Story and slideshow by MADDY HOWARD
Don’t walk to your car alone. Don’t go on a run without pepper spray. Don’t make eye contact too long. Don’t dress like you’re asking for it.
All of these are “rules” young people have been told in hope of avoiding sexual assault.
Sexual assault is an epidemic that has affected campuses nationwide. Universities such as Stanford, Brown and Baylor all have an extensive history of sexual assault on campus. Many people do not believe universities are doing enough to keep students safe.
Well, what if someone told you a fraternity was speaking out against sexual assault?
At the University of Utah, Beta Theta Pi is dedicated to making a change. Beta is a fraternity which brands itself as men of principle.
These men excel in academics with an overall average GPA of 3.4. Additionally, they have the highest GPA out of any organization, club, or team at the University of Utah, according to the office of the Dean of Students. “These men hold themselves to the highest standard possible which makes them one of the most respected fraternities on campus,” said Josie Karren, a U student and Delta Gamma member.
Beta is partnered with the Rape Recovery Center in hopes of changing sexual assault not only at the U, but across the nation.
The Rape Recovery Center is a nonprofit organization in Salt Lake City. Services include support, testing and providing hope for victims from every walk of life. RRC helps people understand they are not alone, and understand that their attack does not define them.
Beta has been working with RRC for almost five years. Stereotypes tell the world fraternity men are part of the problem and are nothing but partiers. In 2014, the U’s chapter of Beta Theta Pi was featured on the Dr. Phil show. Phil McGraw’s wife, Robin McGraw, was in awe of what these men are trying to accomplish.
Philanthropy Week is full of fundraising for the RRC and happens every fall and spring. For Beta members, it’s a time to raise money for victims. Taking place from Feb. 26-March 3, spring 2018 Philanthropy Week was a huge success, according to Noah Carr. He is the current vice president of internal programming. His duties include planning events throughout the week. Many of these events take place at the recently renovated $2.3 million chapter house.
Beta planned fun events that brought all of Greek row, and even some non-Greeks out to support. From designing hoodies to creating pop sockets as a unique way to raise money, Carr was dedicated to finding ways to raise money.
“Handling the Philanthropy Week for Beta was an unbelievable and humbling experience. Working so close with the RRC and proactively doing things for the community is what makes all the work worth it. We raised $14,000 for this great organization in less than six days and it’s an awesome feeling to know you’re making a difference,” Carr said.
In addition to raising funds for RRC, many of the fraternity members spend time volunteering. Many of these men help however they can at the RRC in their free time.
Volunteering requires 40 hours of extensive training. Many Betas are hotline counselors. This means they act as an over-the-phone counselor to victims. These volunteers have saved lives by talking to victims.
“I started picking up shifts every week. I like the idea that I am there if someone needs me,” Ravi Sharma said in a recent recruitment video. Sharma has been a member of Beta for two years and is passionate about the partnership with the RRC.
On campus, Beta started organizing sexual assault forums once every semester. These are open discussions about sexual assault that are open to anybody. The forums are designed to be a relaxed environment to talk about intense subjects.
Members of Beta Theta Pi believe men need to do more to stand up against sexual violence. During an interview, there was a clear theme. They want victims to know they are not alone. These men want to speak out on an issue that has been swept under the rug for far too long.
Anthony Panuzio, 20, the current president of Beta, said the partnership with RRC is a main reason why he even chose Beta in the first place.
“I am honored to represent a group of men that are dedicated to change. Sexual violence is something many people just don’t want to talk about. Talking about it is the only way we are going to make a difference. It makes me proud that Beta’s aren’t afraid to be the ones who speak out,” Panuzio said.
In America, someone is sexually assaulted every 98 seconds. One in three women and one in five men will experience sexual assault in their lifetime, according to RAINN.
It is time for serious change.
Everyone knows someone who has been affected by sexual assault. In a recent video Beta Theta Pi released, John Moffitt, vice president of recruitment for Beta at the U, says, “The slogan we came up with is: to the brave survivors of sexual assault we believe you.”