwanted contact to completed rape, that the “Dear Colleague Letter” deemed outright violations of Title IX. St. Joe’s amended its Sexual Violence Policy as per the letter, defining four different classifications of sexual harassment: rape, sexual assault, sexual battery, and sexual coercion—all of which are characterized by lack of effective consent.

Perry is additionally responsible for ensuring that the management of reported sexual harassment cases is timely, appropriate, and fair. She also oversees the athletic staff, administration, and student-athlete training on the issue.

Following the 2011 revision of Title IX, the educational training programs for athletic staff and student-athletes were updated and improved. St. Joe’s athletic director, Don DiJulia, remarked that “extra emphasis and specific education and training” was focused on sexual harassment in order to draw awareness to the issue.

According to DiJulia, the athletic staff must attend training workshops that educate and instruct them on the process of reporting crimes, the protection of minors on campus, and Title IX and sexual violence policies.

DiJulia said he benchmarks the preventative and informative measures taken by Saint Joseph’s athletic department by directly comparing them to the efforts of local schools and schools also associated with the Atlantic 10 Conference. This is to ensure that St. Joe’s is taking the proper course of action with such a prevalent, controversial, and moral issue.

Student-athletes, both incoming and returning alike, are also required to attend an annual educational presentation on sexual violence.

“We talk about issues of alcohol and sexual assault,” Perry said of the presentation that she gives to student-athletes. “We talk about bystander intervention, we talk about consent—what consent looks like and what consent doesn’t look like.”

Langston Galloway, ’14, a senior tri-captain of the St. Joe’s men’s basketball team, said that the interactive nature of the training makes it more effective and impactful. It substantiates abstract concepts by portraying them as concrete, real-life scenarios.

“We were given certain situations, and then we had to think and figure out how we would react in those situations,” said Galloway.

In addition, Galloway found that completing a training session in conjunction with a women’s athletic team was also beneficial (this year, men’s basketball was paired with women’s soccer).

He continued, “I think by combining males and females and mixing up the sports [teams at each training session], it showed us that [sexual violence] applies to everyone—to make sure everyone knows the circumstances.”

Although there are public statistics that may reinforce certain beliefs and typecasts about athletic teams, those stereotypes don’t necessarily hold true across the board.

Jack Moran, ’14, senior captain of the men’s lacrosse team, stated, “There is definitely baggage that comes with being an athlete of a sports team that is stereotyped to partake in extracurricular activities that sometimes result in sexual harassment. I think that stems from the Duke lacrosse case, and a few other big cases. But for us at St. Joe’s, I think there are definitely some unfair stereotypes just because we’re on a lacrosse team.”

Furthermore, Moran believes that overgeneralizations can mar the integrity of athletes’ hard-earned reputations.

According to a 2013 study in the Journal of Student Affairs Research and Practice, “hypermasculinity,” a term used for the amplification of stereotypical male behavior, like physical strength, aggression, and sexuality, in conjunction with “belief in male dominance and sexual callousness,” is the surest predictor of sexual harassment. The same study also affirms that there is a strong correlation of statistical significance between the two aforementioned ideologies and fraternity members.

To combat the negative association between fraternities and sexual harassment at St. Joe’s, Greek life has “eliminated [the word] ‘frat’ from our vocabulary … because ‘frat’ definitely has a negative connotation,” said Joey Bonner, ’15, president of the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity.

“One of our seven core values is respect and this definitely falls under our value of respect,” said Bonner. “[Lambda Chi Alpha has a zero tolerance policy] for anyone who acts in a manner unbecoming of a gentleman, especially when those acts are sexual in nature. Violation of this policy would result in immediate expulsion from the fraternity.”

The Greek life community at St. Joe’s, which consists of four fraternities and four sororities, must attend a mandatory, all-day educational program on sexual harassment in order to be eligible to participate.

“Every member of Greek life is required to attend the Greek iCare Conference,” said Elizabeth Barr, ’14, president of the Panhellenic Council, which serves as the executive board for all sororities on campus.

“It’s a great stepping stone for educating our members about sexual harassment,” she noted. “But I do feel as though we can educate them more on the subject. You can never learn too much.”

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