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'Not in Our House' task force meets to combat sexual assault

By Grace Ditzler, KTVM Reporter, gditzler@ktvm.com
Published On: Jan 30 2014 10:58:06 PM MST
Updated On: Jan 30 2014 11:20:54 PM MST
BOZEMAN, Mont. -

A Montana State University group is taking action to address sexual assault on campus and send the message "not in our house."

The 'Not in Our House' task force was formed partially in the wake of two reported sexual assaults at MSU fraternities last September.

Sigma Chi and Pi Kappa Alpha came under fire by MSU after one alleged assault at each house in one weekend.

The university imposed sanctions on both fraternities, including banning hard liquor, requiring a sober member at all parties, and requiring they attend sexual assault prevention training.

Last week the White House released a report on sexual assault in the United States. One of the key findings was that young people and college students are especially at risk. They report 1 in 5 college women has been sexually assaulted while attending college.

Members of the Not in Our House task force explained they are encouraged by how many people are getting involved with the cause to raise awareness and prevent sexual violence, and said it's a sign of a cultural shift.

"I think it's time we actually start raising more awareness," said Spencer Dahl, a member of Engineers Without Borders.

Representatives from 30 Montana State University student groups came together Thursday night to figure out how they can fight sexual violence.

"That's something we just can't have in our culture at MSU," said Kappa Sigma President Bill Jensen.

One commitment the Not in Our House Task Force made -- take action in changing the culture.

"It's such a taboo in our society to talk about sexual assault, to talk about rape, any kind of violence," explained MSU student Jennifer Marshall. "People don't want to talk about it and it goes undiscussed, and therefore people don't know how to fix it."

They said change starts with spreading awareness and educating the community about sexual assault.

To do that, groups within the task force are taking on projects, like holding a silent auction, going to area high schools to talk about sexual assault, and sending post cards to state lawmakers.

Kappa Sigma President Bill Jensen said the fraternities plan on passing down that education to their members.

"I want to instill with our new members the importance of learning about sexual assault and the harm that miscommunication can occur as we saw in the previous interactions this year," he said.

Ellie First, with Pi Beta Phi, says sexual assault within the Greek community has been highly publicized, so they're hoping to change perceptions.

"We're making sure the people know we're not in support of this, it's not something we sweep under the rug, it's something we're really passionate about changing," First said.

Task force members said they are inspired by their plan, and can't wait to move forward.

"Students here at Montana State are passionate about really taking responsibility for affecting culture change in our community," said Voice Center Prevention and Education Coordinator Joe Schumacher, one of the organizers of the task force.

The Not in Our House task force said they hope their actions to educate and prevent interpersonal violence will be an example for other universities and organizations to take a stand against sexual assault.

In the meantime, the task force plans to meet again next month, and continue moving ahead with their projects.