At 8:30 p.m. Wednesday October 26 around one hundred sorority women gathered together in the University of Denver’s Sturm Hall to learn more about preventing sexual assault on their college campus.
In an effort to educate fraternity and sorority members on an issue affecting colleges across the nation, Gamma Phi Beta, a University of Denver sorority chapter, teamed up with the Fraternal Health and Safety Initiative to create an interactive presentation about campus sexual assault catered towards college students.
Dozens of women’s voices echoed throughout the large lecture hall as a young woman made her way up to the lecture podium. This woman would introduce herself as Shana Makos, the Member Education Manager for Gamma Phi Beta. As an education manager, Makos is in charge of facilitating sexual assault workshops for undergraduate sorority and fraternity members across the country.
Makos began the hour and a half workshop by handing out booklets to the audience. The booklet’s pages, Makos told the crowd, would follow the presentation’s slides and supplement the audience’s learning and involvement throughout the presentation.
As audience member’s flipped through the booklet’s pages, Makos turned to the whiteboard behind her and wrote down four words: sexy, classy, prude, slut. She then asked for volunteers to shout out words and phrases they associated with the different categories.
The audience remained quiet at first, murmuring nervously to each other. But after a nearly palpable thirty seconds of silence, one brave soul shouted out “confident” for the sexy category. And like a domino effect, a chorus of voices followed, yelling out words until all four categories were full.
After some open conversation about what was put on the board, Makos asked the audience to note the differences and similarities between the words women are often labeled with.
Gamma Phi Beta member and sophomore Madelyn Tenenbaum was saddened by what she saw on the board.
“There were negative words associated with each category, no matter what side of the spectrum a woman is on, she can never be perfect,” Tenenbaum said.
The next topic of discussion was titled, Understanding, Giving and Gaining Consent. Makos told the audience that consent is often a gray area when it comes to drinking and drugs because communication is not always accurately gauged when one is under the influence. The audience was then advised to look over sexual assault statistics provided in their booklets.
“I was shocked to learn that only five percent of rapes are reported to law enforcement,” said sorority member and sophomore Haley Busyn.
The presentation then turned its focus on the laws and policies regarding sexual assault on college campuses. Makos encouraged audience members to share with the room what they knew about campus resources and services regarding sexual assault.
After questions were answered and information was given, Makos asked the audience to apply their newfound knowledge through a case-study. Reading aloud a real-life incident, Makos told the audience to analyze the situation and take note of specific details that could affect the incident’s final outcome.
Audience members were not afraid to react to elements of the case-study they liked and didn’t like. There were groans of disapproval at character’s misguided actions and sighs of relief when potential setbacks were avoided.
“Though we looked at the story from an outsider’s perspective, the experience described in it has really happened to some people, which is a really sobering thought,” Busyn said.
Makos ended the presentation by addressing relationship violence. She asked the audience to close their eyes and imagine when they were eight years old.
“Imagine the person your eight-year old self wanted to date. This person never tore you down or hurt you in any way, so why settle for that now?” Makos asked the room.
This statement was well regarded by the audience as women throughout the room clapped and whistled in agreement.
“Tonight made me realize that in order to put a stop to sexual assault, we have to educate one another and be willing to have open conversation about sex,” Tenenbaum said.