Many women join sororities to gain a sense of sisterhood, pride, and leadership. Women of sororities usually become very close to the men of fraternities, often referring to them as their own “brothers.” The last thing on the mind of a sorer is being sexually assaulted or even raped by their fraternity brothers. However, in a study entitled “ Sexual Victimization Among Sorority Women: Exploring the link Between Sexual Violence and Institutional Practices”, Stacey Copenhaver and Elizabeth Grauerholz search to understand whether sorority women’s connection with fraternity men is linked to their risk of encountering sexual coercion. Martin and Hummer conducted an analysis of college fraternities and rape in 1989. Their analysis provided understanding on the fraternities’ sexually aggressive behavior and suggested that they are encouraged to act sexually violent towards women. Because fraternities encourage secrecy, loyalty to brotherhood, aggressive behavior and alcohol and drug use, they are more likely sexually coercive towards women. The women that are mostly around fraternity men are sorority women; therefore, they are naturally at a higher risk then the average, college, female student.
It has been reported that approximately one in four college women experience rape or attempted rape. Most victims know their attackers. Sorority women are at a greater risk to be attacked by fraternity men, since it has been proven that Greeks have a high degree of homogamy when it comes to dating. Most times during the attack, heavy alcohol and drug use were involved. A large number of fraternity functions include prodigious amount of drinking, indicating a higher risk for sexual coercion to be conducted at these functions. The study predicts that the more involved the sorority women are the more likely they are to be sexually assaulted.
The method used in this study was a random sample. 500 random sorority women from large, public, Midwestern universities where sent a mailed in questionnaire. 140 of the 500 women responded back. The sample made up of 24% sophomores, 40% juniors, 35% seniors; 99% of the sample consisted of Caucasians and most were either catholic or protestant. The questionnaire consisted of ten questions that related to sexual coercion. Koss and Oros developed the questionnaire in 1982 and it is called the Sexual Experiences Survey (SES). “The SES has been found to be a highly reliable and valid measure of sexual victimization (Koss & Gidycz, 1985).” The SES classified what acts were legally defined as rape. If the samples had experienced rape, after the age of fourteen, there were additional questions that they had to answer. Some of the questions asked do they know the attacker, how long have they known the attacker, how long ago did the rape take place, what type of force did the attacker use, and did it occur at college.
In the study it was concluded that a little more then half (51%) of the women had experienced some type of sexual coercion since the age of 14. 83% of these women had encountered at least one of the acts of sexual aggression while in college. Of these women 24% were victims of attempted rape and 17% were legally qualified as rape. The women who were victims of attempted rape and rape were asked additional questions as stated earlier. 95% of women in this sample knew their attacker. Some knew their attacker for over a year. The locations of the attacks varied from apartments to dormitories to cars.
As far as sexual coercion in context of sorority life, over half (57%) of the attacks took place during fraternity functions or by a fraternity member. Most of the offenders had been drinking or taking drugs before the incident occurred. The more involved sorority members had a greater chance of becoming a victim of sexual coercion. Sorority women are at higher risk then general, female, college students. The study concludes, “ Fraternity-sorority rape reinforces women’s subordinate status within both the greek system and society as a whole.” This study also provides evidence that fraternity men are encouraged to be sexually aggressive. In order to prevent sexual coercion acts, universities should create workshops to help more students become aware of the dangers in alcohol abuse and gender roles.
Copenhaver, Stacey; Grauerholz, Elizabeth; 1991; “Sexual Victimization among Sorority Women: Exploring the Link between Sexual Violence and Institutional Practices”; Source: Sex Roles, vol 24, no. 1-2, pp. 31-41, Jan 1991; Journal Volume, 24; (Accession Number, 91Y1609); Journal Issue, 1-2; Journal Pages 31-41.