IFC trains students in bystander intervention
By Tori Lawhorn
The Men Against Rape and Sexual Assault Program is an educational program for greek men that teaches them about sexual assault and how to recognize or stop it.
The MARS program was created spring 2013 by senior Grant Ryan, IFC vice president of membership development, along with Debbie Melloan and Mark Houlemarde from the Sexual Assault Crisis Center of the IU Health Center.
“The amount of sexual assaults that have been occurring in the greek community are alarming and terrible,” Ryan said. “I wanted to create a program that would combat this.”
The IFC Presidents’ Council made the program mandatory. Each of the 33 IFC chapters are required to have two members complete this program.
There have been about two sessions this semester, and several sessions were offered last spring. Ryan said IFC is pushing for sophomores to attend this training.
“Internal elections are coming up for each chapter,” Ryan said. “I really want the future executive boards to have this training and be knowledgeable in this area.”
Houlemarde, a Ph.D. student and outreach coordinator for the Sexual Assault Crisis Center, said the MARS program is an evolution of a previous SACC program, Fraternities Reducing Assault Together, which was created about four years ago.
The educational sessions are four hours long and are taught by Melloan and Houlemarde at fraternity houses such as Sigma Alpha Epsilon and Beta Theta Pi.
Houlemarde said even though MARS is relatively new, the program is steadily progressing.
“We’re really pushing MARS forward to make some headway,” he said. “We’re making some progress, and we’re currently working to make it a permanent part of the greek community.”
The program tackles specific aspects of sexual assault, such as separating myths about sexual assault from facts and working through hypothetical scenarios.
Houlemarde stressed the importance of integrating the training into the fraternity chapters as a whole.
“We want to help those representatives bring back useful and valuable things to their communities,” he said.
The training gives a realistic representation of sexual assault situations, Houlemarde said.
“Men can actually play a large part in preventing sexual assault,” he said. “We want them to be active bystanders and be able to intervene during any situation.”
The training also incorporates recent, real-life incidents of sexual assault and similar situations, such as the Georgia Institute of Technology chapter of Phi Kappa Tau fraternity’s email to its members which condoned forced sexual encounters.
Ryan said he also plans for the MARS program to collaborate with the IU Panhellenic Association’s Safe Sisters Program, a sorority counterpart to the IFC program.
He said he hopes the two programs will be able to come together to be host to a joint sexual assault prevention program.
Their first joint session is planned for early December, Ryan said.
He said he hopes this program will continue in the coming semesters in addition to the all-male program.
Though he said he believes it would be valuable to attend both programs, the IFC program maintains its value.
“Sometimes it’s difficult to talk about sexual assault in front of women,” Ryan said. “The strictly men training is valuable, and once they complete that they can move on to the other program.”
Almost 100 men from 32 IFC chapters have completed the training.
“If they can stop just one sexual assault from occurring, then they’ve been successful,” Ryan said.
Ryan also stressed the importance of the program and its teachings.
“You could intervene in a situation that could potentially ruin the rest of someone’s life,” Ryan said. “These skills they learn are going to be valuable that they can hold on to for the rest of their lives.”
Follow reporter Tori Lawhorn on Twitter @ToriLawhorn.