Monday, November 24, 2008

UC Davis Greeks Take Class in Sexual Assault Prevention

Sexual assault awareness and prevention class educates UC Davis Greeks
Sorority member honored for developing curriculum
Written by ANNA OPALKA

Kingsley Grafft, a UC Davis sorority member, developed a sexual assault prevention and awareness curriculum that's being taught on campus and emulated at other universities nationwide.

The course, Greeks Against Sexual Assault (GASA), aims to eliminate sexual and dating violence by raising awareness and prevention. It is a pass/no pass class offered as a seminar through the UC Davis education department.

Grafft, a senior American studies major and member of Kappa Alpha Theta sorority, received the 2008 Order of Omega Award of Excellence and a 2008 Human Corps Community Service Golden Award at UC Davis for creating the program. She was also named 2008 UC Davis Sister of the Year by the Sacramento Alumnae Panhellenic Association and the 2008 UC Davis Greek Woman of the Year for her involvement.

"[GASA has been] really successful at Davis, way more than I ever thought it would be," said Grafft, who developed the curriculum in spring 2007. "I think it's become a staple of the Greek community."

Working as an intern under Shawna Stratton of the Campus Violence Prevention Program, Grafft was asked to try to increase Greek turnout at campus anti-violence events.

Grafft began to research ways to get UC Davis fraternities and sororities involved in the fight against sexual assault and dating violence on college campuses. She found that Colorado State University had a yearlong Greek sexual assault prevention program, but thought a quarter-long class would be more effective at UC Davis.

So Grafft wrote a syllabus and lecture notes, basing some aspects of the course on Stratton's "Violence Against Women" class, which Grafft was previously enrolled in. After spending a summer finalizing the lesson plan, she launched the first class in fall 2007.

The rate of sexual violence is high among college students; approximately one in four college women has been sexually assaulted, according to a 2000 study by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ).

Through her research, Grafft found that the rates are even higher in the Greek community.

"10.3 percent of college rapes happen at a fraternity house," Grafft said, citing the DOJ study.

"This wasn't to say the fraternity men were being the assailants by any means," Grafft said. "But because the rates were so high, I felt like the [Greek] community would want to know and make a change."

And they did. This is currently the third quarter that GASA is being offered.

Senior history major Danny Garrett, who serves on GASA's advisory board, said in an e-mail that GASA is "not only a means to educate Greeks about the dangers of sexual assault but it is also a commitment by the chapters of Davis to prevent these crimes from happening within our community."

GASA is discussion-based and includes many real-life examples from the news, and is run and taught through the Campus Violence Prevention Program. The curriculum includes issues such as what constitutes sexual assault, why people don't report it and what Greeks can do if they learn someone has been assaulted.

"By not being generalized and focusing on the Greek community, it brings things closer to home," said Jeremy Turner, who is an adviser for Alpha Gamma Rho and develops GASA's website.

At the end of the quarter, students take the information and resources that they've learned and present it to their fraternity or sorority.

GASA's influence doesn't stop there. Recently, about seven other universities nationwide have followed suit, either using the UC Davis curriculum or using it to supplement their already-existing programs. Other schools regularly e-mail Grafft expressing interest in involvement.

"I think it's a trend people are catching on to," Grafft said.

During the first quarter GASA was offered, Grafft noticed that many students were unsure of how to respond when they were given real-life scenarios. As a result, she decided to write a "Sexual Assault Response Plan," which she sent to every Panhellenic and IFC chapter at UC Davis.

The response plan includes detailed information on what sexual assault is and what to do if a friend is assaulted or if an incident occurs at an event. It also provides medical information and numbers to call for help.

"I wanted to provide [chapters] with the resources more than anything - that was my goal," Grafft said.

Ian Doyle, a senior economics major and member of Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity said he learned a lot from GASA and encouraged people to sign up, adding that he is better equipped to know how to help someone if they have been assaulted.

"It was a really enlightening class," he said. "Most people aren't really taught much about rape - it's one of those things pretty much left unsaid."

Doyle said although GASA has just started, he thinks it has already made a positive difference, and will continue to grow in years to come.

"I've been able to see at least in my house with the little population I'm around - [GASA's] made an impact in a [positive] way," he said.

Grafft said that as more and more responsible Greeks gain awareness, everyone will benefit.

"[Sexual assault] is not something that is usually talked about because it's a sensitive issue," Grafft said. "I think if you don't talk about it, the problem gets worse."

Current GASA coordinator Edie Campbell-Urban, a junior communication major and Pi Beta Phi sorority member, will keep the program running after Grafft graduates.

Campbell- Urban said she wants to keep increasing enrollment in the class.
"It can take as little as one person to get the word out," Campbell-Urban said in an e-mail. "Talking to peers is the best way to reduce sexual violence."

Students who want to become more involved can join the organization Students Against Sexual Violence, Grafft said.

For more information, visit gasanow.org.

ANNA OPALKA can be reached at features@theaggie.org.