USF Advocacy Program helps campus males get ‘REAL’

In an effort to reduce violence against women, the USF Advocacy Program’s new initiative has one thing in mind: men.

The Relationship Equality and Anti-violence League (REAL) project will educate men on how to prevent sexual and relationship violence on campus, rather than teach women how to reduce their risk of becoming a victim, said Nanci Newton, director of the USF Advocacy Program.

The program will use a $46,500 grant, received two weeks ago from the Florida Department of Health, to fund REAL, Newton said. The project will start on campus in October.

“It’s really a call to men on campus to become allies with the women on campus and to end violence against women,” Newton said.

Ryan Rogers, a sophomore majoring in management information systems, said it is important for men to get involved in the REAL project.

“Sexual violence isn’t going to end unless we stop it,” said Rogers, who is a member of the REAL project. “We can teach women risk reduction, but until a man decides that he is no longer going to partake in the violence, it’s not going to stop.”

During January and June, the Advocacy Program received these reports from female students: two reports of stalking, four reports of sexual assault, and 17 reports of relationship violence, including unwanted sexual intercourse, Newton said.

University Police (UP) reported one attempt of sexual assault and one actual sexual assault during the same time period, said UP spokeswoman Lt. Meg Ross.

Rape victims who report to the Advocacy Program instead of law enforcement are often intoxicated during the offense, and their offenders are usually someone they know, Newton said.

“All of our cases from (fall 2008 to spring 2009) that involved unwanted sexual attention and intercourse, 100 percent of those cases involved alcohol and intoxication,” Newton said. “And most of the assaults that we see are committed in a social setting, often at parties, by people who know each other.”

According to Florida state law, anyone who is intoxicated is unable to consent to sex, and anyone who has sex with someone who is intoxicated could be arrested for sexual battery, Newton said.

This law inspired the slogan “Got Consent?” which is printed on T-shirts, pens and bottle-opener key chains to remind students in social settings to protect their peers from predators, Newton said.

“While most men are not predators, statistically, most predators are men,” Newton said.

USF’s efforts to provide safety for students includes required student ID card entry in residence halls, four to six UP officers on duty 24/7, blue-light emergency stations located throughout the campus, and AlliedBarton Security patrol at night, said Director of Housing and Residential Education Dorie Paine.

Aside from campus security, the community needs to be aware of what’s happening on campus and aid in preventing situations such as the recent alleged Sigma Phi Epsilon incident, Ross said.

An 18-year-old female told UP she was pulled into a room against her will and “inappropriately touched” at the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity house Aug. 29, Ross said.

“We cannot protect everyone and we cannot guarantee protection,” Ross said. “We need the community’s help.”

The Advocacy Program provides free and private services for students and employees who have experienced crime, violence or abuse on or off campus, Newton said.

“There are always ways that people can be safer, but individual awareness is the most important thing,” Newton said.

The REAL project will kick off with a “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” event, hosted by Necessary Improvements to Transform our Environment (NITE), where male students dress in women’s shoes, educate the public on these issues and encourage other men to join, Newton said.

REAL Men Trainers will deliver peer education sessions to student organizations, residential groups and academic classes starting in November.

The program will receive two more consecutive grants of $46,500 to support the REAL project each year through 2011, Newton said.