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Handprint Project seeks to reduce bid night sexual assaults

'There’s kind of a culture of feeling entitled to women,' Kaplan said

Students unveiled the Handprint Project this week, a campaign aimed to curb sexual assault on fraternity bid night. The project seeks to educate students about sexual assault prevention and intervention and is co-sponsored by Democracy for America Charlottesville, the Inter-Fraternity Council, the Honor Committee, One-in-Four and One Less.

As of Wednesday night, the online petition associated with the campaign had achieved 1,380 of its goal of 2,000 signatures.

The campaign encourages brothers at each fraternity to pledge their role as active bystanders by stamping their handprint in blue on a large poster. Fraternities will display the poster with all brothers’ handprints at their fraternity house Saturday as a reminder for brothers to remain vigilant.

“Every house will have that physical representation of the brothers’ commitment to bystander intervention,” student-organizer Katie Cole, a fourth-year College student, said. “I’m really impressed with how the community has responded to this project.”

Claire Kaplan, director of sexual and domestic violence services at the University Women’s Center, said bystander intervention has the greatest potential to reduce sexual assault.

“[The Hand Print Project] is their way to say ‘I’m a Greek, and I’m not afraid to say something,’” Kaplan said.

Historically, the days following bid night have seen a spike in reports of sexual assault, Kaplan said. Leaders behind the project hope the Handprint Project will help to combat this trend.

“There’s kind of a culture of feeling entitled to women [at fraternities],” Kaplan said. “The reason is there’s always a lot of drinking on bid night.”

Cole said the University culture needs to change to create a real difference.

“It’s such a big night of chaos, and a lot of people don’t know each other,” Cole said. “In the confusion, horrible things like sexual assault can occur.”

Incoming IFC President Tommy Reid, current vice president of membership, said fraternity brothers hope this project will allow them to leverage their presence in the community to affect change.

“What we’re doing is ensuring that each person is not just looking out for himself,” said Reid, a third-year College student and member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity.

The issue of sexual assault on college campuses received increased attention last Wednesday when President Barack Obama signed a presidential memorandum creating a task force to combat the issue. The memorandum responds to a recent White House report showing that women at college are more likely to be sexually assaulted than anyone else in America.

The University will also host a conference on sexual misconduct on college campuses in February.

Katie Cole, quoted in this story, was a former Arts & Entertainment Editor for The Cavalier Daily.