For many college students, parties and college are like books and classes. They just go together. Students come to college to earn a degree, but college parties are an integral part of the recreational and social experience. Unfortunately, though, parties frequently include domination, disrespect, or use of sexual or physical violence against women. This can devastate individuals and negatively impact the entire campus community. The reality is that men are responsible for most of these damaging behaviors, and women are left to deal with party environments that become uncomfortable and dangerous. The party scene, however, does not have to be overshadowed by discomfort, fear, and violence against women. The Minnesota Men’s Action Network: Alliance to Prevent Sexual and Domestic Violence has worked with students in Duluth to create a BEST Party Model for shaping safe, respectful, and fun party environments that will help prevent sexual violence. In addition to a step by step guide to shaping party environments, the BEST Model includes a Campus Coordinated Community Response (CCCR) to sexual violence at parties. The CCCR ensures that a system for supporting victims, holding offenders accountable, and preventing violence against women at parties is embedded across all applicable parts of the campus community.
Parties are mostly populated by well-intentioned men. These are men who respect and care about women, want them at parties, and want them to have a good time. Unfortunately, though, most well-intentioned men have deferred to the socially accepted party environment where men represent a continuous threat to women’s safety, comfort, and ability to have fun. That isn’t right. And it’s time for a change. The BEST Party Model normalizes a process for campus men to join women in taking responsibility for the process of preventing violence against women at parties.
Alcohol consumption can result in a variety of harms, and institutions have a variety of approaches to alcohol consumption. Most alcohol cessation, enforcement, and education policy decisions must be made in addition to implementation of the BEST Party Model—though the BEST Party Model will have some impact on alcohol policy. The BEST Party Model works with the on the ground reality of college parties to prevent the violence that consistently threatens women’s safety at these parties. To this end, the purpose of the BEST Party model itself is not to impose curfews, put strict limits on alcohol consumption, or impose other regulations that would send students looking for another place to party. We believe that alcohol alone does not cause men to rape any more than it causes people to drive, and most college students will seek and find unrestricted places to party with alcohol. There are, however, environmental factors that directly contribute to sexual and physical violence against women at college parties. The BEST Party model outlines ways in which the party environment can be structured to prevent sexual assault from happening—even at the wildest parties. It is a public health model of primary prevention which assesses, and then transforms the environment in which harm is occurring.
The BEST Party Model outlines how to:
Assess and adapt the model as necessary.