Sexual violence has been a problem on college campuses for decades. With the number of sexual assaults increasing within this age demographic, universities have been looking for a way to help solve this problem and overcome the issue.
According to a study conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice in 2000, 20-25% of college women are victims of forced sex during their time in college.
San Diego State University is the first university that has implemented a sexual health education program specifically targeted at fraternity men, according to Director Stephanie Galia of Well-Being & Health Promotion at SDSU.
FratMANers, Fraternity Men Against Negative Environments and Rape Situations, is a peer-health education program educating fraternity men on sexual violence awareness, prevention, intervention and survivor support.
“Our men apply for the program if they’re interested, and then they train with us for one full semester, and they’re invited to come back as active members to help educate the rest of their community, and do outreach about sexual violence, for as many semesters as they’re here after,” says Director Stephanie Waits Galia of Well-Being & Health Promotion at SDSU.
This program began at SDSU over 15 years ago through a collaboration of the Department of Well-Being & Health Promotion along with Greek men who wanted to create a program like this on campus. The program now has over 30 active members and 40 trainees this semester.
“I thought it was really amazing that it wasn’t just focused on the people who are typically the victim of the crime,” says Galia. “It’s focused on the people who are oftentimes, identified as the potential perpetrators, and people who are involved in a community that have a higher rate of perpetrators. I really liked the idea that it was very ‘prevention-focused’, and that it was getting men involved in the conversation, that for many years, had only been a conversation amongst women.”
FratMANers Nick Wohlman has been in the program since his sophomore year. He is now the president of FratMANers and runs an event called, #NotSilentBecause, just held on April 9, in which students explain why they are not silent when discussing sexual assaults.
“My biggest takeaway is that you can actually make a difference,” says Wohlman. “We’re actually making a change out here. I think that all the work that we’re doing, I think our data shows that from over the years, and I just think that it is truly phenomenal to be a part of.”
FratMANers is offered as a three-unit training course that’s offered once a week for two hours and 40 minutes every semester at SDSU. The topics covered include sexual orientation, healthy masculinity, Title IX, sexual assault resources, bystander intervention in party environments and survivor support.
SDSU alumnus, Harsh Varshney, a member of FratMANers until he graduated in December, said his passion for this organization and its mission has resulted in him presenting at research conferences across the country and winning awards for his research on the effects of communicating sexual violence in FratMANers.
In his ethnographic research study titled, “Communicating About Sexual Violence: How do fraternity men in FratMANers construct conversations about sexual violence,” it explored the communicative methods adopted by collegiate fraternity members in order to construct healthy conversations about the prevention of sexual violence.
“FratMANers is creating a more educated population of fraternity men that will do what they need to do to prevent sexual violence from happening in the first place,” says Varshney. “This program is very beneficial for the Greek community at our school.
This report was a collaboration between NBC 7 and the SDSU School of Journalism and Media Studies.