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Calls for change at Purdue and IU after reported rapes, sexual assaults

Purdue's Panhellenic Association has canceled all official activities with fraternities until Oct. 17. IU's did the same last month.

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — As she read the headline in the local newspaper Monday, Purdue sophomore Grace Gochnauer nodded her head in agreement.

The words "It's disappointing" were printed in bold.

"It is disappointing," Gochnauer said. "It is extremely disappointing we're hearing these stories come out from our own campus."

The stories are of reported rapes, sexual assaults and sexual battery over the last few weeks. According to Purdue police records, four of those incidents reportedly happened at an "unknown fraternity house" or on David Ross Road, which is lined with Greek housing.

"That is not OK. One would be enough for us to need a change," Gochnauer said.

And so they're demanding it.

"When we see that happening in our community, we want to take action," said Emma Swain, president of Purdue's Panhellenic Association, which represents all 21 sororities on campus.

The association has canceled all official activities with fraternities until Oct. 17 and is asking for "actionable steps from Interfraternity Council chapters before they will be allowed to function with panhellenic organizations."

"Our association believes that every women in our community deserves a safe and healthy collegiate experience and this gives them the opportunity to continue to do so," Swain said.

The group is asking fraternities to evaluate their educational practices and internal programming efforts, update their internal accountability measures in the event their members harm or disrespect a woman on campus, and create an action plan.

In response, the Interfraternity Council issued a statement saying, in part, "we are fully committed to ensuring that all women in the Purdue community are respected by members of fraternity chapters."

The Interfraternity Council statement also said it will be "evaluating our educational practices and internal programming efforts, encouraging better internal chapter accountability measures, and aid in tangible actions which create a safe, comfortable environment for everyone in attendance at their events."

Purdue University released on statement on Monday which read in part:

We thank members of Purdue Student Government, Purdue Panhellenic and others who took time to meet Board of Trustees members early Friday to share their experiences and concerns, and we thank all of our students for their efforts and actions to ensure the safety and well-being of their fellow Boilermakers. As we have seen over and over again, our students care for each other and want the best for their community.

Since the start of the academic year in August, 3 campus-related sexual crimes (reported as: a “sexual assault,” a “sex offense,” and a “rape”) have been reported to Purdue police and are under investigation by law enforcement. 

Any additional reports in Clery logs were filed to university personnel and include occurrences prior to August 1. Law enforcement is only able to investigate incidents reported to them; these reports are anonymous and often filed by staff members who are working with incomplete information. Victims in these incidents may not want police or OIE involvement but support and care is immediately offered in each case. 

RELATED: Clery Act: What to know about the law mandating campus police to log sexual violence

#METOO Purdue

"This isn't just a Purdue issue," said Olivia Wyrick, vice president of Purdue Student Government. "This isn't just a higher education issue. Rape culture and the culture that perpetuates sexual misconduct anywhere ... it's institutional. It's not something that's just specific to a university campus."

Credit: WTHR

Wyrick said progress has been made over the years, but there is still more to do.

"And it starts with education, and prevention and accountability," she said.

Gochnauer said it also involves victims having the courage to speak out.

"I, myself, have been a victim of sexual assault on this campus and I'm not afraid to come out and say that," she said. "And for that reason, I want to perpetuate a better culture."

Gochnauer has become one of the leaders of the #MeTooPurdue movement. Their Instagram feed, which involves sexual assault victims sharing their stories, reached nearly 4,000 followers in less than a week.

"They've served as the unification piece to get all Boilermakers talking about this issue," Wyrick said.

"I think it can be really scary to come out and know that you're going to be talked about and not know that you're not going to be believed," Gochnauer said. "I think that takes a lot of courage and sometimes victims just aren't there yet. It took me a year to come forward."

Gochnauer said she doesn't want Purdue fraternity, sorority and cooperative life to get a bad name.

"Because we do so much good," she said. "So I'm passionate about this because I'm passionate about Purdue students. I want to be proud of my campus and say we had this issue but we came together and we fixed it."

IU reports increase in alleged sexual assaults on campus

More than a dozen sexual assaults have been reported on the Indiana University Bloomington campus in the past two months. IU police list on their daily crime log when the incidents occur. But they give only general descriptions about where they happen. That has some women on campus concerned about their safety and asking for more information.

IU Police list a fairly specific location for most crimes on the daily log, like a campus building or an intersection. But for sexual assaults, the location is vague.

One alleged rape is listed at Memorial Stadium on the day of the football team's home opener Sept. 11. Other reports are listed as locations on campus - residential, or fraternity/sorority, or campus building - with no specific address or building. IU Bloomington Police Chief Jill Lees said that's intentional and a longstanding policy.

"This is not a new change,” Lees said. “This is our best practice. We typically leave out the exact locations where sexual reports occur to help protect the reporting person. I think giving a general location and the knowledge and awareness of such events occurring is important to our campus community. To give the exact location would then put the reporting party's information at risk, and we want people to come forward and report these instances."

Credit: WTHR

Last month, all IU sororities canceled a Saturday of joint events with fraternities over the concern about increased sexual assaults on campus.

"We did support their decision because we want all of our students to be safe, number one,” Lees said. “Number two, I have already provided an in-depth presentation to the Interfraternity Council and the Panhellenic Association as preparation for homecoming safety. So, I really want to make sure that their leadership gets that important safety messaging to members on a proactive approach to ensure that we are partnering with Greek houses to make sure all students are safe for our upcoming homecoming weekend."

Homecoming is Oct. 15-16 in Bloomington.

IU junior journalism student Mary Claire Molloy from Indianapolis has reported on the increased reports of sexual assaults on campus and how they are reported to the public. 

"Just having conversations with friends, classmates, peers - I think that there's a lot of fear for women on campus right now,” said Molloy. “That's what I'm getting at, and that has kind of propelled me to write and to try to uncover this information.”

MORE: IUPUI students protest after sexual assaults

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