Sexual harassment awareness on the rise at UW

A little more than a month ago, the UW was dealing with the ramifications of a Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity party where several women said they had been drugged, and an attempted rape occurred.

Since that incident, programs in the Greek System and at the UW are taking action to raise awareness of sexual harassment.

Via The Daily

Green Dot, a health and wellness program at the UW, held their quarterly Green Dot Bystander Training event Feb. 21. It was their highest attended event yet, and the crowd consisted largely of Greek community members.

“I think it’s just people convincing other people to come,” Green Dot program assistant, Kevin Kendrick, said. “There’s a cultural shift in sexual assault prevention.”

Last year, only 40 people signed up for training. This year, the number increased to 170, and about 120 ultimately attended.

The goal of the training is to help people address a so-called “red dot moment,” or a situation in which power-based interpersonal violence occurs. These moments can be variations of sexual violence, partner violence, stalking, or sexual harassment. The common issue in all of these incidents is lack of consent.

Bystander solutions to such violence include direct action, distracting, and delegating, according to Green Dot. By intervening in any of these situations, proactively or reactively, the red dot moment turns green.

“The work that I can do through Green Dot or through the act of being a bystander is important because it won’t let harm happen to someone else,” Julie Larsen, volunteer speaker, said. “We’re here for the ripple effect.”

Of the attendees, many were Interfraternity Council (IFC) or Panhellenic Association (PA) members. Both organizations represent Greek students on campus.

“I showed up because sexual assault and misconduct is prevalent in our society,” IFC president Nate Stockman said. “Like Green Dot has been discussing, it’s not black and white. It’s not cut and dry, so it’s good for a fraternity to be educated on the subject.”

At the Greek system’s president retreat earlier this month, 80 members of the Greek community, including members of the IFC, PA, and each of the fraternity and sorority presidents, gathered and voted on relevant issues. This year, they voted unanimously to make sexual assault awareness their highest priority, according to Stockman.

As IFC president, Stockman has the final say on many things, but he does not particularly deal with the organizing and arrangement of sexual harassment awareness programs. Those responsibilities fall on Bryce Ellis, the IFC’s vice president of risk management. 

“We’re pissed off that this is a thing,” Ellis said in response to recent events. “Most fraternities or universities, when they hear about this, get defensive, but we want to go on the offensive.”

Some offensive action is underway within ASUW, IFC, and PA. The various organizations are collaborating with the RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network) EM IN to create an inflatable pony race fundraiser this May. 

RAIN EM IN is an anti-sexual violence charity organization that operates both a hotline and a helpline for those in need, and works to raise awareness in the community.

According to Simon Borumand, the IFC’s vice president of administration, the IFC initially faced some financial conundrums, with an initial budget of only $50 for sexual harassment awareness. 

After taking the helm as vice president of administration, Borumand was able to pull existing funds from various sources together and appropriate $11,000 for sexual harassment awareness. These funds are gathered through fraternity dues, payments that each individual fraternity member makes to be a part of the community.

“My personal opinion is that it’s upsetting in any college setting, or any environment,” Ellis said. “Just the fact that it’s a concern people have to face is really upsetting. Why is that occurring, in a broader cultural setting?”

For students outside of the Greek system interested in advocating for sexual assault awareness, the UW Peer Health Educator network provides opportunity to improve campus health. Applications for new educators will be accepted through March 20.

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