Discussions of sexual assault on campus have peaked in the past weeks due to surveys circulating within the Greek Life community.
On Sept. 17, the university released an announcement via mass email, stating the institution has implemented new campus sexual assault regulations released by the U.S. Department of Education under Title IX.
The latest definition of sexual harassment under Title IX acknowledges sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence and stalking as unlawful discrimination on the basis of sex.
Catherine Wooton, a junior criminal justice major and member of Alpha Sigma Tau, decided to assess the issue of sexual misconduct on campus after hearing about negative experiences from women in Greek Life. All responses were recorded anonymously.
“My Google Form was to get a better assessment of how comfortable girls felt around each of the different fraternities,” said Wooton. “It was out of curiosity in a sense, but we’ve also been hearing things through the grapevine of girls having bad experiences with fraternities.”
Kami Aguilar, a junior marketing major, is a member of Alpha Omicron Pi. She created a survey that addressed the situation from a different angle.
“My Google Form was a little bit different from Catherine’s,” said Aguilar. “I had a Google Form on how many students personally know victims of sexual assault, and it turned out to be 80 to 20—80 people knowing two victims or more of sexual assault and 20 not knowing. We wanted to get an idea of how big the problem is and how to address it.”
Aguilar reported positive feedback on the creation of her survey, but Wooton received mixed reactions.
“Since I focused on each fraternity, I did get a lot of negative feedback,” shared Wooton. “I got text messages and questions on what our purpose was with the survey. But, we had support from girls about this because I think they understand and hear things that guys don’t necessarily consider. I think it’s a little different, coming from a girl’s perspective.”
After seeing the results of their surveys, Wooton and Aguilar plan to establish “Bold and Beautiful,” an organization that will be open to all female students on campus.
“We’re going to have self-defense classes, and we’re going to make sure that girls feel supported,” said Wooton. “There will be a nondisclosure agreement, so that people can feel like they can open up and be honest. We’re going to be encouraging girls to take legal action if they want to, so we can put an end to sexual assault on our campus.”
While their mission is to support and educate women, Wooton also acknowledged a need to support and educate men.
“We’ve talked about going to give presentations at fraternity meetings—just educating on what sexual assault is, what is defined in the Louisiana law and explaining what can happen if a sexual assault occurs and someone takes legal action to combat it,” explained Wooton.
Wooton has planned to provide a clear definition of sexual assault through the new organization.
“There’s definitely a gap between men understanding what exactly assault is,” said Wooton. “So, once we establish our organization, we will clear the air on what sexual assault is. A lot of these people who are sexually assaulting are repeat offenders, and we’re striving to bring light to what has happened.”
Wooton wanted to assure women on campus that they are not alone.
“There are so many girls on our campus that have been in their shoes before and can understand where they’re coming from,” expressed Wooton. “We really just want to help women feel empowered and strong enough to take action if they would like to.”
“Bold and Beautiful” has yet to be established, but social media accounts for the organization are coming soon.
Aguilar hopes the new organization will provide support and strength for victims on campus.
“What has happened to them is not something to be ashamed of,” said Aguilar. “It’s happened to more people than we ever would want to imagine. Our group would offer them support, and hopefully we would help them find the strength they forgot they had and help them see the light at the end of the tunnel.”
For the most updated definition of sexual assault and harassment under Title IX, as well as information on the protections provided for victims and the accused, click here.