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Letter to the Editor: SHAPE demands SAE be held accountable

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On Tuesday, The Daily reported that the University received four reports of female-identifying students being given a date-rape drug at Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity on Jan. 21. Of the four, two reported being sexually assaulted. There was also another report of a female-identifying student being sexually assaulted at an undisclosed fraternity Feb. 2, with a date-rape drug possibly being involved as well.

As members of Sexual Health and Assault Peer Educators, we have a responsibility to the Northwestern community to provide factual information about sexual health. As an extension of the Center for Awareness and Response Education within the student body, we serve as an organization that, first and foremost, advocates for survivors of assault.

In light of recent events, however, we feel that specific attention needs to be given to perpetrators and the systems in which they are allowed to continue to exist. To solve a problem, we must turn to the source. And based on the recent security alert, we also know that there have been specific alleged accounts of druggings and sexual assault within the SAE house.

If our campus claims to support survivors but does not hold fraternities accountable for their role in promoting rape culture and perpetrating assaults, our words mean nothing. It is unacceptable that fraternities have frequently valued protecting their “brothers” over preventing sexual assault and rape, and it is unacceptable that so many on our campus have been willing to turn a blind eye to the actions of their peers. Bystanders must be specific with who they are calling out and what actions they are going to take or they are just as complicit as the perpetrator.

Active perpetrators of sexual assault comprise a very small percentage of the population, but they exist within the broader context of systems and institutions that promote rape culture. If fraternities on our campus are serious about fighting sexual assault, they’re going to have to move far beyond solely hanging banners for Sexual Assault Awareness Week.

SAE’s national headquarters are located on our campus, a physical manifestation of their power and privilege as an institution. SAE’s national board released a statement Tuesday afternoon that said, “When incidents are brought to our attention, we take immediate action, and will not hesitate to take corrective actions or impose sanctions on any member or chapter that fails to follow the stringent guidelines we set forth.” It is the hope of SHAPE that these sanctions function as less of a slap on the wrist and more as a punitive measure for the violations its members committed.

SAE is no stranger to scandals resulting from racist behavior and violations of sexual misconduct policies at other chapters across the country. If SAE, an institution fully capable of taking a stance against sexual assault and violence, decides to stay passive on these issues, they are not simply aiding and abetting, they are the problem.

At this time, it is incredibly important for our community to come together and support all survivors of sexual assault and misconduct. We must focus on making resources more available and transparent, and making campus a safer space for survivors. This means more than just promoting CARE as a resource or teaching people how to respond to disclosures of sexual assault. We must take an active stance against systems and institutions on campus that perpetuate rape culture.

We can no longer allow any Northwestern organization, no matter how long its history or how generous its alumni donors, to harbor rapists or perpetrators of sexual assault. If we continue to turn a blind eye to perpetrators or are not actively working toward addressing instances of sexual harassment or assault, we help to sustain a system that prioritizes protecting rapists over supporting survivors.

Signed,
The members of Sexual Health and Assault Peer Educators

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