Creating a Culture of Consent – The ZBT and JWI Partnership

By Meredith Jacobs —

Over the last decade, colleges and universities have gone to greater lengths than ever before to address a longstanding issue: sexual assault. During this time, Zeta Beta Tau’s leadership made a commitment to better prepare its brothers to handle this sensitive yet critical topic. We believe we have a responsibility to help our brothers stand as positive leaders to end violence on campus. At the same time, our leadership recognized the grave reality of how incidents of sexual assault threaten the future of the entire fraternal world. ZBT identified Jewish Women International (JWI), the leading Jewish organization working to end violence against women and girls, with a decades-long commitment to working with men as allies, as an ideal educational and philanthropic partner for the Fraternity. Guided by the concepts of its Ritual and the desire “to prepare its brothers for positions of leadership and service within their communities” in accordance with its Mission, ZBT and JWI, along with Sigma Delta Tau Sorority, developed an educational program in 2013 designed to talk about consent, abuse, healthy relationships and bystander intervention.

The results of this effort led to Safe Smart Dating, our award-winning collaborative program, which, to date, has been led on more than 50 campuses. Safe Smart Dating offers a unique and relevant approach to sexual assault prevention programming by talking to brothers not as perpetrators or potential perpetrators, but rather as allies and partners in creating the necessary cultural change.

Unfortunately, we cannot bring Safe Smart Dating to every chapter every year. ZBT and JWI discussed ways to bring additional education with purpose to chapters. This led to the development of a philanthropic program called Green Light: Go!, which applies the concept of consent to the childhood game of “Red Light, Green Light.” Green Light: Go! allows ZBT chapters to partner with other organizations on campus (both Greek and non-Greek) in a fun, lively campus-wide game that serves as a vehicle for an important conversation. With the tagline “know the signals,” Green Light: Go! gives students the chance to talk about consent and in our version of the game, the “yellow light” is added to represent those times when signals are not clear and partners should check in with each other. Chapters began to host games, some even gaining recognition from their university administration on behalf of their work on the topic of consent. Some began to raise money for JWI through this program, but still, we found ourselves asking “what more can we do?”

Today, ZBT’s partnership with JWI encompasses the education of both Safe Smart Dating and Green Light: Go! and has expanded to raise funds for JWI’s National Library Initiative (NLI). JWI works to create and maintain children’s libraries in domestic violence shelters and has just secured a commitment to build its 100th library. When ZBT raises funds for the NLI, supporters are enabling JWI to create safe spaces for children in these horrible situations. Libraries have brightly-painted walls, shelves of books, toys, games and computers; this is our way to support these children.

Think about the books read to you as a child, like Goodnight Moon, Big Red Barn, Captain Underpants and more. ZBT’s support of the NLI enables children to have those experiences and memories. And among the best parts of this effort: when a family is able to leave the shelter, a child can pick their favorite book from the library and take it with them. ZBT’s support keeps books on the shelves for future children and families, including a special set of books, known as the Good Guys Book Project, which are specifically chosen to depict positive male role models to children who may not have them in their lives.

ZBT’s partnership with JWI continues to evolve and grow. Starting with local chapter education and now growing through philanthropy, this partnership demonstrates the extent to which ZBT can work to end sexual assault while finding ways to support victims and survivors. As of March 1, 2020, undergraduate brothers have already raised more funds for JWI this academic year than in any of the previous years of this partnership. With April being Sexual Assault Awareness Month, be on the lookout for ways you can engage with this powerful and critical partnership.