More than a thousand protesters demonstrated outside of a University of Kansas fraternity house on Monday night in an outcry against sexual assault that former students say has been “regularly ignored and dismissed.”
The “No Means No Peaceful Protest” outside of the Phi Kappa Psi Greek house was fueled by allegations that a woman was drugged and raped at the frat house on Saturday night by a new undergraduate member. Adam Heffley, interim chief of police for the City of Lawrence, said in a statement to The Daily Beast that they were “aware of an incident involving a possible sexual assault near campus over the weekend” but would not provide further details “in order to protect the privacy of victims.”
It was the second such protest in recent weeks: About 1,000 protesters surrounded the troubled Fiji frat house at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln last month after an alleged sexual assault. The Journal Star reported that men were filmed inside the house laughing as women outside chanted “Kick him out!”
In Kansas, protesters gathered on Monday night outside the frat house, which had been roped off with police tape. The crowd spilled off the sidewalk and onto the street, and shouted chants like, “We believe her,” “Justice now,” and “Lock him up,” in a demonstration that lasted more than two hours, according to WDAF-TV.
A Change.org petition to remove the fraternity from the campus had garnered roughly 10,500 signatures by Tuesday afternoon and protests were set to continue on Tuesday night.
The rally was promoted in part by current and former sorority members at the university who, in July of last year, launched an Instagram account called “Strip Your Letters,” and demanded that the body governing the university’s sororities address concerns about “making Greek Life a safer, more equitable place for ALL women and Sisterhoods on our campus.” Their demands included the creation of a system to anonymously report instances of sexual abuse and racism.
Leaders from Strip Your Letters, a self-described “campus-adjacent” group, include recent graduates and founders Grace Reading, 23, and Anissa Brantley, 22. Reading told The Daily Beast they’re aiming to mobilize the governing body of sororities on campus—the university’s Panhellenic Association—to “disaffiliate” from the Interfraternity Council, which provides leadership and support to campus frats and “enables” sexual violence that disproportionately affects sorority women.
“Fraternity men are much more likely than non-fraternal men to engage in sexual assault, and that puts sorority women at the highest rate of any university group or demographic to be sexually assaulted,” she said.
“Rape culture is a huge part of Greek culture, it’s not something that has ever gone away.”
Reading, who left Kappa Delta sorority during her senior year, said that Strip Your Letters has “crowdsourced” for information on social media about sexual violence and found that no fraternity on campus has been spared from sexual assault allegations.
“This is a culture within [the university] that is regularly ignored and dismissed because it benefits the university and benefits those organizations,” she said. (A spokesperson for the school did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.)
Brantley said that the school’s Panhellenic Association would provide sorority women a list of “safe” parties to attend while she was a student. But the fraternities were frequently a locus for sexual assault.
“None of them are safe,” she said.
Leaders from the university’s Panhellenic Association did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.
But Brantley’s sentiments were echoed by some current students who said sexual violence has been a pervasive issue on campus.
“While Phi Psi is currently the one being blamed, every single fraternity here is guilty,” Abigayle Redeker, a junior at the university told the school’s student newspaper, The University Daily Kansan. “Until rape culture is demolished, it’s going to continue happening here.”
Members of other fraternities also protested in support of the alleged rape victim.
On Monday, Phi Kappa Psi released a statement that said the fraternity had been alerted to the allegations of sexual assault.
“On Sunday, September 12, Phi Kappa Psi became aware of allegations against a new undergraduate member based on alleged events occurring at the chapter house on the night of Saturday, September 11. University of Kansas officials were immediately notified so a full and prompt investigation could be initiated. Phi Kappa Psi takes these allegations very seriously and will fully cooperate with law enforcement.”
The fraternity did not immediately reply to The Daily Beast’s request for comment on Tuesday.