Sororities discuss safe relationships weekly

By and

Two months after U student Katie Baker was punched in the face at a fraternity party, sorority leaders took action to start a group session for sorority members to discuss warning signs of abusive relationships.

Panhellenic President Lauren Christensen called the Women’s Resource Center on campus to arrange for counselors to talk with sorority women in a safe environment.

“We’ve been trying to set this up for the past four years,” said Kristy Bartley, counseling coordinator for the center. “We’re glad that the greeks contacted us about this — educating people about healthy relationships is a good step.”

The sessions began about three weeks ago at the sorority house Pi Beta Phi, where women huddled in a circle to talk about how to recognize an unhealthy relationship.

“There is a definite need for this kind of discussion,” said Eva Malia, an interim counselor for the center who helps lead discussions in the weekly sessions. “You can see that many people are in violent relationships, but a lot of people just don’t consider dating violence.”

The center is offering these sessions free to the sorority members every Monday. The sessions are offered in a different house every week so members can feel safe and comfortable discussing private issues about dating with their own sorority sisters.

Bartley has attended one session and monitored discussion, but she has noticed that many girls see red flags in relationships that show that something is wrong. They have experienced these warning signs while dating, but didn’t necessarily recognize them as abnormal, Bartley said.

Malia said women don’t notice warning signs in harmful relationships because society sends the message to women that they need to be more submissive and accepting.

“Men are socialized to be controlling in relationships, and women are socialized to accept it,” Bartley said. “It’s not that there’s something wrong with men but that we teach them to act in ways that are controlling in relationships.”

Pi Beta Phi President Katie Stevens said the session was successful for members in her sorority house.

“I know it gave me a lot of things to look out for in a relationship,” she said. “Some things that don’t seem serious really are.”

All five sorority houses will have sessions like this within the next few weeks. The fraternity houses are also planning to participate in relationship discussions. The greeks are trying to arrange for Peter Fawson, a student who works with the center, and Moises Prospero, a social work professor, to talk with fraternity members every Monday.

Although fraternity sessions are connected with the center, greek adviser Jay Wilgus said he believes that the fraternity members would be more comfortable discussing issues with other men.

“It’s hard to talk about crimes of sexual violence without first talking about men and masculinity,” he said.

Plans to make these sessions permanent meetings have been discussed, but they have not been finalized.

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