University of St Andrews fraternity suspends members over rape and sexual assault allegations

Christel Deskins

St Andrews university – RDImages/Epics/Getty Images A US-style fraternity at the University of St Andrews has suspended a number of members over allegations of more than a dozen rapes and sexual assaults. An investigation by The Telegraph has found at least nine separate rape claims made against students in the St Andrews’ branch […]

St Andrews university - RDImages/Epics/Getty Images
St Andrews university – RDImages/Epics/Getty Images

A US-style fraternity at the University of St Andrews has suspended a number of members over allegations of more than a dozen rapes and sexual assaults.

An investigation by The Telegraph has found at least nine separate rape claims made against students in the St Andrews’ branch of Alpha Epsilon Pi.

Now, police and the university have urged victims to come forward and vowed to take any perpetrators to court.

Speaking to the Telegraph, one female student opened up about her shocking experience in February this year.

“I had been at a frat party and got very drunk. One of the boys I knew said he’d walk me home. I thought he was someone I could trust. 

“He put me to bed and the next thing I remember is waking up to him raping me. I ran out and I was in quite a state. I ended up locking myself behind the bathroom door because I didn’t want to go out.”

The young woman has not reported the incident to the university or the police, but has spoken to a counsellor.

“It’s difficult when you know these people are still going to be around and I’m still going to see them. I obviously want them to get what they deserve, but I’ve just sort of been debating the best way to do that and how to go about it.”

Alpha Epsilon Pi's crest - Facebook
Alpha Epsilon Pi’s crest – Facebook

The group, which is made up of around 50 young men, known as “brothers”, said in a statement on July 3: “Earlier today, Alpha Epsilon Pi St Andrews was made aware of allegations of sexual assault, harassment, and rape against multiple members of our fraternity, including incidents at chapter events. We find the contents of these allegations abhorrent, and are taking them extremely seriously.”

The fraternity – which is predominantly made up of Jewish members “immediately suspended people who acknowledged any role in the alleged incidents and entered them into Alpha Epsilon Pi’s expulsion process.”

They say they will work with the police, the university and any victims to ensure that justice can be served.

But women who spoke to the Telegraph say that while it is understood that two people have been suspended, the problem has been going on for years.

“In their statement they said they had been unaware of the accusations, but I know concretely that they knew about them,” one assault victim said.

“Last academic year I made it clear to them that I and my best friend are survivors of sexual assault by AEPi, and they did not seem to take that to mean anything. As a Jewish woman and survivor, it is heartbreaking that they are representing the Jewish community in such a disgusting way.”

The fraternity said: “As a Jewish fraternity, one of the values of our teachings we hold most important is that all human beings are fashioned B’tzelem Elohim, in the image of God. 

“Therefore, it is wrong to treat anybody without dignity, no matter their gender, race, sexual orientation or religion. This obviously applies to sexual assault and harassment.”

But other female students also claim to have had distressing experiences.

The Telegraph was told how one young woman was on a night out and became panicked when she saw a man who had sexually assaulted her months before. A member of the fraternity who was with her offered to take her home and calm her down. He offered to sleep on the floor, but she woke up to him groping her in her bed. 

“It was the ultimate betrayal of trust,” her friend said.

Other claims have come to light on an Instagram page set up last week for sexual assault survivors at the university.

“On the first day that the account was made, over 100 stories were submitted to us,” the administrator said.

A dozen of those allegations were made against members of the Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity, although the true number is thought to be higher.

The account was started by an individual, but is now managed by a team of people. 

“Our message to survivors is that they are not alone, we hear them and most of all we believe them,” they said.

This is not the first time that Alpha Epsilon Pi has been embroiled in sexual assault claims. Within the last few years, there have been allegations made against members at Ohio State university, Penn State university, the University of Illinois and Vanderbilt University.

In February, Ari Goldstein, the 23-year-old president of Temple University’s AEPi fraternity in Philadelphia was found guilty of attempted sexual assault and sent to prison.

There are four other branches at UK universities, including Leeds, Birmingham, Nottingham and London, but they have not been accused of wrongdoing.

St Andrews, where Prince William and Kate Middleton studied, made clear that the fraternity is not an official university society but that any student was expected to follow their code of conduct and the law.

A spokeswoman for the University said: “We welcome the ‘St Andrews Survivors’ account’s efforts to provide people of all genders a space to voice their experiences of sexual misconduct. 

“The University’s primary concern is to ensure survivors know that we are ready and willing to support their decisions and take action, facilitate Police reporting, and provide ongoing support accordingly.

“We have clear and established procedures for investigating allegations of this nature. However, the details of any investigations must remain confidential to offer appropriate support and fair outcomes to all concerned. It would not be appropriate for us to comment on whether any specific individual or group is under investigation.”

“The University will always act when incidents are formally reported, and is committed to working collaboratively with students to promote a culture of responsibility and respect, in which everyone can trust in our procedures and that our community is intolerant of all forms of sexual misconduct.”

Yvonne Stenhouse, Police Scotland’s Community Inspector for North East Fife, told the Telegraph: “We are aware of these online reports and are working with the university to make sure students in St Andrews feel safe while they live and study in the town.

“We are committed to bringing sexual offenders before the courts and treat all reports of sexual crime with the utmost seriousness. Anyone wishing to report such offences should do so to Police Scotland by calling 101 or 999 in an emergency.

“Within busy town centres, such as St Andrews we have regular deployments of officers to deter such offences and provide a visible and reassuring presence to our communities. We will continue to work with the University on this matter and any criminal complaints will be progressed accordingly.”

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