The University Panhellenic Association partnered with the University’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center to host the first annual Greek Life Speak Out on Wednesday.
In front of an audience of 150 students, about 20 sorority members made their way to microphones at the front of the room to “break the silence,” about their experiences with sexual assault. Between each monologues, the audience sat in a silence, amid some displays of emotion.
Many women spoke about sexual violence they have experienced within the Greek system, while others described their experiences with sexual assault outside of fraternity houses or the University.
In addition to testimonies from sorority members, Panhellenic peer educators — sorority members trained to assist and support survivors within their sororities — read aloud anonymous stories submitted through Facebook prior to the event.
Due to the confidential nature of the event, the Daily was asked to not record or quote speakers.
Instead of applause, Panhellenic members encouraged students to tie signs to a string stretching between microphones to demonstrate their support for their sisters.
Engineering sophomore Maggie Hafers, president of Zeta Tau Alpha, said the Speak Out had an emotional atmosphere.
“(I felt) shock, heartbreak, but also empowerment,” Hafers said.
LSA senior Alyssa Gorenberg, a founder of the Panhellenic peer educators program, said she hoped the Speak Out would help create a safer and more supportive Greek community.
“We want this event to be a staple in our community for the future,” Gorenburg said. “I think it’s really important to raise awareness for our sisters in our chapters and the Panhellenic community as a whole. I am hoping that people find that they have a space that is safe and confidential, that they can start to heal or continue their process.”
Panhellenic Peer Educators handed out pamphlets at the the beginning of the Speak Out, which detailed confidential resources available to survivors and allies on campus. The back of the pamphlet had a blank space left for students to write, draw and/or reflect. There was also a confidential SAPAC advocate in attendance available to students if needed.
Though SAPAC hosts annual Speak Outs at the University, LSA senior Laura Meyer, volunteer coordinator for the networking, publicity and activism program at SAPAC, said there was an important distinction between this Greek Life Speak Out and the campus-wide one.
“I think a lot of people make assumptions about Greek life without listening to the lived experiences of people within the Greek life system, which is why I think this is so important to create the community where people are comfortable listening to each other and sharing with each other,” she said. “And with that we can try to go forward and change the culture so this event is not necessary in the future.”