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Hands that have held mine

let's talk sex

P.A.C.T. Prevent. Act. Challenge. Teach.

The acronym doesn’t scream, “gender violence prevention training,” but the training is well known at Duke. PACT training is a student facilitated training sponsored by the Women’s Center that aims to prevent gender violence on campus through interactive training.

The full training takes a total of five hours, split into two sessions. The sessions are meant to teach students how to identify and minimize risk factors of sexual assault. The training teaches bystander intervention tactics as well as understanding of survivors.

According to data collected since 2011, PACT training increases students’ ability to intervene in risky situations and reduces the acceptance of common rape myths.

A new pilot program was even started at Duke this semester to PACT train new members of fraternities. Certain percentages of Selective Living Group members also are required to be PACT trained.

As a member of the Inter-Fraternity Sexual Assault Prevention Team, I was PACT trained along my fellow team members and Duke students earlier in 2017.

PACT training is an emotional five-hour journey, whether one has personal experience with sexual assault or not. It is meant to be interactive and impactful in order to leave a lasting impression on those not already invested in the world of gender violence prevention.

One particularly impactful part of the training is meant to put the person in the position of someone who has been sexually assaulted. During this activity, participants were asked to write down the places and people with meaning to them. Following this, the notes were crumbled up representing the loss of an important person or place due to the assault.

“What if you tell your best friend or your parent about the assault and he or she doesn’t believe you?”

“What if the assault occurs in a place that makes you feel safe, such as your own bed?”

This is the point that I needed to leave the room.

I have heard too many stories of sexual assault not to have an emotional reaction to PACT training.

What if my parents didn’t believe me?

No matter what, my parents and family have always stood by my side. They might not always agree with my decisions, but they support me throughout everything.

What if my friends didn’t believe me?

I can’t imagine having to deal with not only the trauma of a sexual assault, but also the toxicity of an environment that constantly berates me for it. I have watched as people lose friendships because one person believes the perpetrator over the victim, or simply doesn’t believe the victim at all.

Sexual assault already is an incredibly stigmatized and underreported crime. Without the support of friends, it is difficult to imagine any victim reporting a sexual assault on a college campus.

Sexual assault can even result in the loss of social status for the victim. Even at Duke, victims have been ostracized from sororities or fraternities due to members not wanting to cut ties with the organization of the perpetrator. However, in recent years, Duke sororities have created “black lists” to ban certain perpetrators, instead of entire organizations, from sorority functions. Last year, multiple sororities cut ties with entire fraternities due to sexual assault allegations. However, there was not unity among organizations surrounding these decisions.

The verdict has yet to be decided on how fraternities should handle members accused of sexual assault. Most do not inflict punishment until the university steps in. Because only 10% of sexual assault victims report the crime on college campuses, this means the university never knows most perpetrators. Thus, fraternities are left to wonder: what do I do if my brother is accused of sexual assault?

I wish there was an easy answer to this; if there were, I would have shared it with the Inter-Fraternity Council already. However, it is not permissible to allow fraternities to hold their own hearings, nor is it fair to ask fraternities to punish members without proof.

As for losing a safe space, such as a bed, many people rely on their friends after assaults for comfort. Losing friends, family members or a safe space all constitute factors that make sexual assaults harder to deal with and less likely to be reported.

It is hard to ask someone who has never experienced sexual assault to imagine what a victim might feel at various points in time after an assault. However, with one in five women and one in 71 men experiencing sexual assault, most people know at least one person affected by sexual assault.

Often victims of sexual assault who try to advocate find it difficult to teach the effects of assault to non-survivors. It is not the duty of these survivors to teach, but it is the duty of everyone to try to understand. Even if you do not have the time to make it to a five-hour PACT training, there is much one can learn from reading articles such as this one and engaging in conversations about gender violence.

Delaney Dryfoos is a Trinity sophomore. Her column, “let’s talk sex” runs on alternate Wednesdays.