Binghamton University Greek Life called in the reinforcements Wednesday, inviting a representative of the United States Department of Defense to an interactive presentation on sexual violence prevention.
Four members of the 20:1 Fraternity Sexual Assault Peer Education Program presented on the realities of sexual assault among college students. The 20:1 ratio represents the number of sexual assaults that occurred per hour nationally in 2004, when the program was founded.
Maj. John Ruckauf, a representative of the Department of Defense Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office, said he attended the event to study its peer education element.
“[The Department of Defense] wanted to check it out and to see what we could learn and potentially adopt and use in the military,” Ruckauf said. “If you look at the statistics of sexual assaults that occur on campuses, they are very similar to what we face in the military.”
After defining basic terms like assault, rape and consent, the 20:1 presenters picked three student volunteers and gave each of them a green, a yellow and a red piece of paper. The volunteers were then read pieces of a fictional story about Rich and Keisha, on the night they meet. After each piece of the story, the volunteers raised a color to demonstrate their approval, semi-approval or disapproval of the couple’s actions.
When Rich was making harmless moves, like leaning over and kissing Keisha, the crowd whistled and seemed entertained.
After the two went back to Keisha’s house and proceeded to undress, someone in the audience sarcastically remarked that Rich was headed for legal trouble, which received a big laugh.
Major Ruckauf said he was not surprised by the reaction.
“Some of that is a nervous laughter,” Ruckauf said. “It’s hard to tell but it’s actually typical when these types of classes are given.”
The fictional evening slowly garnered more yellows and reds when acts of drunk driving and intimacy occurred, and eventually everyone held up red when Rich had sex with an unconscious Keisha.
Both the volunteers and the audience said they were appalled by Rich’s final action, and that it clearly constituted rape.
One audience member seemed angered that the presenters were prematurely ascribing blame to Rich before he raped Keisha, yet did not hold Keisha similarly responsible, and suggested that at times Keisha could have been just as culpable as Rich.
“If she didn’t ask him to give him a blow job it’s technically rape,” he said.
Another member of the audience asked if a girl being on top means it is not rape, but was quickly dismissed by a fellow frat brother.
In the second portion of the program, organizers screened a video in which a fraternity brother from the University of Massachusetts at Boston casually discussed how members of his frat regularly “targeted” girls — especially freshmen girls — lured them into parties, got them drunk beyond recognition, and took advantage of them. He also recalled one particular night in which he forcibly raped a girl after a party and held her down with his arm across her chest, which generated laughter from many members of the audience.
Andrew Simon, an undeclared freshman who is brother of Sigma Alpha Epsilon, said that people were not laughing at the fraternity brother’s actions, but rather at the inappropriately casual way he described what he did.
“It’s not like we are a bunch of gorillas who think stuff like this is funny,” Simon said. “The whole presentation was so obvious and ridiculous that I don’t think many kids took it seriously.”
When the video ended, the audience did not hesitate to voice their disgust. A few kids even said they were offended at the way fraternity life is portrayed.
Interfraternity Council President Alex Liu, a sophomore majoring in philosophy, politics and law, helped organize the event and said that Binghamton fraternity brothers don’t take the subject lightly.
“The first half of the presentation was very comical and engaging. It grabs the audience and it sets the tone for the entire event,” Liu said. “There were instances where people might just carry on the mood from the beginning. I don’t think it’s because IFC gentlemen think its funny for people to get raped.”
According to Liu, the event was not scheduled in response to any specific incidents or a particularly high rate of sexual assaults in Binghamton Greek life.
“Fraternities in general drive a lot of the social life on campus, and it’s important for the people who have such a presence in the social world to be informed and educated so they can prevent, not themselves from doing it, but other people from doing it,” Liu said.
Randall Edouard, a co-leader of the 20:1 program, said he was pleased with the presentation.
“For such a large audience we got some very good reaction from our fraternity men on campus,” Edouard said. “They were extremely outraged by the actions of the perpetrators that we showed.”