By Aadit Tambe
The University of Iowa is trying to find a better way to address sexual assault, starting with the men.
The Better Men, Better Hawkeyes one-hour workshop, aimed at promoting healthy masculinity across campus, was initiated in the spring of 2017, when the UI Department of Public Safety believed there was a need to address the prevalence of sexual assault on campus.
The program, which held its third session Thursday afternoon, was based on research from three programs: Mentors in Violence Prevention, Step Up Bystander Intervention, and Coaching Boys into Men.
“Ninety percent of sexual assaults are committed by men. However, [only] 5 percent of men commit these assaults,” said UI police Officer Eli Hotchkin, the director of Better Men, Better Hawkeyes.
Although the program is targeted toward men, Hotchkin said its success relies on the involvement of all genders. Listening to the perspectives of individuals identifying as other genders and talking about their experiences is important, he said.
The workshop consists of a one-hour session combining discussions and training and is free. It is conducted by UI police facilitators, along with nine other student co-facilitators who supplement the UI police’s perspectives.
“It really is an experience to take in, and it is on the participants on how they want to implement what they just learned in the program,” Hotchkin said.
The students can then explore their options, such as taking classes at the Women’s Resource and Action Center or getting involved with other student organizations, he said.
The workshop involves group exercises focusing on gender and cultural influences to male- and female-identified genders. The program talks about what is found in healthy and unhealthy relationships.
The program also touches on the meaning of consent and bystander intervention.
“Last spring, when [Hotchkin] reached out, we had the idea about requiring this training for new members coming to our community [the Interfraternity Council chapters],” said Sam Hansen, the vice president for leadership & education at the Interfraternity Council.
Hansen is a student co-facilitator for the program.
He said not many students have conversations about sexual assault and sexual violence in their high schools. A program of this sort, Hansen said, provides a platform for such topics to discussed and talked about openly.
“My goal with being involved with the program is shedding light on stereotypes and issues and bringing them more comfortable to talk about,” Tyler Wills, a member of student security at the UI Department of Public Safety and a student co-facilitator for Better Men, Better Hawkeyes, said.
The program boasts 250 participants so far — the next session will be held on Nov. 7 from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. in the University Capitol Center.
“With me being involved, it sheds light on the complex issues of stereotypes and masculinity as they aren’t comfortable topics to talk about among young adults,” Wills said.