Sigma Phi Epsilon, IFC host guest speaker for sexual violence prevention
Speaker Tim Mousseau urges AU students to create safer environment on campus
At an event Jan. 28 hosted by American University’s Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity and the Interfraternity Council, guest speaker Tim Mousseau, a survivor of sexual assault, shared his experiences in hopes of facilitating open conversations within Greek life organizations.
Mousseau, a writer and artist, has spoken at more than 300 keynotes across the nation, emphasizing the need to prevent sexual violence and redefine masculinity.
Recent calls to abolish AU’s social Greek life are, in part, due to sexual misconduct allegations, which erupted on social media over the summer. Sorority members are at a high risk of being sexually assaulted, according to the National Institute of Justice.
Sigma Phi Epsilon President John Burzawa and the IFC thought it necessary to have an event centered around sexual violence. The event, titled “Combating Sexual Violence,” was mandatory for members of the fraternity chapter and open to other AU students interested in joining the conversation.
“[The executive team and I] knew we wanted somebody to educate not just our chapter, but our Greek community as a whole,” Burzawa said. “We thought Tim would be a good resource, especially because he’s a former fraternity brother and a survivor himself.”
Mousseau’s experience in Greek life created an “accessible conversation” for the 81 attendees of the event, many of whom are part of an AU fraternity, Burzawa said.
Mousseau began by equating everyone’s lives to a sequence of stories. Even one’s most awkward moment is a single page of an entire novel, not definitive of who one is, he said. Mousseau detailed his personal allegation of sexual assault by a fellow fraternity brother and how the incident completely changed his life.
Mousseau delved into how he ultimately sought help and recovered after an isolating depression. Nearly 1 in 4 men will experience sexual violence in his lifetime, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The reason Mousseau speaks openly about his story now is to prevent the same thing from happening to anyone else, he said.
Mousseau then delivered statistics of sexual violence on college campuses to emphasize the importance of consent. He defined predatory behavior, explained the link between language and rape culture, made suggestions for how to support a survivor and urged for more bystander engagement.
Near the end of the hour, Mousseau led a heart-to-heart conversation with other survivors in attendance. Then, he addressed those who have not experienced sexual violence.
“I need you to care and I need you to take action,” Mousseau said. “It’s the right thing to do. If enough of us does these things, one day we won’t have to have these conversations.”
“Combating Sexual Violence” is more than a stand-alone event.
The most notable change is that all off-campus social events are on a permanent prohibition period. Burzawa wanted to do away with the “power dynamic” that came with fraternity parties.
He and his team have also created a document titled “Sexual Misconduct Procedures,” which contains a list of specific actions that future chapter leaders should take when allegations of sexual violence come to their attention.
“We have clarity so that we don’t have leaders that are inactive,” Burzawa said.