student life

Safe Sisters work to stop sexual assault

According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, one in five women will be raped in their lifetime and one in 71 men. However, IU and its organizations want to lead the way in prevention and prosecution of sexual assault incidents and particularly focusing efforts within the greek community.

Ann Skirvin is helping lead the University’s efforts to improve how sexual assaults are handled. Skirvin is one of two full-time counselors at the Sexual Assault Crisis Service, which is part of Counseling and Psychological Services at the IU Health Center.

One of the ways Skirvin and her team help is through their work in the greek community. Skirvin said sexual assault is also prevalent in residence halls and occurs in off-campus housing.

“While sexual assault is common on college campuses nationwide, there is evidence that suggests sexual assault is more prevalent in the greek community,” Skirvin said.

According to the National Institute of Justice sorority membership is a “risk factor” for sexual assault, With this understanding, IU has put in place specific sexual assault services for greeks like Safe Sisters.

A “Safe Sister” is a greek woman who is knowledgable and available to assist her sorority sisters in issues regarding sexual assault prevention and prosecution.

“Safe Sisters was created by the Sexual Assault Crisis Service in collaboration with the Panhellenic Council to provide training, resources, education and support to women in the greek community about sexual assault,” Skirvin said.

The Panhellenic Association oversees most of the sororities on campus. Skirvin said every Panhellenic Association sorority is tasked with choosing representatives who attend a four-hour tr-aining session and monthly meetings in the fall and spring semesters. The representatives report back to their respective houses consistently.

Junior Riley Sobczak is a member of Alpha Gamma Delta and is her house’s representative to Safe Sisters.

“Personally, both Safe Sisters and CAPS have helped me with a wide range of complicated situations, and I’m glad to have been at Indiana University while these organizations were present,” she said.

Sobczak said Safe Sisters aims to make greek women feel safe and comfortable, and that is important because students are less likely to come forward without a proper prevention infrastructure in place.

It’s Sobczak’s job to take her training and meetings seriously since it’s partially her job to inform her sisters of the dangers of sexual assault and the available resources.

Skirvin said representatives have to educate themselves and their houses regarding options for counseling, medical care, reporting and academic assistance for survivors of sexual trauma.

Although IU has established organizations like Safe Sisters, Sobczak said more members of the greek community need to get involved, but she said their involvement should not be mandated.

Mandatory attendance never results in more awareness in the community, she said.

Instead, she recommended having more events related to sexual assault to encourage awareness in the community.

Skirvin also said IU could continue to better itself. She urged IU to remain vigilant regarding the safety of its students. She said the University should assess and invest in any policies or improvements that help to keep students safe.

The University does have specific programs in place to combat sexual assault, however. Some of these programs include Culture of Care the ItsOnUs campaign, Step Up IU!, Last Friday Night and others.

Despite this, Skirvin said the University should take student safety concerns and feedback seriously and monitor and ensure faculty and staff interact with students appropriately in order to educate students about their rights.

“IU can continue to explore ways to ensure the safety of all of its students and is obligated to hold accountable any organizations or individuals who have caused harm to students due to sexually inappropriate behavior,” Skirvin said.

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