Kayla Trawick, a UGA class of 2021 alumna, said she didn’t like to go downtown or to parties due to the risks women face when it comes to this popular part of UGA culture.
She said women face a different reality when it comes to party culture at UGA. They have to plan out their nights to keep each other safe, wear clothing that won’t attract too much attention and watch how much they drink.
“I don’t know how many times I’ve been manhandled so someone can pour liquor down my throat. That’s college and party scenes — you want to have fun, but most of the time they have ulterior motives,” Trawick said.
More than one-third
of sexual assault reports in the movement mention alcohol or drugs
From parties and bars to football and Greek life, UGA culture revolves around a feel-good atmosphere. It’s a culture that the university is known for across the country — UGA ranked in Niche’s 2021 list of Top 10 Party Schools.
However, the same factors that contribute to a stereotypically fun time in Athens and at UGA can also create a toxic environment and power imbalances. This can lead to sexual misconduct and survivors not reporting their perpetrators.
This culture carries the heightened risk of sexual violence through drugs, alcohol and hookup culture, participants of the movement said.
“You think that’s a part of college life, but the reality is, with every chance you go to a party, you might not come home the same,” Trawick said.
Whether it’s at a bar downtown or a house party, the town of Athens brims with parties and alcohol throughout the year. Each of these elements can provide different risk factors when it comes to sexual violence.
Alcohol is the most common substance used in drug-facilitated sexual assault, according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network.
At least 21 reports in the UGA Twitter movement involved alcohol and at least three involved drugs, according to The Red & Black’s records of the June 2020 tweets.
According to a 2002 study in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol Supplement, alcohol consumption by survivors, perpetrators or both increases the likelihood of sexual assault by acquaintances.
“Perpetrators of sexual violence are looking for situations to take advantage of,” said Linnea Ionno, the director of adult services at The Cottage, which is a sexual assault center and children’s advocacy center in Athens.
Crystal said that people can be manipulated by perpetrators, especially if they are not in the frame of mind to be making decisions such as giving consent. She said that by constantly giving these women drinks, perpetrators are “grooming” potential survivors.
In addition to the effects of alcohol, Trawick said that there is a lot of non-consensual touching at parties and downtown.
“Usually girls just make excuses or lies to get away from situations,” Erin said about women interacting with men at parties or at bars. “They don’t feel comfortable telling the truth because they’re scared of what could happen.”
Women will often go to parties or bars in groups to protect or look out for one another. UGA’s rampant party lifestyle perpetuates rape culture by forcing women to take these precautions.
“Even with the pandemic, we’re seeing party and assault cases. In these cases, some don’t report because there’s a hesitancy or shame that comes when survivors are intoxicated or can’t remember details, but we always stress they don’t need to feel this way or not report just because of this,” said Shannon Parker, a sergeant in the special victims unit which oversees sexual assault cases for Athens-Clarke County Police Department.
In addition to the drinking and drugs, hookup culture also starts with the intention of a fun time but can put individuals at risk for assault and harassment.
According to a 2014 study of sexual assault among college students, while hookup culture on college campuses promotes casual sexual encounters, it also creates an environment that leaves women vulnerable where actions can move from consensual to nonconsensual. Instead of allowing women to have safe, casual sexual encounters, hookup culture can also perpetuate rape culture.
“If someone goes off with someone you’re just basically like, ‘Oh, they’re just going to go and hook up or whatever,’ and you assume everything’s consensual,” Erin said. “But after the actual event, there’s no way to trace people or really keep an account of what’s happening because people are usually drunk or high or whatever.”
All of these concerns and risk factors can increase on football game days when the streets of Athens are often filled with people from across the state and country who are drinking and partying.
A 2018 study found evidence that rape victimizations for women between the ages of 17 to 24 increase by 28% on football game days, with the perpetrators often in the same age bracket. The reports on the day of home games increase by 41%, according to the study “College Party Culture and Sexual Assault” in the American Economic Journal: Applied Economics.
The study also noted that these effects may increase if a school is a NCAA Division I school.
“It’s kind of a shit show, honestly, on the weekends whenever big game days were happening and you go out, and it’s just literally insane,” Erin said. “In terms of safety from a point of keeping people accountable, if there is something that goes on, it’s hard … to track them [visitors] back down after they go back home.”
In the same vein, Greek life across the country has a reputation for capitalizing on this party culture.
At least eight of the alleged perpetrators named by the anonymous accounts had an affiliation with Greek life. At least three individuals said their alleged perpetrators were in Greek life but did not disclose their names on their personal accounts.
“The way that Greek life is oriented, it makes it so easy, almost sets the stage for things like this [cases of sexual assault and misconduct] to happen,” Erin said. “It’s almost like a breeding grounds for sexual assault … especially because of alcohol and drug use within these organizations.”
High consumption of alcohol within these organizations and a pressure to maintain in-group loyalty contribute to rape culture in fraternities, according to a 2016 article in the academic journal Gender and Society.
Some of the individuals accused on Twitter were not only members but high-ranking officers in their UGA Greek life chapters. Some were also accused numerous times by the anonymous accounts in different posts.
“The chapters do need to be punished … because until you have realized that what you’ve done is wrong, nothing’s going to change,” Crystal said. “You can’t just keep on pushing out new line brothers, and they’re getting indoctrinated with the same beliefs.”
The Red & Black reached out to the UGA Greek life chapters whose members were accused with a request for comment. The Red & Black asked if the organizations were currently investigating those who were accused or if they had any comment on the allegations made against their members.
Only one UGA chapter organization responded to say it did not have a comment.
Erin said that she thinks there should be a new office outside of the Equal Opportunity Office and the Greek Life Office to handle complaints of sexual assault and misconduct as well as racism specifically within Greek life, both of which have come under scrutiny in the past year.
One of the issues Crystal pointed out is that while some may have called out Greek life last year during the movement, that initial criticism was unsustainable. She said that because people are focused on enjoying the party culture that comes with Greek life, these institutions will never change.
“By you saying you want to have a good time and you’re still supporting these organizations, you’re playing into the culture,” Crystal said.
While Greek members may hold social influence on campus, UGA student athletes are on another playing field. Athletics are a part of the foundation of UGA’s culture and reputation as an SEC school.
According to The Red & Black’s records of the tweets, at least two former UGA student athletes were accused of sexual assault and misconduct on the anonymous accounts.
At least four other posts of sexual misconduct involving student athletes were shared on personal accounts in the UGA Twitter community. However, the individuals who shared these posts did not name their alleged perpetrators. Some also did not specify whether each of these athletes were from UGA.
In at least two of the posts accusing student athletes, the individual expressed concerns about coming forward due to the accused’s status. Another individual said that a doctor told her she was not likely to be believed since her alleged perpetrator was a UGA athlete.
“Athens worships our football team,” Trawick said. “They get away with a lot.”
The 2016 article in Gender and Society notes that drinking culture and hero worship of athletes can contribute to a sense of entitlement for athletes when it comes to sexual pursuits.
And while a 2019 USA Today investigation found that student athletes are more likely to be disciplined for sexual assault than non-athlete students, the research was based on records released by nearly 36 NCAA Division I schools. UGA did not provide USA Today with records of sexual assault investigations. Due to this, The Red & Black is unable to determine whether this disciplinary trend extends to UGA.
The UGA Athletic Association did not comment directly on the accusations made against the two former student athletes nor to questions regarding its investigation process.
“We work diligently to ensure that all Athletic Association student-athletes, coaches, and staff are informed on, integrated into, and compliant with institutional policies and processes regarding sexual violence prevention, intervention and response,” the UGA Athletic Association said in an April 23 email statement in response to a question about additional sexual violence prevention training for student athletes.
“The University of Georgia Athletic Association works with the Equal Opportunity Office annually to ensure comprehensive meaningful education, training, and services that reinforce a welcoming and safe living, learning, and working environment for all,” UGA said in the statement.
Even with the national disciplinary trend from the USA Today investigation, some are still apprehensive reporting student athletes for sexual assault because of their prominence on campus.
Veronica said she was heartbroken when she thought of those who chose not to name their alleged perpetrators because they were athletes.
“To come forward about a UGA football player, if your Twitter is public, your mentions are destroyed. Everybody in the tri-county area will be under your comments, ‘You’re a liar,’ ‘You’re a whore,’ ‘That’s not true,’ ‘That didn’t happen,’” Veronica said.
The Athletic Association did not respond to The Red & Black’s question as to whether it was aware of the specific athletes named on the Twitter accounts last June nor whether there are any pending investigations for the two named former UGA student athletes.
“There’s always someone else to replace the jersey, but these women’s stories, these men’s stories — whoever submitted them, they need to be told. We need to know who we’re near,” Trawick said.
Jacqueline GaNun contributed to fact-checking this series.