University Of Utah fraternity Says It Wants To Help Curb Sexual Assault

Few fraternities are known for helping prevent sexual assault.

According to the Salt Lake Tribune, a University of Utah chapter is hoping to buck that trend, and it just won $3,200 to dedicate to the effort.

Beta Theta Pi recently received the grant to put toward its campaign against rape on campus and in Salt Lake City.  The Robin McGraw Revelation Foundation, Students of the World and Pivot Television awarded the money to the chapter.

“Unfortunately, it is an issue that happens on our campus.” said Mitchell Cox, president of the University of Utah chapter and a psychology major graduating in December. “Men have to be the ones to step up and stop it.”

Tiffany Thorne, the director of SlutWalk SLC, agrees.

“You guys have a really important and huge task on campus,” she said in a panel on sexual assault hosted by the fraternity Thursday. And it starts, Thorne said, with the guys rethinking how they use the word “rape” in casual conversation.

When Thorne admonishes men, saying “No, you didn’t just get ‘raped’ in that video game,” she said, it has little effect. “But if I have a male friend stepping in and saying, ‘You can’t do that. That’s not cool,’ ” she said, “it immediately shuts down.”

Five of the sexual assaults reported 2013 at the university took place in on-campus housing, the most recent crime report shows. Six more occurred either on campus or on “public property.”

Cox and other chapter leaders started working with Salt Lake City’s Rape Recovery Center about a year ago, when a Beta alum suggested they focus their philanthropic efforts there.

In years past, much talk of preventing rape has focused on what women should do — watching how much they drink or avoiding attending parties alone, for example.

Cox says he and his fraternity brothers are trying to get the word out that it’s up to men to curb sexual assault. Their message echoes a national chorus from a White House task force: If she doesn’t consent, or if she’s too drunk to consent, it’s rape. If you think someone is in danger of being assaulted, step in.

University of Utah President David Pershing says he tells students to look out for one another.

“The big thing I say to every student I talk to is: Go to parties with a friend. Do not leave your friend at a party,” he said recently.

In talking with men on campus, “I say, watch what your friends are doing.”

Holly Mullen, executive director of the Rape Recovery Center, praises the Betas’ effort.

“I think they’re trying to be proactive about some of this stuff and get ahead of it before it becomes a problem,” she said. “We have to just keep sending this message out: It has to be enthusiastic consent.”

California ‘Yes Means Yes’ Law

Calif. Colleges

At the end of September, California passed legislation defining when “yes means yes” on college campuses that covers sexual consent and domestic violence.  The state Senate unanimously approved the legislation and Gov. Jerry Brown announced that he had signed the bill.

The law requires colleges that receive state funding to have policies covering more than a dozen situations that can arise in sexual assault or domestic violence cases, from protecting privacy to training campus officials and providing counseling for victims.

“Lack of protest or resistance does not mean consent,” the law states, “nor does silence mean consent. Affirmative consent must be ongoing throughout a sexual activity and can be revoked at any time.”

Rather than using the refrain “no means no,” the definition of consent under the bill requires “an affirmative, unambiguous and conscious decision” by each party to engage in sexual activity.

The proposal requires all colleges taking student financial aid funding from the state to agree that in investigations of campus sexual assaults, silence or lack of resistance does not imply a green light for sex, and that drunkenness is not an acceptable defense, the San Jose Mercury-News reported earlier in August.

“With this measure, we will lead the nation in bringing standards and protocols across the board so we can create an environment that’s healthy, that’s conducive for all students, not just for women, but for young men as well too, so young men can develop healthy patterns and boundaries as they age with the opposite sex,” said Sen. Kevin de Leon of Los Angeles, who pushed for the legislation.

There were differing opinions.  “It is tragically clear that this campus rape crusade bill presumes the veracity of accusers (a.k.a. ‘survivors’) and likewise presumes the guilt of accused (virtually all men). This is nice for the accusers – both false accusers as well as true accusers — but what about the due process rights of the accused?,” wrote Gordon Finley, professor emeritus of psychology at Florida International University.

Advocates for victims of sexual assault supported the change as providing consistency across campuses and challenge the notion that victims must have resisted assault in order to have valid complaints.

“It does change the cultural perception of what rape is,” Sofie Karasek, an activist who sought changes in how the University of California-Berkeley handles such cases, told the Mecury-News. “There’s this pervasive idea that if it’s not super violent then it doesn’t really count.”

The California State University and University of California systems supported the legislation after adopting similar consent standards this year.  The law also requires colleges and universities to adopt “victim-centered” sexual-assault response policies and implement comprehensive programs to prevent assault.

“If the governor signs it, this will lead the entire country, the nation,” de Leon said, prior to the signing of the bill.  “It’s very difficult to say no when you’re inebriated or someone slips something into your drink.”