On Sunday, December 2nd, 2018, 40 more members of the Carleton University Chapter of the Kappa Sigma Fraternity (Omicron-Pi Chapter) attended a sexual violence prevention and support training session hosted by two volunteer leaders on behalf of the Carleton Chapter of OurTurn National.
OurTurn is a student-led advocacy group dedicated to combating sexual violence on Canadian post-secondary campuses.
At Carleton, a two-hour training session is implemented by the Carleton University Students' Association (CUSA) and led by student volunteers in a peer-to-peer experience that discusses: information about consent, sexual violence, and rape culture that is directly applicable to campus events and student life, strategies to help prevent sexual violence by being an active bystander, approaches to support a friend who discloses that they’ve experienced sexual violence, and information about the reporting process on campus as well as available resources at Carleton and in the wider Ottawa community.
Having just initiated a new class of 12 Brothers, the Brothers of Omicron-Pi found it vitally important to not only have their active members trained on the issue, but to ensure that those entering the organization this semester were also on the same page. For one new Brother only just in his first year at Carleton University, he found the training especially interesting: "I found it most interesting that the vast majority of people are uneducated in the importance of the conversations surrounding consent. I think it’s important for not only fraternities but for everyone to be trained in this in order to help prevent sexual harassment or assault," said Nick Andre.
But the training is helpful regardless of age. Brother Jason Estefanous, 26, saw the importance equally as much as Andre: "One of the most valuable things I learned from the Our Turn training seminar was the power of “asking” and gaining consent," he said. "It’s better and safer to always make an attempt to acknowledge a situation and know where it’s going as well making sure the other party is willing."
Two Brothers of the Chapter at Carleton University also serve as two of the six executives governing CUSA. David Oladejo, President, and Luke Taylor, Vice-President Finance, were a part of the decision earlier this semester to make OurTurn training a mandatory component for a minimum of five executives from all CUSA clubs and societies in order to receive part of their funding. For more information about this, please visit The Charlatan's page here.
Both Oladejo and Taylor emphasized that the most important part of being educated is the way in which bystanders can play a pivotal role in stopping sexual assault. "I can’t overstate the value on being able to recognize what sexual violence and sexual harassment looks like, even within our own friend circles and everyday interactions," said Oladejo. "By being empowered to recognize signs, students are able to create a culture of sexual violence prevention and intervention on university campuses," Taylor added.
Oladejo, Taylor and Brother Mattias Lightstone (current president of the Systems of Computer Engineering Society - SCEsoc) were some of many other Brothers who received OurTurn training prior to Sunday through their affiliations with other organizations or clubs.
Lightstone explained some of the benefits this training has in being able to support others who haven't had similar conversations themselves: "Being able to have an open conversation about consent is important and it gave us an opportunity to share ideas and ask questions that we don't get to have.," he said."Being more informed allows us to bring these conversations to others in our lives, and will hopefully positively affect not just the people who attended, but their friends and loved ones as well."
Recognizing signs is a key component to preventing sexual misconduct and violence. Brother Joza Fleming added how some acts can easily fly under the radar, even in your close community, if you aren't used to looking for them: "Highlighting the desensitisation a lot of individuals have towards what’s considered more 'minor' sexual violence was the most interesting part for me," he noted. "This his allowed me to be more conscious of the issue and recognise one of the problems we have within our community is the lack of awareness."
The Fraternity response to the #MeToo Movement
OurTurn National originally started at Carleton University and spread across Canada in parallel to the rise of the #MeToo Movement in global news. Sexual assault cases have become one of the most prominent and widespread news topics in the past year
Last year, I served as the Vice-President Administration for the Carleton University Greek Council (CUGC), an advocatory body for all sororities and fraternities at Carleton. My main priority was to update our constitution to better reflect the needs of our current membership. Towards the end of my term, our executive team had circulated the idea of implementing a sexual violence policy inline with CUSA's. In working with other greeks (members of fraternities and sororities) and with some feedback from OurTurn, we were able to implement a sexual violence policy that includes the definitions of common forms of sexual violence, on and off-campus resources for survivors, and ways in which CUGC will help to support survivors in the event of a incident.
Last spring towards the end of the semester, I was elected president of CUGC as well as the president of the Carleton Chapter of the Kappa Sigma Fraternity. I was inspired by seeing multiple greek organizations who received training by OurTurn that same spring and decided that it was time we pushed this same agenda as an entire membership at Carleton.
Over the summer, our newly elected executives for CUGC decided the best course of action to make sexual assault prevention and survivor support training a mandate for all greeks at Carleton was to reach out to each president of each organization that was a member of CUGC. With two fraternities and one sorority already trained by OurTurn, we were thrilled that this idea and challenge was widely accepted by other presidents. The Tau Omega Chapter of the Tau Kappa Epsilon Fraternity at Carleton very recently completed the training as well.
Within my own fraternity, I thought it best to utilize our Brothers in Action Program to introduce OurTurn training to our members.
Brothers In Action (BIA) is a character and competence based program designed to teach fraternal values applicable to academic, chapter, and career goals through experiential learning and chapter-supported programming. BIA provides a blueprint for chapters to follow as they provide personal development programming for members.
While the issue of sexual assault and violence affects both men and women, we recognize that the dominant party effected is women. We're therefore very cognizant of position as male leaders; we have the opportunity to use our voices and actions in a positive way as allies of survivors of sexual violence and work towards creating a safer and more aware campus environment. Our Brothers In Action Chairman, Brother Jourdain Guniss, explained the importance of addressing consent given our situation in relation to sororities at Carleton: "Our organization interacts and mixes with other female organizations on a regular basis and I believe it is very important for everyone, and specifically fraternities, to understand the meaning of consent."
It's for this reason that I think teaching the members of my fraternity and others in this shared greek community as much as possible about consent; it has such real-life significance.
Most people joining fraternities are between the ages of 17-22 with many of them are also leaving home and living on their own for the first time as they come to university. Add to this with the fact that they are becoming more and more exposed to nightlife where drinking becomes more prominent than in high school and you're left with a body of impressionable young men who are being exposed to new experiences that they might not yet be used to.
This means that leaders of fraternities have an important responsibility. We have an opportunity as mentors and "older brothers" to help educate our members so that the decisions they make with this newfound independence are good ones. Recognizing this is vital if we truly want to uphold the values of our fraternities and help build better men during their college years.
I will be looking to implement ways of supporting survivors within my own fraternity from a policy or administrative level so that there can be a process put in place that can help survivors year-to-year regardless of the individuals in elected positions. Outside of that, there is a lot that student leaders can learn to be more apt to deal with incidents where a member of a student organization is affected by sexual violence.
Sexual assault and violence remains a universal issue with social, legal, and professional repercussions that students alone are not adequately prepared to respond to. While I'm happy that we've taken steps in the right direction at Carleton, I hope to see more action being taken by universities, schools, and fraternities at higher levels to make bigger leaps towards safer campuses. Until then, we should continue to have conversations about consent.
"Canadian Fraternities Take Steps to Address Issues of Consent, Sexual Violence"
"Canadian Universities Must Improve Sexual Assault Policies: Student Activists"
"One Year Later"
"Brothers in Action: How Has Kappa Sigma Made You a Better Man?"
"CUSA AMENDS MOTION TYING CLUBS’ FUNDING WITH OURTURN TRAINING"