Do women on DePauw's campus feel safe?

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Students walking around DePauw's campus. Photo courtesy of Chi Doan.

On Feb. 12, 2023, first-years Audrey Young and Aubrey Kress left the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house to get dinner at Hoover Dining Hall before the Super Bowl that evening. The campus was buzzing with excitement, and the two women, both new members of the Alpha Phi chapter, were ecstatic about being able to take part in the Super Bowl festivities with the Greek community. However, this excitement was quickly replaced by fear as the women realized they were being watched and followed by two men covered in tattoos who appeared to be in their late 20s or early 30s. 

Young and Kress claim the two men sat next to them in the dining hall and proceeded to stare and smirk at the women but never got any food. Because of this, Young and Kress reached out to one of the workers in Hoover for help. The worker told the women that they should leave the dining hall and walk over to Delta Tau Delta, the house they had planned to watch the game. The worker said he would make sure that the men weren't able to exit the dining hall. According to Young and Kress, when they were about 50 meters out from the dining hall, they saw that the men were following them yet again. 

“Aubrey looked at me, and she said to sprint so we ran,” Young said. “It was extremely terrifying”. 

Young and Kress immediately took action after the scary event and called the police. 

“Once we felt safe, we called the police and made them aware of the situation. They asked us for a description of the men which we gave, and then told us we could get a ride from a police officer back to our dorms if we needed,” Kress said.

Young said that a police report was filed automatically since there was a threat to safety. She expresses her gratitude for the follow-up conversations that campus police provided her, but both she and Kress are still struggling with fear and feeling unsafe on DePauw University’s campus. Campus police have not responded for comment at this time. As a small tight-knit campus community, DePauw is not immune to issues of gender-based violence from those who are able to walk onto our open campus or those who are perpetrating these acts from within our community.

Sarah Ryan, director of the Women’s Center on campus and associate dean of student success, remarks on this idea that we as a society and especially in the atmosphere of higher education, have historically placed the responsibility on women not to get harmed and not to get raped. Ryan, a sexual assault survivor advocate (SASA), talks about the detrimental effect that this has on women in coming forward about issues of safety on campus and echoes the way that women respond when we teach them these things. Ryan said these responses include women saying they were told not to get harmed, and then they were harmed by someone. Another response is women not wanting to come forward because they don't want to be blamed for someone else's actions of harming them. 

Hairu (Zoe) Zeng, a sophomore from China, advocates for encouraging women to speak up due to an incident that happened with a male student at her high school. She claims that she generally feels safe at DePauw with the exception of walking home late at night by herself. She describes a fear of being followed on campus, a fear that many women hold. However, Zeng’s fears also intersect with her identity as a Chinese woman. 

“I saw the stabbing of an Asian student at Indiana University earlier this year, and it makes me scared,” she said. “I don't know why people are holding a stereotype or hate towards people's identity.. She still claims to feel relatively safe on campus. Zeng described DePauw’s party culture as a whole different element that could possibly compromise safety, as she has heard whisperings or rumors of incidents that have happened at on-campus parties.

Kaitlynn Franks, a senior at DePauw University, echoes the sentiments in relation to identity and Zeng’s statements on party culture. As a Black woman and an active member of Panhellenic on campus in the Kappa Kappa Gamma Chapter, Franks says that there are experiences, particularly in the Interfraternity Council (IFC) community, that she has not felt the safest because of her gender and/or race. 

Franks goes on to say, “There is a strip of autonomy when they have all of the control over the spaces with which we can have fun. Fraternities control the culture of the campus and I think that puts women at such an unfair advantage.”

Franks also brings up the ways to shift DePauw’s culture in a positive direction through programming. According to her, programming needs to continue to maintain conversations around assault prevention but also open up these conversations to general sexual health, sexual well-being, and the centering of the topic of sex itself without consent is the only theme. 

Zeng and Franks, however, still do praise the programming and resources already in place but would like to see an extension of these resources and a shift of their focus. 

Male denial of women’s safety concerns is another issue that these women responded to. 

Young emphasizes, “Men need to wake up. It is obvious that there is a problem, and the ignorance of these issues perpetuates that problem.” 

Franks says, “Don't approach it like a personal attack because something that you get a lot of people saying is the rhetoric of ‘not all men,’ and I understand the frustration and immediate pushback when a group that you belong to is being characterized in a certain way. I think it is important to remember that when women say they are afraid of men or are critiquing men, they are saying ‘I’m afraid of the things that are put in place because of the patriarchy that don't make me feel safe’.” 

Kress expresses gratitude for the support she and Young got from the Phi Delta Theta and Delta Tau Delta Presidents and members of the fraternity communities, while Franks emphasizes that real, authentic male support is still much needed and that the DePauw community as a whole still has a long way to go in this area. 

Campus sexual assault and interpersonal violence are about power and control, and this disproportionately impacts women and people with other marginalized identities. While perpetrators are predominantly men, it is actually a small fraction of the population who commit these acts of violence. Sexual assault is not a ‘women's issue.’ It is a problem that people of all genders must address,” Ryan said. 

She advocated for the DePauw community to generate pro-social messages and refrain from jokes that contribute to rape culture. 

Whether the safety concerns were from individuals not a part of our DePauw community, like Young and Kress experienced, within our community as described by Franks, or general feelings of unease as stated by Zeng, women are tired. 

Ryan knows this and she and her colleague Heather Wright emphasize the impact of evidence-based Green Dot Training. Green Dot is a bystander intervention training in which anyone of any gender identity can participate that focuses on the precursors to violence and misconduct and through this training, individuals are given the tools to intervene successfully as violence is occurring. 

Several years ago, DePauw became a Green Dot campus based on the fact that this program showed concrete evidence in preventing violence/misconduct. 

Ryan said, “One of the things we say in Green Dot is that caring passionately is not enough. You actually need to act. And I think an active campus is a safer campus.” She encourages this program.

There is a full three-hour Green Dot training as well as a one-hour overview training where students can begin to learn some of these tools. Any student organization, group, or individual (student, staff, faculty) can sign up. 

Out of the whole DePauw community, 15 students and 12 employees are signed up for the full training and 120 students are signed up for the one-hour overview. This spring, the field hockey team is set to take part in the one-hour training and Delta Upsilon (DU) is signed up for the full three-hour training. These numbers, however, are not even a majority of the students/staff/faculty on DePauw’s campus. Contact Heather Wright at heatherwright@depauw.edu for more information about the Green Dot Training. 

If you are looking for more information or resources regarding women’s safety and resources that DePauw University provides, check out the information listed here: Women's Center, SASAs, Student Affairs Resources, and Prevention and Education. For more information about Green Dot, check Green Dot’s Instagram account at @depauwgreendot. Lastly, for resources from DePauw Campus Police, contact DePauw Campus Police by phone at 765-658-5555 and email at police@depauw.edu.