I was in my early 20’s when a friend shared with me that while in college she had “trains” ran on her. A “train” is when a person is engaged in a continuous occurrence of sex with one partner, followed by another partner, followed by another partner, and so on and so on. My friend said that in her case, those partners were in a well-known fraternity. You guessed it. She said she was in its “sister” organization, although not a traditional sorority.
You can imagine my shock as my mind worked to decipher what she was saying. There I stood, with few words to offer, unsure as to if she wanted to hear any of them anyway. Her pain-stricken eyes told me her story was all too real. I could only hope that my reaction was the appropriate one.
“Why did she tell you that,” you ask?
At some point she discovered the hierarchy amongst the guys in the fraternity. She identitied the one the rest seemed to follow. She knew if she became his girl, she would find protection. She wanted so desperately to be a part of the group, to go to parties, to have friends, to feel accepted. She convinced herself that life would be better if she would just go with it. Isn’t this what college life is about? She was getting decent grades like she told her mother she would. She was in a sorority, although a non-traditional one. The other women in that sorority were agreeing to have “trains” done on them. Women before her had done it and women after her would continue it. If it was wrong, she wondered, wouldn’t someone had stopped it? Wouldn’t someone speak out? College was only four years, she told herself, only four years.
Unfortunately for her, her protector was still calling long after graduation. She longed to create a new life for herself, one of which she could be proud. In college, she said she felt pressured to consent. Time had passed, but things had not changed. As my friend explained herself, the sadness behind her smiles now made sense. What could she do about it now? She felt obligated to this guy. Obligated.
The summer before I left for college, my mother had a lot of conversations with me about college. I still remember the warnings she gave me—none of which were close to “Beware of ‘trains’.” I probably would have looked at her like she was crazy if that was on the list, but after hearing my friend’s story parents should add it. Far too many young women are entering into colleges and universities unprepared for the dangers that target them because they are females. Families are so happy that their daughters are college-bound that many conversations are missed in between planning the actual move and gathering the items to take. As a result, many young women are released into a world that could not care less about their naivety or their low self-esteem.
I wished my friend told her parents when she first became uncomfortable. I could only imagine that they would have wanted the truth to be that their daughter could tell them anything. Her shame, however, took that option away. Law enforcement nor her college was alerted because she was freely agreeing to the sexual acts, or was she?
Silence would keep each year’s recruitment of young women in tact. Each one initially feeling special by the fraternity’s adoption. Each one striving to graduate and begin professions. Each one being left with a lifetime scars. Each one, feeling obligated.