UNC Asheville's Sigma Nu Fraternity Teams up with Our VOICE
to Prevent Rape
Last fall, UNC Asheville's Sigma Nu Fraternity set out to prove
fraternities care about more than just partying. Sigma Nu's Mu Eta
chapter accepted an offer from Linda Pyeritz, UNC Asheville's
registered nurse and health education/outreach specialist, to
participate in the Students Together Against Rape (S.T.A.R.) Men's
Program with Our VOICE, Buncombe County's non-profit crisis
When Elaine Dutton, Our VOICE rape prevention coordinator, contacted
Pyeritz looking for a campus organization to participate in the
program, Pyeritz decided to offer the opportunity to Sigma Nu.
At first, some members of Sigma Nu had doubts about why they had
been selected for the program.
"At the beginning, I think there might have been a few that wondered
if their participation in the program indicated that, as a
fraternity, they were being prejudicially labeled as rapists," said
Pyeritz reassured the group. "I told them, 'You guys are the ones
who are seen as leaders on this campus. Through this program, you'll
become better educators. You've got a name behind you and an
organization behind you, so you're going to be listened to and
Sigma Nu member and UNC Asheville sophomore Justin Newhart agreed
with Pyeritz. "I thought it would be a great thing to do not only
for the community and ourselves but it would also get the message
out there that we aren't just a stereotypical fraternity," he said.
Dutton said she was quite pleased with the program's results.
"They're a great group of guys. They're really receptive and they
learned a lot from each other," she said.
At the program's end, Sigma Nu members said they felt more
comfortable talking about rape, assault and abuse and more able to
combat sexual assault. "A lot of things I used to say, I have
stopped saying," said one participant. "The jokes have dwindled
Newhart said he felt more confident about being an active advocate
of rape prevention. "I felt very satisfied with the class. I learned
about rape, about different cultures and how to deal with people. I
feel like I could go into any classroom and talk about rape."
The program did more than just educate the group of men; it
established a relationship between Sigma Nu and Our VOICE. With the
help of Our VOICE, Sigma Nu members can become educators.
"We'll continue to work together," said Dutton. She is currently
working with Sigma Nu to plan on-campus events for Sexual Assault
Awareness month in April.
Our VOICE regularly provides risk-reduction and prevention programs
for people of all genders and ages. In the past, programs have
ranged from "Funny Tummy Feelings" for children to self-protection
programs for senior citizens.