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Point of View: Opening Conversations about Sexual Assault in Greek Life

In this episode, host Estella Weeks sits down with opinion writer Matthew Timpa to talk about why sexual assault is so prevalent in Greek life, and what conversations need to be had to increase awareness and prevention.
Mary Allen
(Design by Mary Allen | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

Content warning: This episode discusses sexual assault.


Estella Weeks: Welcome back to Point of View, The Daily Utah Chronicle’s opinion podcast. My name is Estella Weeks, your host for today’s episode, and I’m joined by Matthew Timpa. Matthew is a new writer here at the Chrony, how has that been? 

Matthew Timpa: It’s been fun. It’s a lot of work, but I enjoy it. I think my favorite part is interviewing people, and just getting their perspectives on different topics I would never know anything about. 

Estella Weeks: Yeah, well, I’m glad you’re enjoying it. So today, we are going to be talking about sexual assault on college campuses. So, I kind of wanted to put out a brief trigger warning. If this conversation is uncomfortable for you, we have a couple of really other great episodes you can listen to and I do want to bring to light some of the really great student resources we have at the U regarding the subject. So turning things over to you, Matthew, you recently wrote an article for the Chrony about this subject. Why do you think that sexual assault is more common and spikes in college? 

Matthew Timpa: Right. I think one of the biggest things, it just comes down to opportunity. There’s just so much opportunity for it to happen on a college campus with Greek life and with everything else, and especially in a place like Utah, where sex education isn’t as well integrated, you just run that risk a lot more. And especially on a college campus, you’re just always testing it, and it just is going to happen more often than other places. Yeah, and of course, things like alcohol and other drugs are going to play a large role in that, especially when you have inexperienced people using it for the first time. 

Estella Weeks: Yeah, so that’s kind of just talking about the reported cases of sexual assault. There was a [2016 National Sexual Violence Resource Center publication] that said over 90% [of sexual assault cases] goes unreported. I know if you can speak on this, why do you think that that would be?

Matthew Timpa: Yeah, so I interviewed Bonny [Shade], who was a victim of sexual assault and a member of Greek life who gave some good insights to this. One, it does come down to shame in the way that most people view sexual assault, especially right now. But in terms of Greek life, because everything is so interconnected, the act of reporting it has consequences that many people don’t want to be tied to. It can get a frat shut down, which even if it’s arguably deserved, most people don’t want to be the cause of that, and because that’s the way that we view it and the way we talk about it, victims often feel a lot of shame and we shame them because of it. So, changing that conversation is a big step forward and starting getting people to speak up about it more. 

Estella Weeks: And how do you think we do change that conversation?

Matthew Timpa: It really comes down to upbringing and how people view the subject by the time they get to college. It’s very difficult to unlearn things that you’ve grown up around. I mentioned in the article, but men aren’t really forced to have uncomfortable conversations, and living your entire life that way and suddenly coming to college, where it’s really important to have those conversations has consequences. So I think opening it up at a younger age and building men up to have those uncomfortable conversations and be held accountable, and be introspective and hold their friends accountable as well themselves is a really big factor in preventing sexual violence. 

Estella Weeks: Since you mentioned your article, you use the term “fearmongering,” when you talked about fearmongering men into compliance, can you kind of go deeper into what that kind of meant for you? 

Matthew Timpa: Right, so a lot of lectures on sexual assault and sexual violence, and even the way that we try and prevent it, is based on punishment, which obviously has effects and does work, but it doesn’t really change anything. It just changes the willingness to actually do it, it doesn’t actually change the person themselves, and I think, coming at it from a perspective of changing the individual to inherently not commit those crimes, not because of punishment, but because they feel it is wrong, is not only more effective, but the right way to combat any topic and change people for the good. 

Estella Weeks: So you mentioned you talked to Bonny Shade, and she kind of — from what I had read, she goes around and tries to educate and have conversations about these topics. So what are the conversations that we’re having right now in schools? Because obviously, I think it is important to a lot of schools to bring a lot of attention to the subject and there is a lot of awareness. But what are we doing wrong currently and why? What could we do to hopefully, maybe, institute different conversations throughout campus in Greek life? 

Matthew Timpa: Yeah, so one of the biggest inspirations for writing the article was Bonny Shade’s lecture was much different than other lectures have been, in the sense that you could tell Bonny was coming from experience both with being a victim and being a member of Greek life — and I think being a member of Greek life and understanding those social dynamics is a really important part if you’re trying to change that demographic. When that isn’t the case and you have people who’ve never been a part of it, trying to understand it and also relate to the people listening, it just doesn’t land as well. But listening to someone like Shade who had that personal experience and was saying things that we’ve seen, we’ve experienced and we could actually apply to our lives in Greek life was much more impactful and much more effective than lectures have been in the past. 

Estella Weeks: And do you mind giving an example of something that she did say that you feel that Greek life has instituted? 

Matthew Timpa: Right, so she refers to Greek life, especially fraternities, as a male only “circle of influence” and when you’re surrounded by only males and no woman interference, you kind of get locked in that like echo chamber of just like a men-only world and that makes it really difficult to empathize with other people, which is really what it comes down to is your ability to empathize with people other than yourself. There’s also a lot of entitlement in fraternities, because they build you up to such a standard, and when you mix that with substances and large parties and get-togethers, there’s just a higher risk of bad things happening. 

Estella Weeks: Yeah. So kind of speaking of, I feel like that goes hand in hand with consent, which kind of seems to be a gray area, especially with when substances are involved. What kind of education would be helpful for the subject, and what do you think that we could do as a school to maybe just get people talking about it more? 

Matthew Timpa: Right. The issue with the way that consent is often presented is that it almost seems as like a “yes or no” thing, and it’s often presented very clunky, in a way that no one is actually ever going to use that in practice. I think offering much more applicable suggestions into how to actually incorporate that into people’s lives is very important, and understanding that people are coming from different places. For instance, what makes it difficult is some people feel like they have — just, they inherently know when consent isn’t necessary, and that differs from person to person. There’s no one size fits all for what consent looks like. So facilitating that conversation, and getting people more willing to speak up about it in those situations to where they’re more willing to talk about it. 

Estella Weeks: And how do you think we can make this topic less taboo for men? Is it by kind of pushing everyone towards these conversations of being uncomfortable, and talking about consent, and kind of talking about what that means or what do you think? 

Matthew Timpa: I think a lot of it just comes down to exposure, and making a conversation that happens more often than when it absolutely needs to happen. Oftentimes, it happens only after someone is a victim instead of before, which is obviously more important. But, by exposing men to it more, it also motivates them to talk about it more in their circles, in their fraternities instead of just it being this event that we have to go to this week, instead of just being a constant thing throughout the entire chapter and the entirety of Greek life. 

Estella Weeks: Accountability too is a big one. Well, thank you for talking about such a taboo topic. I feel like these conversations are what needs to happen in order for campuses to make a change and differences and stuff. I do want to bring to light some of the sexual assault resources that we have here at the U. We will link these in our transcript, but we have a really great sexual awareness and response support website here as phone numbers for different types of crisis services, as well as the Student Affairs mental health resources. So thanks for listening to Point of View. I’m your host Estella Weeks, and stay tuned for more episodes coming this month.

Transcribed by

Host: Estella Weeks — [email protected]

Producer: Stevie Shaughnessey — [email protected] //  @steviechrony

Guest: Matthew Timpa – [email protected] // @timpa.chronicle

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About the Contributors
Stevie Shaughnessey
Stevie Shaughnessey, Home Stretch Producer, Host
Stevie is a junior transfer student at the U who is majoring in communications with an emphasis in journalism, and minoring in documentary studies. In her free time, Stevie likes to take part in many different activities, such as dirt bike riding, snowboarding and photography.
Estella Weeks
Estella Weeks, Point of View Host
Estella Weeks started at the Daily Utah Chronicle as a Podcast Host for the Opinion Podcast, Point of View, at the beginning of 2024. Her love for all things writing and storytelling came from years of journaling and led her to choose communication with an emphasis in journalism as her major. Estella grew up in Draper, Utah and likes to spend her time watching movies just to update her LetterBoxd profile, making memories with her family and friends, iced chais and sunny walks around the park.
Matthew Timpa
Matthew Timpa, Opinion Writer
(he/him) Matthew is majoring in Marketing and minoring in Philosophy at the University of Utah, with a stressfully vague idea of what he wants to do career-wise. He's from Las Vegas, Nevada and enjoys playing volleyball, thrifting, and reading.
Mary Allen
Mary Allen, Design Director
(she/her) Born and raised in Salt Lake City, Mary is thrilled to be here at the University of Utah studying graphic design. She feels very lucky to get to rub shoulders with the talented people that make up the team here at the Chronicle and is learning a lot from them every day. Other than making things look cute, Mary’s passions include music, pickleball, Diet Coke, wildlife protection, and the Boston Red Sox.

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