Duke’s two largest student-led sexual assault prevention organizations are merging into one.
Duke Sexual Harassment and Assault Prevention and Education announced Sept. 11 that its Greek Life division would be absorbing the Duke Sexual Assault Prevention Team.
The merger aims to streamline sexual assault prevention at Duke, making services more effective and easier to access.
“At times, certain efforts by either organization would not be as productive just because there were similar efforts … going on in the other organization,” said senior Matthew Hawkins, former SAPT co-president. “I think combining forces with all of that will help to get rid of some of those problems.”
Compared to SHAPE, SAPT has historically had more of a focus on Greek life. Their efforts included training sessions for fraternities and sororities, which taught and encouraged strategies to mitigate sexual violence during social events.
For instance, SAPT pushed for the widespread use of sober brothers and sisters, members of Greek life organizations who refrain from substance use during parties and other social events. These individuals can be identified as point people if external intervention is required in a risky situation.
SHAPE, which was initially developed within the Duke Student Government campus life committee during the 2018-19 academic year, addresses the entire student population, as opposed to focusing on Greek life.
With sexual assault training requirements now managed by a unified team, the hope is that Greek life organizations will be more willing to engage with prevention and mitigation training, according to sophomore Anushka Srinivasan, co-lead of SHAPE Greek Life. She said that this would ideally create a more organic relationship between SHAPE and Greek life as a whole, making all initiatives more effective in the process.
“I think a lot of times, fraternities and organizations would get confused about what training they needed to have, what requirements were, how many sober brothers to have at a party,” Srinivasan said. “Just having a lot more clarity and one group to refer to on this topic is very helpful.”
For sophomore Ella Weinstein, co-lead of SHAPE Greek Life, the merger will make it less confusing for students to get involved in sexual assault prevention efforts by eliminating the need to choose between two similar organizations. She hopes that having a single organization will allow for more concerted action in addressing sexual violence at Duke.
“Although there wasn't technically a missed opportunity that we saw, not having everyone with the same interest at all the same meetings together probably led to something,” Weinstein said.
During the merger, SAPT members were invited to formally apply to SHAPE. They had the option to either continue similar work on SHAPE’s Greek life team or branch out into other areas of sexual violence prevention.
Now that the merger has been completed, SHAPE has expressed a desire to further engage with other student organizations on campus. For instance, SHAPE is recruiting SHAPE representatives from student groups, who will be points of contact within their organizations to "aid in addressing sexual violence both within and beyond their groups."
Leaders of both SHAPE and SAPT emphasized that this combination is not a reduction of their efforts, but rather an increase in effectiveness.
“Everything that SAPT did in the past, SHAPE will be doing now,” Hawkins said. “And we're just looking to add in other places where we see need.”
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Bennett Gillespie is a Trinity first-year and a staff reporter for the news department.