Man Up

One Church’s Amazing Efforts to End Sexual Assaults at Arizona State University

Frightening problems face our nation’s growing universities.  With more young individuals attending colleges and universities than ever, thanks to scholastic achievements and scholarship opportunities, it’s clear there’s a bright future for the next generation when it comes to higher education.  But with new levels of growth, problems present themselves. Some are only mild challenges. Other are sinister and must be met with a battle strategy.

Sexual assault presents itself as one such issue.  “Rape” may be the first word that comes to mind when approaching the subject, but sexual assault wears many faces.  Attempted, unwanted touching or contact, crass and hurtful statements—these are just some of the ways sexual violence may occur against an individual.  The statistics are startling: 1 in 4 women, and 1 in 20 men, will experience attempted or completed sexual assault while attending college.

The psychological and physical ramifications of such assault against individuals cannot be understated, and it affects a student’s entire collegiate career.  After sexual assault, a person is challenged to create sustainable relationships with others around them.  As a result, victims have a poor college experience or drop out entirely.  It’s no longer just a moral issue; it’s an epidemic, and it’s become a retention issue for universities nationwide.  If we are to provide the next generation with the resources to be the next leaders of the world, universities realize that they must also provide them a safe environment to learn and mature in.  Universities have always known the problem exists, but solving it is a different issue entirely.

Despite the complexity of the issue, schools like Arizona State University have already begun to take a stand.  ASU has started to gather an army of men to back their new “Respect Initiative.”  Birthed out of conversations between ASU officials, community leaders, and several student leaders interested in serving their campus, the “Respect Initiative” is designed to target the challenge at its root: the values of men on campus.

Community leader and Pastor of Hope Christian Church (www.hope4asu.org) Brian Smith has already begun to inspire the members of his congregation and other young people at ASU to step up to the challenge.  As a result, a new student organization called Man-Up has formed on ASU’s campus.  What is Man-Up’s purpose?  To be the feet of the “Respect Initiative.”  To gather men and show them how to uphold respect.  To change the culture of their campus, ultimately for men to make respect of women, and themselves, a core value of their college career.

By partnering with ASU officials, the group plans on holding training sessions for students interested in the cause.  Men will learn such things as “Bystander Intervention,” teaching them how to evaluate potentially dangerous activity on campus and act accordingly in response.  On top of this, members of the Man-Up organization hold a creed closely: to honor, serve, and respect women, and not use them or objectify them for their own gain.

Although the organization is in the grassroots phase, already the group stands 200 members strong.  At an event over Labor Day weekend called Sun Devil Survivor, a weekend getaway for close to 300 students, Pastor Brian Smith shared about the “Respect Initiative” and received a standing ovation for it.

Most recently, Man-Up partnered with another student organization on campus called Sun Devils Wear Prada, also a ministry of Hope.  Man-Up members helped serve at the group’s annual fashion show, which they host for female students to teach them how to dress respectfully with style.  When the keynote speaker, fashion expert and author Shari Braendel introduced the group and their cause, the 300 plus female students in attendance gave an emphatic cheer in response.

“Sexual harassment and assault is the #1 problem for university presidents nationwide,” says an ASU Official helping develop the initiative, “and when they hear about the emerging group of men at ASU, they’re going to want that group at their campus.”

It’s obvious there is already a groundswell of excitement with this initiative.  There’s a hunger for change among the students on the ASU campus; students are no longer satisfied with letting the problem of sexual assault go unchecked.  With ASU recently being declared as the U.S.’s largest university with over 73,000 students enrolled, a few hundred men may not seem like much.  But the leaders of Man-Up are not daunted by such overwhelming odds.  Action trumps everything, and the leaders and members of Man-Up are already moving to complete their mission of making the “Respect Initiative” ingrained into the culture of ASU.

You can be a part of this change.  While Man-Up is partnering with Hope Christian Church and ASU Officials, prayers and financial support are needed in order to see real change happen quickly.  If you would like more information or you would like to get involved with the organization, you can visit Man-Up’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/manupasu.

Please, join us in this cause.  Sexual assault ruins lives, but if together we’re willing to assault the status quo, we can change the culture, not only at ASU, but in universities across the nation!

Hope Christian Church on the Campus of Arizona State University ministers to over 500 students in two weekend services. Thanks to Ricky Ruedaflores on Pastor Brian Smith’s team at www.hope4asu.org for writing this article for Nothing But Grace. Brian is a dear friend, and I am honored to be on his Board of Council.

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