Fraternities and Gang Rape

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Of the 24 documented cases of alleged gang rape by college students in the past 10 years, fraternity men perpetrated 13. The problem of group sexual assault on college campuses mainly occurs in an environment where group behavior and acceptance is important to the men involved, i.e. fraternities (Bechhofer & Parrot 144). Looking at the environment surrounding this type of group one can see what causes the prevalence of this type of assault in fraternities. Why does this violence occur within these groups and how is it handled? The dynamics involved in the fraternity's system causes a "group-think" mentality that promotes and sometimes causes group sexual assault. This group influence, along with the fraternity's selection of men and their adherence to traditional sex role stereotypes reinforces myths of acceptable behavior in men and women and how these play a role concerning consequences.

Specific dynamics come into play when discussing how groups of people who might not otherwise act individually take part in sexual assaults with other members of their group. The theory of diffusion of responsibility suggests that in situations where the presence of others acting in a similar fashion diminishes the feeling of responsibility any individual feels for the harmful consequences of his or her own behavior" (Bechhofer & Parrot ed. 147-148). With respect to fraternities, the brother feels less like his own self and more like he is just participating in something that all his "brothers" are doing as well. They share the blame. A fraternity brother begins to think of the activity as something his "brothers" are doing and joins in under the influence of a shared activity. Other things may play into the idea that the assailant is not acting alone and is not solely responsible for his actions.

Deindividuation is a theory of group behavior that refers to a state of loss of self-awareness, including awareness of one's beliefs, attitudes, and self-standards. This promotes group spirit. In fraternities, Alcohol is used to get group consensus by allowing an escape from one's self-consciousness. Group loyalty will also cause people in a group to deindividualize by taking on the group's identity (Bechhofer & Parrot 148).

In an environment such as a fraternity where incoming pledges are looking to be accepted by a group of men who have the power to reject them, they are greatly influenced by the behavior of the group. Modeling can become a factor in making sexual assault seen as something that is acceptable. Not only does it give the information to the member, it at times shows them how it is done. This can be very influential to incoming members who see fraternities as social leaders and may not question their behavior. Along with these dynamics of group behavior, there are significant attitudes present in the fraternity environment that breeds sexual violence.

Sex-roles play an important part in fraternities and how and what is expected from women and men. Peggy Reeves Sanday, suggests that there are Rape-free and Rape prone societies, and fraternities fit the mark for attitudes in a Rape-prone environment. Sanday states that, …A rape-prone society is one in which the incidence of rape is reported by observers to be high, or rape is excused a ceremonial expression of masculinity, or rape is an act by which men are allowed to punish or threaten women. (Sanday, VIOLENCE p. 193)

Fraternities can be an example of this type of environment. Sanday also suggests that these men fall into the Western cultural myth that man is an animal that evolved with his dominance over women. These men see themselves as being powerful and privileged in their situation as a brother, as well as in being a man in general. Playing out this traditional misogynistic view rationalizes a "boys will be boys" attitude that, as will be looked at later, affects how this behavior is seen by the community (Sanday 193). The types of men...
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