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Pitt alums teach students signs of abusive dating

Students work on a group activity at the ZBT and SDT Safe Smart Dating event.  Nikki Moriello | Senior Staff Photographer

Students work on a group activity at the ZBT and SDT Safe Smart Dating event. Nikki Moriello | Senior Staff Photographer

Students work on a group activity at the ZBT and SDT Safe Smart Dating event. Nikki Moriello | Senior Staff Photographer

By Andrew O'Brien

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When lecturers Jason Horowitz and Carley Kramer Trivette asked an audience of Pitt students if they’d ever been abused in a relationship, 63 percent replied yes.

This percentage, the lecturers said, is why we must discuss safe dating — respectful, healthy relationships where both partners ask for consent before having sex — right now.

Pitt’s Sigma Delta Tau and Zeta Beta Tau chapters partnered with the Interfraternity Council to educate students on healthy dating habits at the Safe Smart Dating lecture 6:30 p.m. Sunday in the O’Hara Student Center Dining Room. Pitt alumni Jason Horowitz and Carley Kramer Trivette, employees of the national chapters of Zeta Beta Tau and Sigma Delta Tau, respectively, lectured on dating abuse for the final event of IFC’s Healthy Masculinities Week, a six-event series centered on perpetuating healthy ideas about manhood.

Horowitz and Kramer Trivette addressed about 100 students — mostly Sigma Delta Tau and Zeta Beta Tau members — using pictures and statistics to help demonstrate that abuse isn’t always physical or easy to spot.

Audience members chimed in using a text message survey to answer questions, such as, “Have you ever experienced a type of relationship abuse?” and “Has you or someone you know experienced, attempted or completed sexual assault?”

When Horowitz asked the audience to answer the question, “What does a healthy relationship look like?” through this text message survey, responses such as “respect,” “compromise,” “love,” “communication,” “comfortable” and “happy” appeared on screen seconds later.

Kramer Trivette, chapter services coordinator for Sigma Tau Delta, thanked the audience for responding with such positive — and accurate — words to describe healthy relationships.

Horowitz said it is critical that students be able to recognize and understand the dynamics of dating abuse — but that, first, they need to be able to recognize the signs of a healthy relationship, such as good communication and mutual compromises.

“Abuse can happen to anyone, and in any relationship. It does not discriminate,” Horowitz, Zeta Beta Tau’s national director of Jewish programs and strategic partnership, said. “It happens to people who are straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender — all races, religions, education levels and genders.”

Kramer Trivette said power dynamics and instilled fear are both important distinctions that separate a healthy relationship from a potentially abusive one.

“Both partners need to feel that they can communicate without fear,” Kramer Trivette said. “Both partners must feel physically and emotionally safe in the relationship.”

With a Sigma Delta Tau or Zeta Beta Tau member leading each discussion, Horowitz and Kramer Trivette asked the audience to turn to the people they were sitting with to analyze real-life examples of abuse and sexual assault in relationships, including the story of Yeardley Love, whose boyfriend murdered her in 2010 after years of escalating abuse.

Pitt junior nursing major Sarah Derman, a Sigma Delta Tau sister and discussion leader at the lecture, said dialogue about dating abuse and sexual assault needs to open up as these issues are too often overlooked.

“A lot of people just try to stay away from the issue,” Derman said. “After having this conversation, I hope they’ll be more willing to do what it takes to make a difference.”

Richard Szabo, a sophomore accounting and finance major and Zeta Beta Tau member, said gender stereotypes often prevent victims from reporting their sexual assaults.

“People get the impression that if [a man reports] sexual assault, he’s weak,” Szabo said. “That’s a horrible stigma, and we need to fight it.”

Szabo said starting conversations about what healthy dating really is will show men that sexual assault — even within relationships — is never a victim’s fault, no matter what their gender.

Kramer Trivette said the dating abuse poll the audience filled out during the lecture illuminated how much relationship abuse affects the community, even if it isn’t always visible.

“These aren’t just stats,” Kramer Trivette said. “This is happening to the people on this campus and in this room.”

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Pitt alums teach students signs of abusive dating