Hope College’s STEP program (Students Teaching and Empowering Peers) is bringing awareness of interpersonal violence to fraternities here on Hope’s Campus. They are working together to shed light on this topic and how it influences Hope. As a relatively new peer education group, this is an exciting new way to empower students to become more educated and bring attention to what STEP is trying to do.
Audrey Black (’17), a STEP Coordinator, has been working on this project for over a year along with other educators. Since joining Greek life her freshmen year, she states that STEP representative has been a position in sororities. They were a resource, but didn’t have solid rules. Over just the past two years, they have received more training to be a source of information. Coordinators work alongside Sarah Bazydlo, the advisor of the STEP program. Below are the educators, and below that are the representatives in sororities. By getting closer to sororities, STEP has been able to get closer to individuals.
Interpersonal violence is an intense subject, and people don’t want to talk about. Men are often seen as perpetrators and women as victims. Black wants to de-stigmatize the whole realm of interpersonal violence and give more of a sense that sexual violence, assault and dating violence is a genderless issue. It is not a women issue; it is a human issue. Black and Lauren Perry (’18) shared that 50 percent of the population are men. To properly educate, STEP is trying to reach both sides and convey that men need to be a part of the discussion.
The Emersonians are the first fraternity on Hope’s campus to appoint STEP representatives. Black describes this development as “chipping away at an iceberg.”
“You can spend your life working on big issues and won’t see results till after you’re gone,” Black said. “In my work, I haven’t seen sudden benefits in STEP. Little ones, yes , but not big ones. But this is big!”
A committee of four Emmy’s have stepped up to the task. Seth Mika (’17) is one of these new representatives. “This is a serious issue on every campus, even here at Hope,” Mika said, “So we as an organization thought it was about time the other 50 percent took a stand, and we look forward to working closely with STEP to make a real difference.”
“We have been working so hard to get into frats,” Black said. “It is very intimidating when a woman comes up to you to discuss sexual assault. Most men assume they are about to be blamed. Men are victims, too. I know men that this has happened to.”
STEP hopes for Hope’s campus to be aware of the topic without accusing men. This is possible with the Emersonians.
This is just one step towards other organizations on Hope’s campus as well. These representatives are now able to be resources within their frats if anyone has questions. A STEP educator or rep is a bridge between a victim and someone who can help. They aren’t counselors. Black said, “We don’t have the tools to counsel and that’s how we bridge the gap between a student who needs help and a professional that is trained.” Black shares that her hope is that STEP will continue to reach out to other frats, sport teams and residence halls. The main goal is to have step representatives in almost every organization. Black said, “These are large goals, but it seems possible now. It once was a far fetched idea, but now it is exciting to see the possibility.”