sexual assault

It’s time to talk about it: AU and EI

Alright, alright, alright. It’s time to talk about this. I tried to avoid it, but the more conversation we have around this issue, the better. For about the last week, students on American University’s campus have been buzzing with furry over beyond vulgar messages leaked by an anonymous source regarding an unrecognized organization called Epsilon Iota (EI).

*If you would like to read some of the 70 pages from listservs and texts, you can read The Fratergate AU, which highlights some of them. However, do understand that by clicking and reading, you will encounter some seriously disturbing conversations that can be triggers, so read at your own risk.*

Let’s get this straight. According to the University, “Epsilon Iota – Also referred to as EI is the former Alpha Tau Omega (ATO) chapter that was closed both by the University and Alpha Tau Omega headquarters in March 2001.The fraternity lost university and national fraternity recognition for serious policy violations which involved hazing and alcohol abuse. Upon loss of recognition, members of this group formed this unrecognized organization.”

It’s common knowledge on AU’s campus that EI is the “frat” to stay away from during Welcome Week and throughout the year. As a freshman girl, you’re told that they put date rape drugs in their jungle juice and that you’re more likely to be raped there than any other frat. (Keep in mind, EI is NOT a recognized frat, however, they are still referred to in that manner. It is even rumored that they are recognized as a gang by DC police). On campus, they have a reputation for being the “bad” guys. However, let me be clear in saying that I do not believe that every single person in EI is a terrible person. Instead, what I believe is that group mentality gets the best of the members of this group, time and time again. Let’s face it, group mentality is like a bowling ball rolling down hill: easy to start and difficult to stop, especially individually.

Now, I’m not going to blame this on group mentality though, because I wish that someone would have stood up. Sure, not every member in the group may have participated in actually saying these atrocious things, but when you see them written down in an email, I question how not one person spoke up. It’s one thing to do it, but if you either see it being done or hear about it and don’t say anything, it’s silent consent. (I will acknowledge that there was one set of emails exchanged where a guy stood up and said that it was unacceptable to hit women. However, later in the email train it’s discussed as to how they are going to cover up the fact that this incident happened.)

But here’s my issue with the way we are looking at this entire situation. EI is not the only group behaving this way, they’re just the only ones who are documented. I don’t have written proof that this is happening within other organizations on campus, however it is hard for me to believe that EI are the only ones. They also might be the most extreme case, but it’s not to say that other groups don’t talk to each other this way. Our culture has come to condone men talking down to women: calling them bitches, whores, “easy”, etc. We joke about rape and sexual assault and it’s simply not okay. These messages between the guys in EI are proof that change needs to occur. On AU’s campus, it’s great that both women and men are outraged by these leaks. But it’s not enough to just be upset by them. It’s time to make a change.

You can sign the petition, No More Silence: Demand Sexual Assault Prevention and Consequences for Epsilon Iota, for change on AU’s campus by clicking here.

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Although I think it is important that the University take action against EI for their actions, I think that is only the first piece of the puzzle. There needs to be a new standard put into place about the rape culture that exists on our campus and there needs to be accountability for those actions. If the correct treatment of women (and men too) is not being taught prior to college, there needs to be education during college to eradicate misconceptions. Men need to learn that treating women well, isn’t an option, it’s a necessity.

In short, although these messages are highly upsetting, they can be used to create social change. I hope that the University understands that this is an issue that needs to be addressed beyond the confines of EI and extended to the entire community. We have an opportunity to change the way in which men are expected to act in groups, and I hope that we use this chance to create a new culture. If this isn’t the time, then I don’t know that it will ever happen.