Letter to the Editor: Sexual violence on campus

Content Warning: This article discusses themes of gender-based and sexual violence. 

Dear Editor,

We are working on a Feminist Political Action Project in our POLS 290 class taught by Professor Bermingham. Our objective of this project is to spread awareness regarding sexual violence on campus, and we are intrested in writing about it in The Bucknellian in order to work on spreading awareness regarding the pressing issue regarding sexual violence and feminism.

Colleges and universities which partake in Greek Life are arguably conducive towards rape culture. Studies show that men in fraternities are three times more likely to commit or attempt rape (Valenti, 2014). This is crucial towards our community as about 49% of eligible students participate in Greek life.

Bucknell Sexual Experiences Survey data shows that about one in three women (31.7 percent in 2010) have experienced attempted or completed rape, compared to the National Sexual Experience survery average of 20 to 25 percent. This is arguably due to the high percentage of those who participate in Greek life. Along with this, a survey conducted by Professor William Flack in 2017 showed that, of the men who responded, 9% of them had experienced sexual assault at Bucknell. Unfortunately, limited data has been released in regards to sexual assault on Bucknell’s campus in recent years.

There are some notable efforts being made by groups on campus. Speak UP Bucknell is a peer educator group that is responsible for combatting interpersonal violence and raising awareness on campus. Speak UP peers are extensively trained and offer awareness events, workshops, and ally training. In 2014, Speak UP piloted a fraternity ally program; however, in-depth training programs like this are entirely voluntary. We believe that ally training should be mandated for all Greek life members in order to provide students with a deeper understanding of interpersonal violence, tools for bystander intervention, and survivor support.

There are a myriad of resources available to students. For immediate support, victim-survivors may call Transitions at 1-800-850-7948 at any time, the Interpersonal Violence Prevention and Advocacy Coordinator, Kristen Gibson, at 570-577-1542, or the Counseling and Student Development Center at 570-577-1604. Students may also wish to speak to the Title IX Coordinator, Samantha Hart, at 570-577-1554 in order to request supportive measures. Our goal in this project is to make these resources more accessible and known to students across campus.

Sexual assault on university campus is a feminist issue, as it entails the domination of one individual over another, typically men doing so over women. Feminist researchers have commented on this by saying, “in a feminist analysis, sexual assault is understood to be intrinsic to a system of male supremacy” (Herman, 1990, p. 177) and that rape is “no longer viewed as an outcome of an individual deviant, but a product of a larger rape culture that condoned and excused male violence” (Canan & Levand, 2019). Others see rape as criminal behavior that is “affected by learned gender assumptions like the endorsement of adversarial sexual scripts—where sex is viewed as a conquest by men whose job it is to get sex from women—instead of being affected by an inherent, unchangeable biological trait of men or women” (Canan & Levand, 2019).

Feminism is a tool for exposing the ways in which the patriarchy works against all people. It is necessary for understanding how to dismantle gender roles and idealized notions surrounding femininity and masculinity. In order to fight against sexual assault, we first must understand why people become perpetrators to begin with and that comes with unpacking the association between violent tendencies and hegemonic masculinity. The reason why sexual assault is not discussed openly or seen as a priority issue is because it is associated with femininity and therefore kept in the private sphere. By way of this feminist action project, we wish to bring more light to this ever pressing issue, that universities across the country are notorious for dealing with improperly, in hopes of sparking conversation to better understand where it comes from and thus how to stop it.


Hannah Egan, Hallie Hymovitch, Gaby Watkim and Hayden Groves
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