As many of you know, our goal within Sacred Purpose is to educate not only ourselves but our members and communities about issues that the American college student faces. One of the most important topics is Sexual Assault and Misconduct prevention on college campuses today. Sexual assaults are most likely to happen between the months of August and October and are not limited to women. It is important to note men are victims of sexual assault as well.
Suffice it to say: we must do more, and it starts with us.
I’ve heard it said once before. “Silence is complicity. Silence—you’re an accessory.” Strong, but fair words about the culpability of bystanders who do nothing.
But what can or should we do as Greek men, exactly? How do we combat the systemic bias towards sexual assault reporting? The answer may seem easy, but it will take work.
- Engage in prevention programing.
- Partner with groups on campus and show solidarity with these issues. Your chapter might not be the problem, but your chapter can be a part of the solution.
- Help your campus partners design and implement customized programing for Fraternities and Sororities.
- Participate in training on how to effectively respond when a friend or family member discloses an incident of sexual misconduct.
Hold your university to account and get the education and training YOU need to be a better advocate for sexual assault prevention. Things like:
- Providing bystander intervention training
- Ongoing education starting your freshman year and continuing through graduate school
- Making information regarding on-campus efforts to stem intimate partner violence available to all students
- Engaging men in conversations regarding sexual assault
Your ability to help in any capacity is about sending a strong message to your campus community about your commitment to helping prevent sexual assault and misconduct.
Bystander Intervention Tips
- Talk to your friends honestly and openly about sexual assault.
- Don’t be a bystander – if you see something, intervene in any way you can.
- Trust your gut. If something looks like it might be a bad situation it probably is.
- Be direct. Ask someone who looks like they may need help if they’re okay.
- Get someone to help you if you see something – enlist a friend, RA, bartender, or host to help step in.
- Keep an eye on someone who has had too much to drink.
- If you see someone who is too intoxicated to consent, enlist their friends to help them leave safely.
- Recognize the potential danger of someone who talks about planning to target another person at a party.
- Be aware if someone is deliberately trying to intoxicate, isolate, or corner someone else.
- Get in the way by creating a distraction, drawing attention to the situation, or separating them.
- Understand that if someone does not or cannot consent to sex, it’s rape.
- Never blame the victim.
If you are a victim, a survivor or helping someone in that situation go to http://www.notalone.gov to get the resources and information you need. You can also call theNational Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE.
College. We’re adults now. We’ve heard a thing or two about the birds and the bees. It’s a time when many people begin to have sexual experiences. Whether or not it’s your first time, sex should be an enjoyable and consensual experience.
But then there’s drunk sex. In college you learn you might like alcohol; you might like to have sex. So is it a good idea to put the two together? The truth is, a lot of people are having drunk sex. It happens. People get drunk, have sex, and they might even think it’s consensual.
You’re at a bar and having a few drinks when you notice someone. They’re having a drink too. You two hit it off right away and your flirt game is better than ever. What are the odds? One thing leads to another and you end up back at their place.
Now it’s morning.
Do you remember asking for consent, or did you wake up and not even think about it?
Alcohol affects everyone differently. There is no way for you to tell if another person may be too intoxicated to give consent. They may wake up in the morning and realize that they were taken advantage of while under the influence, regardless of what you thought in the moment. Again, if alcohol is involved, there is NO WAY for you to tell if a person is capable of giving consent.
The news headlines blare: “Fraternity Guy Takes Advantage of Drunk College Girl.”
Maybe it seems unlikely to you that this can happen. You’re a “good guy” who doesn’t want to take advantage of anyone. The reality is, according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, 1 in 5 college aged women and one in 16 men are sexually assaulted while in college.
The best way to avoid sexually assaulting someone is to obtain consent. Each state legally defines consent in its own way. While this may seem confusing, RAIIN.org explains the three main components each state uses to define consent: freely given consent, affirmative consent, and capacity to consent. Our focus today is a person’s capacity to give consent. In many states, if a person has consumed any alcohol whatsoever, they legally DO NOT have the capacity to give consent.
You may ask: “So even if they said yes, verbally, enthusiastically, and we were both drunk, this can be considered rape? So every time I had drunk sex, I risked committing a sexual assault?”
Women are often taught ways to avoid being raped: Stay with friends, pour your own drinks, carry pepper spray, etc., but as a man, a fraternity man, what should we be taught? A good first step is opening the discussion on what consent is, and how and when to obtain it. Understand the fact that consent isn’t just a onetime question, but a continuous conversation. Realize that any amount of alcohol negates consent. Educate your members on effective bystander intervention and the role brothers can take to prevent sexual assault throughout the entire community. It is our Sacred Purpose to prevent sexual assaults, because even one is too many.
When you ask for consent, you respect the answer. Period.
If you’re having trouble understanding consent, here’s a helpful video:
PJ Ricketson, Field Executive
A few weeks ago I was invited to The White House. Take a minute to let that sink in. This guy from Texas was invited to represent Theta Chi Fraternity at The White House. Only 24 hours have passed since I was sitting in a room with about 100 other folks and I still cannot believe it happened.
Get to the point – okay, I hear you.
I was invited on behalf of It’s On Us to represent Theta Chi Fraternity and, on a larger scale, Greek life across America to honor ten students who are doing extraordinary things to make a difference on their college campuses for sexual assault awareness and prevention.
Why was it important to have Greeks represented at this event? The Greek System is the largest network of volunteers in the U.S. Members of Greek life donate over 10 million hours of volunteer service annually and have roughly 750,000 active undergraduate members in 12,000 chapters on more than 800 campuses. Greek students are Student Body Presidents and Vice Presidents. Greek students are founders of spirit clubs and consistently the most involved on any given campus, year in and year out. Suffice it to say their circle of influence is vast. So what can we do as Greeks to bring about positive change on our campuses? Start the conversation.
The It’s On Us campaign is committed to ending sexual assault on college campuses in America. The campaign, starting in the fall of 2014, asks that we all take personal accountability for preventing campus sexual assault by working as a team and fully realizing it is on ALL of us to make the change. It’s On Us puts the control in the student’s hands and empowers individuals on campuses to affect positive change. It’s On Us asks individuals to take The Pledge. This pledge is a personal commitment to help keep women and men safe from sexual assault. It’s a promise not to be a bystander to the problem, but to be a part of the solution. Taking the pledge is the first step.
The It’s On Us Champions of Change honored 10 students who have done some amazing things on their campuses. Jessica Davidson, a Chi Omega and Student Body Vice President of the University of Denver, led the charge in making comprehensive sexual assault prevention education and policy changes. She became a part of a national conversation on sexual assault with her blog post landing on the front page of the Huffington Post. Malayna Hasmanis is a Phi Mu and the founding member and president of Greeks Against Sexual Assault at Grand Valley State University. For the last four years, Claire Kelling has coordinated Take Back the Night at Virginia Tech and will begin her pursuit of a PhD in Statistics to bring the power of data analytics into the conversation.
These are just three examples of how students are leading the effort to eradicate sexual assault on college campuses.
Vice President of the United States of America Joe Biden has been an advocate for the end of violence towards women for over three decades. He too was in attendance yesterday. He addressed the audience for more than 30 minutes about how important this cause is to him. With the passage of the Violence Against Women Act in 1994, written by Biden himself, he began to slowly erode the age old established notion that domestic violence was a family issue. His words resonated with the crowd when he said “nothing short of changing the way women are treated on college campuses and high schools will be treated as a success. We can change the culture.” The Vice President made it clear when he closed with this statement: “My goal is setting the foundation so your generation, when you drop off your son or daughter at college, you will not have the feeling in the back of your mind ‘will they be a victim of abuse?’”
Many Theta Chi chapters across North America have taken the pledge, and have even organized events with It’s On Us to raise awareness. Gamma Tau/Drake University has used their influence on campus to create change. Iota Sigma/Towson, Zeta Sigma/ Wisconsin-River Falls created their own PSAs taking the pledge. Alpha Mu/ Iowa State hosted a sexual assault and domestic violence candle light vigil reflection for students and faculty on their campus. More and more chapters are participating in events hosted by other organizations with the single goal of letting their fellow students know, they are not alone.
We as men of Theta Chi Fraternity are charged with extending a Helping Hand to all who seek it. It is our obligation to help others and to find them help. We have to look in the mirror and ask ourselves every day, “am I doing everything I can?” As corny as it sounds, we are the future of humanity. If we are able to affect a cultural shift that pushes us away from the idea that intimate partner violence and sexual assault is okay, we will take that shift into the work force, into our own homes, and eventually into the lives of our children.
“When men can stand up and start conversations and end the jokes about rape and vulnerability, then we can have culture change.”- Joe Biden, Vice President of the United States.
“It was 4 years ago this month I was sexually assaulted.”
I finally said that out loud for the first time the other day and it felt like the floor beneath me had fallen out. Typing it was almost impossible, because now that I am writing it down, it makes it real, it makes that secret of my life public.
When I first thought about writing this piece I reflected on the fact that it was this month, April, 4 years prior that I encountered a person that would change my life. How unfortunate that this incident coincided with Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
For as long as I can remember I have always struggled with mental health issues. This grew out of a place where I knew I was different; Growing up gay in Texas was not exactly a walk in the park, and everyone around me seemed to know before I did. I lived in a “glass closet.” I was constantly trying to fit into a masculine mold that just was not authentic to who I was, often at odds with the rural community where I grew up. When I went to college I wanted to put my best foot forward, so I toned down my flamboyancy, adopted a new wardrobe and image, and decided to be what I thought everyone else wanted me to be. I joined Theta Chi after the recommendation of some friends, and found a group of men that quickly saw through this front and supported me as best as they could. My first year in college was everything I needed, and helped tremendously with my self-image. My second year was probably the worst, as I fell into a depressing spiral that almost drove me to end my own life. Thankfully a number of brothers and administrators intervened and I finally got the help I needed.
I tell you all of this because I think the context of who I am, my identities, and the way I navigated my own sexual assault matter. These pieces all impact one another.
Just a few weeks prior to the incident I had just turned 21 years old. I was in my third year of undergrad and thought I was invincible. Likely harboring a few alcoholic tendencies, I was going out every chance I got. Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, sometimes even on Sunday nights. It never negatively affected my grades, my involvement in co-curricular activities, or my friendships however, I was also drinking to nurse old wounds. After recently going through a break up with my first boyfriend, I was not in an emotional space that was healthy, and I was not willing or able to recognize it.
It was a Saturday night; I was out with my usual crowd by 9:30 p.m. (I had to take advantage of the cheap drink deals at the local college dive bar, 50 cents well drinks), and we found ourselves playing darts against a group of guys that we knew from intramural sports. Drink after drink, shot after shot, I likely had 10-15 drinks within a 3-hour period. I can remember every detail, the clothes I was wearing, the jeans, my shoes, even the way my hair was parted that night, but the last memory I have is being handed a drink by my eventual rapist.
From that point forward it is all a blur. A few images pop up every now and again of the room I was in, the apartment, things that were said, and the actual event itself. I remember saying, “No.” I remember crying. I can’t remember the whole event, just the memories of things that haunt me at the most inconvenient times (usually during a graphic scene in a movie, in the middle of a student staff training, or when I am in a particularly dark club). I woke up the next morning in my own apartment, sitting in the shower with all of my clothes still on. I did not move the rest of the day from my bed.
Feeling dirty, guilty, and helpless, I decided not to tell anyone for a while. The person who raped me was well-known on campus and I didn’t think anything would come of me reporting the information. I also felt like I had taken up a considerable amount of time from the student affairs administrators and the Greek life staff at the time, and I didn’t want to be a burden to them. Looking back, I regret not reporting the incident and wonder how things might have turned out had I decided to do so.
Additionally, I didn’t think anyone would believe me. I had internalized this message that gay men were inherently promiscuous, so this was likely my own fault. I had slept with this particular individual before and wondered whether or not I was asking for it.
“Did I consent? This is probably my fault; I was asking for it.
I shouldn’t have been so drunk and should have listened to my friends.
Some of my friends don’t believe me, why would anyone else?
What is my mom going to think? What about my dad?*
No one can know, I have things to do and don’t have time to be a victim.
It has been too long since then, I can’t report it now.”
*It should be noted that I did tell my parents this past week prior to this post becoming public, that is how long it took me to build up the courage to tell them this part of myself.
All of these thoughts ran through my head constantly (and sometimes still do). After a few months, I started to tell a few people, usually after getting drunk again and finally letting my guard down. However, it wasn’t until my senior year at my chapter’s senior night that I finally told my brothers. I was about to embark on the next journey in my life and it felt fitting to tell the group of men with whom I could be honest. I was met with compassionate reactions and hugs afterward; it was the perfect send off.
A few months later I went to graduate school in Vermont to become a higher education professional, and hopefully support students like myself that struggle with the same things. And while I thought I had finally dealt with all of my demons, we should know by now that it was just an illusion. Graduate school was difficult, and in the midst of grieving several deaths, I found it hard to survive.
It was not until my third semester in grad school that I decided to start seeing a counselor again. Here I was, an administrator referring students constantly to counseling services, constantly talking about how students should confront the deepest pieces of themselves, yet I was failing to take my own advice. If it wasn’t for my supervisor, friends in my cohort pushing me to receive counseling, and my faith in God, I’m not sure I would have finished my program. For me, going to church every Sunday, going through the sacraments, and finding peace in silence was instrumental in my recovery.
In retrospect, I think all of this means that we are never truly done dealing with our “crap.” It’s cyclical, and crops up every now and again. Even this past week as I was speaking with a student, I had to take a moment to process a traumatic piece of my past that was getting in the way of me being present. While I am in a better place of coping now, I know that I have a long road ahead of me.
But here are some things that I have learned thus far:
1. It was not my fault. No matter the circumstances, what I experienced was real, and it was not my fault.
2. It happens to men, and as a man it is my responsibility to end gender-based violence in our culture.
3. Tell somebody, when you’re ready, but please report it. Don’t let this person get away with it.
4. Take care of yourself, in whatever way is meaningful for you. If this is religion, meditation, running,
working out, Netflix-binge, whatever it is… THAT’S GREAT. Don’t let alcohol or drugs become your coping mechanism.
This is my story. It’s messy and horrible, but it is a part of my journey. It is also why I do the work that I do. If you ever need a helping hand, or a brother to talk to, I’m here.
Sean Smallwood (Delta Phi/North Texas 2013)
email@example.com | Twitter: @SeanRSmallwood
When I went off to college everyone gave me advice.
My closest friends who had been there a year told me to meet as many people as possible my first month, because that is the narrow window in which strangers will actually welcome conversation. They told me the best routes to class, in order to avoid the clipboard people who only wanted to “ask you a couple questions” about something. I heard about the best burrito in town, the spots open till 4am, the strongest coffee on campus, and the best brunch spot.
My relatives all gave the same advice: go to class. Coming from an Italian family, with reunions of a 100 ‘aunts and uncles’ whom I’ve never met and are probably not even related to, I heard this advice a lot. My parents lectured me on the importance of money; something they still do. I read books and browsed the internet; no shred of wisdom would escape me. I got a lot of advice about college, but what was strange was no one ever said anything about rape or sexual assault.
It was just like any other evening in college and I was sober driver for our group of friends. The party we were at was nothing special but nevertheless, we were there. While I was sipping my water and talking with my Fraternity brother about an upcoming brotherhood camping trip we were planning, we noticed a guy doing a very poor job of hitting on a girl. I began to say frivolously that the guy was so bad at flirting that he was putting her to sleep. Before I could finish my sentence I realized that the woman, who could barely stand, with her eyes fluttering open and shut, wasn’t okay. That night, my Fraternity brother and I said something.
We found this woman’s friend and distracted the guy hitting on her so that she could get home safely. He called us a lot of names that are best left unwritten, but it didn’t matter because we knew we did the right thing. Man code doesn’t matter when someone is in danger of being sexually assaulted.
To me this is what Sacred Purpose is about: the safety of our members and the rest of campus. Always asking for consent in our own encounters is vital to ending sexual assault and rape. The fraternity taught me how to be an active bystander by engaging in conversations regarding consent and sexual assault. I was taught to be open and honest with my fellow brothers about the issue and this helped tremendously. Being an active bystander and looking out for the safety of those around you is just one way to insure our campuses are safe. If only one person at every party were to act as an active bystander maybe this culture shift in our own community will happen sooner, rather than later.
If you want resources on bystander intervention, you can click Here and Here
William Maher, Field Executive
Can everyone take a moment and consider something with me? We all have those instances in our lives where something so tremendous happened that we can remember exactly where we were and exactly what it felt like to experience that moment. For many of us, this type of moment happened Sunday at The Oscars. No, I am not talking about Leo and his first Oscar win (although that was a pretty cool moment to witness). I am talking about Vice President Joe Biden charging everyone in attendance, watching at home, tweeting, gramming and reading news stories the next day to change rape culture here in the United States.
No matter your political affiliation his words were a rally cry we can all get behind. In a just a few sentences the Veep himself made it abundantly clear that everyone of us has the duty and holds the power to disassemble a culture in which sexual violence is ubiquitous and normalized. The Vice President went on to say “Despite significant progresses over the last few years, too many women and men on and off college campuses are still victims of sexual abuse” and “[take the pledge] that says I will intervene in situations when consent has not or cannot be given.”
I cannot think of a moment in the recent past where a political figure, from either side of the aisle, spoke out on a topic so critical to our college campuses and our Greek Community. Our Sacred Purpose is to help each brother live their best lives and to connect each other through experiences and education. Education regarding sexual assault/violence, sexual misconduct, verbal or nonverbal harassment is paramount to the Sacred Purpose.
I can throw out statistics all day about the frequency of rape and abuse (every 107 seconds in America) but numbers will not get the conversations started. Utilizing your campus resources and creating conversations is really what this is all about. Can we, as Greeks change this alone? Is it impossible for all 750,000 undergraduate members in 12,000 chapters on more than 800 campuses in North America to affect change? What are your chapters doing to turn the tide? What is your campus doing to help push the movement forward? What can they do better?
“We must and we can change the culture so that no abused woman or man like the survivors that you will see tonight ever feel they have to ask themselves, ‘What did I do?’ They did nothing wrong.”- Vice President of the United States of America, Joe Biden
Click here to see his charge and here too see the powerful performance which followed.
I want to hear your thoughts regarding this topic and how your chapter can use this as a starting point to create conversations on your campus so please utilize the comments section and keep the conversation going!