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Many chapters are currently recruiting new leading women to join Kappa Alpha Theta. The day a new member accepts her bid and takes her pledge to join Kappa Alpha Theta, we as initiated members have the responsibility to protect the well-being of our members, promote a high standard of excellence in all aspects of Fraternity life, and be a leader in the fraternity/sorority community. As reflected in our mission statement, we have promised to nurture each member throughout her college and alumnae experience and offer a lifelong opportunity for social, intellectual, and moral growth as our members meet the higher and broader demands of mature life. In accordance with these goals, Kappa Alpha Theta does not tolerate any acts that may be constituted as hazing.
The new member process sets the stage for creating a positive experience for each incoming young woman. Officers, advisors, and mentors provide an official introduction to what Theta is all about, and this first impression will last a lifetime. New member programs are designed to create a safe, welcoming, and inclusive community. Hazing prevention is reinforced through chapter and campus educational programs, encouraging open and honest conversations on how each group, campus, and the greater fraternity/sorority community can cultivate an atmosphere where everyone feels included, safe, and welcomed.
When we educate our members to identify all forms of hazing, even if it is not part of their chapter experience, we empower them with the knowledge of what hazing is, what it looks like, and how to respond if members ever found themselves in a compromising position (i.e., a bystander to hazing, or partaking in another team/organization's hazing practices). With this knowledge, we hope our members would not participate in activities that are seen as campus traditions (e.g., serenades) as they are forms of hazing and counter our ability to foster an inclusive community.
An additional component of hazing prevention education includes providing resources and outlets for members to find professional support. In 2007, Kappa Alpha Theta united with other international fraternities and sororities to found the Greek Anti-Hazing Hotline, available to anyone who thinks they or someone they know have been or may become victims of hazing: 1-888-NOT HAZE (1-888-668-4293).
By continuing to educate and provide resources regarding hazing prevention to our college and alumnae members, we can continue to build on Kappa Alpha Theta's foundation that aims to value each member and encourages us all to live out our values and mission statement.
Help us spread the message that Theta is an organization that strives to ensure every member feels included, safe, and welcome. The #40 Answers to Common Excuses for Hazing campaign is currently underway, leading up to National Hazing Prevention Week Sept. 19-23. Follow along on social media during using the hashtags #40Answers and #LeadingWomenDontHaze.
This summer, the National Panhellenic Conference (NPC), of which Kappa Alpha Theta is one of 26 members, and the National Interfraternity Conference (NIC), which has over 70 member groups, endorsed the Safe Campus Act and Fair Campus Act, which were both introduced in the US House of Representatives on July 29. The impetus for this action—as I wrote in a blog post in August—was a desire to address the problem of sexual misconduct on US campuses. The statistics are appalling and unacceptable: there are too many occurrences and too many victims. The status quo must change. Kappa Alpha Theta supported the efforts of NPC and NIC to utilize our collective position of leadership to make a positive change on college campuses through a multi-faceted legislative approach.
Recently, after collaboration with two senators (including a member of Kappa Alpha Theta) who have led the charge in offering legislative solutions to address the problem of sexual assault on college campuses, NPC and NIC agreed to withdraw their endorsement of the current form of the Safe Campus Act. The senators agreed to collaborate with NPC and NIC to continue to support a legislative agenda that, in addition to offering solutions related to sexual assault adjudication, focuses on protecting our right to organize as a single-sex organization, preventing organizations from being penalized for allegations of criminal misconduct which do not directly involve our organizations, and respecting the vital role alumnae play in supporting our students who rely on confidential counsel from their mentors. Kappa Alpha Theta continues to support the efforts of NPC and NIC.
Of ultimate importance is eliminating the problem of sexual assault altogether, and unfortunately that cannot be achieved through legislation alone. Theta has a long tradition of offering not only support for survivors of sexual misconduct and sexual violence, but also a commitment to engaging members in prevention and intervention efforts. Through our award-winning Sisters Supporting Sisters initiative, we connect members to a comprehensive program of educational resources addressing interpersonal violence, healthy relationships and communication, emotional well-being, and more.
Our Fraternity also has a long tradition of respecting the voices and opinions of our members. We are proud of the Thetas who continue to lead discussions on this important topic, and we remain committed to working with our sister groups, NPC, campus professionals, and victims' advocates to develop effective solutions.
College is always an emotionally charged time. It is four years of self-development, from deciding your major to finding your home away from home. Some days you could feel unstoppable—you get a great grade on a paper, the cafeteria has your favorite meal, and you got a full night's rest. Other days, you bomb an exam, the coffee machine is broken, and your roommates kept you up all night. For some, it's hard to pick yourself up after a bad day, to quiet the voice in your head kicking you when you're down, saying, "If only you studied more..." or "I'll never be successful this semester." It's hard to keep your head up in the face of defeat, to keep on when the course gets tough, but know it takes more than just dedication: It also takes proper mental health.
National Depression Screening Day is today, October 8—a good time to take advantage of Kappa Alpha Theta's online mental health screening programs. Taking this free, anonymous screening can help you or a friend recognize signs of depression and provide avenues to productively treat depression early on. Please take a few minutes and go to www.SistersSupportingSisters.org to start living better.
During the month of October, we are asking Thetas everywhere to participate in the Love is Louder social media movement to show our love and support to all of our sisters—in Theta, in Panhellenic, in life—and let them know that LOVE IS LOUDER than depression (and anxiety, and self-doubt: We need your help to fill in the blank). Last year, we started to make waves on social media bringing awareness to this issue and supporting our friends (see a sample post in the image above). In 2015, with your help, we hope to make an even bigger impact. Have a conversation at your chapter meeting and share the resources on the Sisters Supporting Sisters web page. Share your photos on social media and tag Kappa Alpha Theta in your post (@kappa_alpha_theta on Instagram, @BettieLocke on Twitter, and tagging @Kappa Alpha Theta Fraternity on Facebook). You may also send photos to socialmedia@KappaAlphaTheta.org.
Love is Louder was started by The Jed Foundation, MTV, and Brittany Snow to support anyone feeling mistreated, misunderstood, or alone. You can participate by taking a photo of your hand with "Love is Louder" or "Theta Love is Louder" written on your palm. Please join us in this campaign by sharing your photos answering this statement: "Theta Love is Louder than _____." Tag your photos on social media with the following hashtags: #LoveIsLouder and #ThetaLoveIsLouder. Let Theta love be felt everywhere.
It can be challenging and alarming to hear a term like "rape-supportive culture." The term seems to imply that a culture would openly encourage rape and sexual violence. Instead, the term describes how myths about rape and sexual violence become the way we collectively think about rape as a society. Those of us in the society are complicit in continuing to unintentionally reinforce those myths (Although there are likely some people doing so intentionally). Until I began researching this topic a number of years ago, I realized I had been (unintentionally) reinforcing several myths about sexual violence.
Here are some examples of myths that support and reinforce rape-supportive culture.
- Assuming that false reports of sexual violence occur more frequently than other crimes. In fact, false reports make up two to eight percent of rape reports,. This is consistent with, and in some cases lower than, other crimes.
- Victim-blaming. For example, asking survivors, "What were you wearing?" "Were you flirting?" or "Were you drinking?" implying that the victim was responsible in some way.
- Focusing on what the victim should or should not have done to prevent the assault, instead of focusing the responsibility on the person that chose to commit a crime of interpersonal violence.
- Telling friends to not walk home alone, when in reality more than 80 percent of assaults are perpetrated by someone known to the victim.
- Believing interpersonal violence is a women's issue, when it affects all genders: men, women, and transgender individuals. Only the perpetrator of sexual assault can stop the crime, which is another reason to end the myth of this as a women's issue.
In what ways are we perpetuating some of these myths? Are we co-sponsoring events with themes that objectify or sexualize a particular group of people, like women? Is our educational programming focusing only on what a victim should/should not do to prevent an assault?
Part 2, which will be posted next week, will explore strategies for overcoming these myths.
One answer is surprisingly simple: Be there.
A sense of isolation is a risk factor for suicide, and research has shown a strong correlation between social support and decreased likelihood of a lifetime suicide attempt. By living the motto We'll see you tomorrow through lending a listening ear, a shoulder to cry on, an empathetic word, or a gesture of support, you are participating in truly meaningful prevention and acting as a part of our mission for the widest influence for good. You're showing those you care about that their presence is valued, their daily struggles are understood, that there is hope for better days ahead, and that you want to share in their story. It sounds a lot like true sisterhood, doesn't it?
Our fraternity was founded on the effort to develop sisterhood and meaningful social support during a time when women were a minority on college campuses and faced discrimination and a distinct lack of support from their male peers and often their academic institutions. Our founders used the bonds of Theta to disempower their loneliness, and we can do the same, not through sisterhood in the colloquial sense—although engaging in new, exciting experiences and creating fun memories also has its place here—but by nurturing the lifelong friendships we have developed with women we know we can count on. For Theta women, We'll see you tomorrow means living our values.
While our bond can be an important contributor to prevention, it is not enough to prevent suicide in the demanding college environment. It does, however, mean that we are often the first to notice when one of our sisters is struggling. If you believe that you or someone you know is facing depression or thoughts of suicide, please visit the Sisters Supporting Sisters website for the resource and webinar on Depression & Suicide Awareness. You can also call the free Talk One-2-One hotline, open 24 hours a day, to speak with a trained counselor about any problem large or small, at 1-800-756-3124.
To become involved with TWLOHA or to learn how you can promote suicide prevention through social media, please visit the TWLOHA website.
And to our Kappa Alpha Theta sisters: You are appreciated, you are loved, and you are a meaningful contribution to the identity of our proud fraternity. To each of you on campuses everywhere, We'll see you tomorrow.
Sexual violence is a crime that strips victims of their dignity and control. Estimates across North America suggest that 80% (that's four out of five) assaults are committed by someone the victim knows. Trust and personal safety will likely never be concepts that are the same ever again for a survivor. Recently, a survivor described her experience of recovering from rape as "a life sentence."
Survivor support is typically impacted by the many myths surrounding rape and sexual violence (we will talk more about that next week). It is important to know there is not a "right" or "wrong" way for a survivor to respond to assault. If a friend discloses that she has been assaulted, research tells us to respond without blaming the victim. Generally speaking, victim blaming occurs when anyone makes comments implying the victim is responsible for the crime(s) committed against them. Examples of such responses regarding sexual violence could include, "What were you wearing?" "Were you drinking?" or "It was probably a misunderstanding."
So, what can and should you do? At the start of this blog, phrases were mentioned that are good examples of things you might say if a survivor discloses an assault. While there are many resources describing responses and ways to be supportive, it is important to remember two things:
- Listen and believe. If a friend is telling you about an experience, it is important to suspend judgement. Listen to that story without interruption, and offer supportive comments (see above), such as "I believe you" and "I'm sorry this happened to you."
- Provide options and not advice. Hearing your friend has been hurt in such a violent way is disturbing and scary. Most of us are not professional counselors, and we don't need to be in order to provide support. Keep in mind it is important for survivors to have the autonomy to make their own decisions. As a friend, you can present available options and offer support if and when (if) your friend choses to access those options.
Providing a supportive reaction is not easy, but it can make a huge difference for the survivor. To learn more about what you could say and options to provide, visit these resources:
- RAINN (Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network - US)
- Canadian Resource Center for Victims of Crimes
- How to support a friend (article)
- National Sexual Violence Resource Center (US)
Given the nature of this crime, we recognize that survivors of sexual violence can be triggered by awareness campaigns. We want survivors (and friends supporting survivors) to know that many resources exist if you need to talk to someone. Visiting your campus counseling center can not only connect you to a campus counselor but also other campus resources that are available to you, including support groups and hotlines. Theta also offers a free hotline number (Talk One-2-One) that will connect you to a licensed counselor. Visit our Sisters Supporting Sisters page for more resources. There is no time table when recovering from sexual violence, and support is available.
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