On Sunday, April 7 at 2:44 a.m., the Office of Public Safety (PSafe) received a call from a female student who reported being physically assaulted at the Beta Theta Pi (Beta) Fraternity house. The assailant had reportedly also attempted to sexually assault the student, but she was able to resist and escape.
“The victim stated she had attended a party at approximately 1:30am, at the Beta Fraternity house on High Street,” wrote Associate Director of PSafe Tony Bostick in the all-campus email alert that was sent to students on Sunday. “While at the house an unknown male approached her from behind, pushed her to the floor, kicked and hit her, and then attempted to sexually assault her. During the assault the suspect was alerted by a loud noise, the victim was then able to kick the suspect and flee the area.”
In the email, the first abiding by a recent decision to eliminate racial indicators from PSafe security alerts, the assailant was described as a male, approximately 5 feet 10 inches tall, wearing khaki pants and a light-colored shirt. The survivor was reportedly taken to Middlesex Hospital for minor injuries.
According to PSafe Director David Meyer, the incident is under investigation by the Middletown Police Department (MPD), but as of 4 p.m. on Monday, April 8 the assailant had not been identified. Meyer indicated that there were non-Beta brothers present at the house at the time of the assault. Shortly after the assault was reported, officers questioned students at the Beta Fraternity house regarding any information they had.
“At this point, we’re hoping to identify somebody,” Meyer said. “I don’t want to say that we will, but the police are very actively working on it.”
Meyer emphasized that Beta members have been fully cooperating with the MPD. Beta President Elliot Albert ’14 released a statement expressing the fraternity’s commitment to assisting the investigation however possible.
“The members of Beta Theta Pi share the campus’ outrage at the allegation of an attempted sexual assault at our chapter house early Sunday morning,” Albert wrote. “We are cooperating with the University and the Middletown Police Department as they seek to identify the alleged attacker, and will continue to help the authorities in every way if and when he is found and arrested.”
Albert explained that Beta brothers do not condone sexual assault and lamented the fact that an assault occurred at the Beta house.
“Events such as this compromise the sense of safety and security that we as members of a campus community deserve, and we have zero tolerance for such actions,” Albert wrote. “Unfortunately, sexual assault at Wesleyan remains a problem, and we share the belief that sexual assault, like any kind of assault, is problematic and utterly unacceptable. That our house became the location of this unfortunate and intolerable crime is a powerful reminder to the entire Wesleyan community that we collectively need to do a better job at raising awareness and prevention of these types of events.”
Many students reached out to their peers after receiving word of the incident. On Sunday afternoon, students who were upset about the attack were encouraged to gather at Womanist House for tea, snacks, and support. At 9 p.m. on Sunday, students gathered at an open discussion on ways of preventing sexual assault at the University, held at the University Organizing Center (UOC). Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) intern Rachel Verner ’15 organized the discussion.
“In the meeting we focused on ways to eliminate rape culture at Wesleyan; specifically, we talked about strategies that would allow us to attack the problem at its core,” Verner wrote in an email to The Argus.
Students at the meeting were encouraged to brainstorm strategies for reducing the number of incidents of sexual assault at the University.
“Sexual violence prevention is a movement—continual support and involvement is essential; we can’t just acknowledge singular events and expect to see any change,” Verner wrote. “We must work on the issue in sustainable and on-going ways.”
Alpha Epsilon Pi (AEPi) Rush Chair Matthew Leibowitz ’14 represented the fraternity at the meeting. According to Leibowitz, there were approximately 10 students present at the event.
“It was a very small meeting, but everyone there was really involved and really wanted to make positive change,” Leibowitz said.
He noted that students were eager to find solutions to questions raised by attacks like the one that occurred at the Beta house on Sunday.
“I was really happy with the atmosphere [at the UOC meeting], because it was very much an idea of, ‘How do we address this problem as a whole rather than focusing on one specific event that happened?’” Leibowitz said. “It was very positive; it was, ‘How can we move forward?,’ ‘How can we create a positive campus environment?’”
Leibowitz noted that AEPi is actively involved in preventing sexual assault among its members, and hopes to expand its efforts to the wider campus.
“We are in the process of requiring pledges to go through a consent workshop,” Leibowitz said. “I hope to in the future work specifically with the already-established organizations on campus to develop one. One of the great things that was suggested in the meeting was encouraging student groups on campus, not specifically fraternities, to have this type of training so when they host events that they have this in mind.”
Leibowitz is confident in the potential of Greek organizations to improve the campus climate.
“I definitely believe that Greek life has the ability to be a positive force on campus and that if we all work together on these workshops and other things it’s definitely something that can be moved forward upon,” he said.
Albert noted that in response to the assault, Beta members intend to expand their role in sexual assault prevention.
“Beta Theta Pi plans to strengthen our partnership with Wesleyan’s Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) and Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) and we will continue to plan programs for our members such as last semester’s WESpeak-WEStand Bystander Intervention program, which aimed to create a campus that is actively engaged in the prevention of sexual assault,” Albert wrote. “We all need to do our part in creating the safer community we deserve. Our thoughts, prayers, and solidarity are with the survivor.”
Additional reporting by News Editor Lily Baggott.