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Dr. Matt Gregory on Engaging Men to Prevent Sexual Assault and Misconduct

National Consultant & Speaker Dr. Matt Gregory Shares His Perspective

Dedicated professionals and experts have found no simple solutions to the issue of sexual violence on college campuses. Despite awareness being at an all-time high, sexual assault and abusive relationships remain challenges that call for greater proactive prevention.

Programming and messaging that can connect with men is needed now more than ever.

We are proud to have Dr. Matt Gregory on our team as a national consultant and speaker for primary prevention programs and our comprehensive system of training.

Matt has focused on sexual assault prevention for over a decade and has a uniquely broad base of expertise.

Most importantly perhaps is his ability to connect with young men in meaningful conversations on this challenging topic. We talked with Matt about his unique background and his focus as a speaker and consultant.

01

You have been focusing on preventing sexual assault for over a decade. Your 2009 dissertation focused on men being involved in preventing sexual assault. What do you think of the developments over the last decade?

Yes, for quite a while now I have been focusing on this issue and wanting to do more to make a real difference. Like a lot of people, this issue is personal to me. I know and love many who identify as survivors. I have seen the harm caused by sexual assault from my early years as a law enforcement officer and every year as an administrator in Higher Ed. I am a dad of three daughters and one son. I have also been the recipient of coercive sexual advances. A lot has changed in a decade, but effective prevention is something a lot of institutions are still struggling with. Even a perfectly executed response is still very difficult for everyone involved and does not erase the harm that was caused. That’s why I am excited about being involved in the work of helping institutions optimize their primary prevention, so we can prevent this life-altering harm from occurring in the first place.

02

Beyond your extensive knowledge on the psychological and legal aspects of these issues, you also draw from real-world experiences. How do you think that helps you connect with your audience?

I have been in the locker room. I was an athlete in college. I am a fraternity man, so I have been at more than a few fraternity parties. As I mentioned, I was a law enforcement officer too. Like other Culture Strength trainers and consultants, I have been immersed in the culture of those we most need to reach, which is also the population most people say are difficult to connect with. There is great potential to develop as a person through athletics and in the fraternal community, and many young men are already extremely mature. But we must do a better job at proactively equipping young men to navigate their social lives and relationships in ethical and healthy ways.

03

Your way of communicating on these issues is somewhat unique. You use personal stories and even humor to connect with your audience. How would you describe your philosophy for speaking and training on these serious issues?

In addition to communicating in a certain way, such as storytelling, I believe it's important to have the right heart and mentality going into communicating with young men in particular. I view the young men in the audience as my brothers, even if I’m not affiliated with them in any formal way. I try to think about what I would say or how I would talk to my own brother if I were concerned for him and I wanted desperately to guide him away from potential harm, or from causing harm to another. I believe it’s important to have the right heart and mentality going into communicating with young men. I have found that storytelling is the best way to convey a message so that each person is able to reflect on their own lives. While working on my dissertation, I was influenced by Carolyn Ellis’s work on ethnography. I learned the power of personal story to convey understanding that is paralleled only by actually living the experience. And I have experienced that to be true. We can be impacted ourselves by hearing the right story from someone else, and we can we can truly engage and impact others if we are careful about how we engage them. In addition to storytelling, I align with Culture Strength’s method of guided discussions to shift attitudes and elevate the group’s level of thinking.

04

Most people probably don’t know your unique background. You’re a senior-level Higher Ed administrator, but you were also a police officer, have a master’s focus in counseling, experience as a Title IX officer, a restorative justice facilitator, and experience in conflict resolution training and mediation training. How does this diverse background help you now?

Right, it sounds like I have no clue what I want to be when I grow up. In hindsight, I could not have planned a better education and career progression to prepare me for the work I now do. Not only my work as a Dean of Students but my work as a speaker and trainer. I would say I draw heavily from a combination of my counseling classes and my law enforcement training. Tone, word choice, and how we frame difficult conversations matter and can help or hurt the dialogue with a given student.

05

How does your experience as a student-athlete and fraternity man motivate you to help young men and women?

I very much enjoy speaking with athletes and fraternity men. These populations are important to me because I was/am a member of these populations. I am motivated to work with athletes and fraternity men because these populations experience challenges on a regular basis. They need tailored education and training so they can navigate their complex world in positive ways.

06

You had expressed interest in being part of our work at Culture Strength, and we certainly value what you bring to students and institutions. What draws you to Culture Strength’s approach to helping institutions prevent harm and develop their students for positive lives?

I think being a campus speaker alone is not enough. Storytelling that motivates reflexive thinking and maybe even behavioral change is one level, but the change we need to see requires a more comprehensive approach. I saw that Culture Strength utilizes a science-based curriculum that is a next-level approach. And I saw that Aaron Boe is serious about doing what works. Culture Strength recognizes the diversity and uniqueness of each individual and works to connect with each person at the individual level, while also considering the broader view of the environment and the complexity of real-world scenarios. I have read and followed Aaron Boe’s work for several years, I feel the approach of Aaron and Culture Strength are aligned with my own philosophy as a trainer and educator.

07

What do you think is the hope for a positive future, and what do you think campuses and organizations can put in place that will better prevent harm and equip people for positive lives?

When I do my talk with fraternity men about redefining what it means to be a fraternity man in this day and age, I talk about family. I talk about intentionally building a chapter culture that resembles a family of true brothers. If we build such a culture, I will not want to harm my brother or for him to harm anyone else. If I don’t like my real brother or do not think he is cool enough, he is still my brother and always will be. To achieve such a family culture in an organization, the approach to change must be more comprehensive. No administrator, coach, or speaker can dictate behavior by saying what students are supposed to do or not do. That’s been tried forever and it’s just not enough. That is why the creative approach of Culture Strength is so needed. To get to real change, we have to get beyond raising awareness and must insert principles they will adopt and integrate into their culture. With Culture Strength’s Social Strengths curriculum and their Complete Strength System for student-athletes, we are able to connect with the populations where most people struggle, and in ways that help to not only prevent harm but also equip students for positive lives.

Dr. Matt Gregory is part of our team of Culture Strength consultants who, in addition to speaking programs and keynotes, help campuses optimize their primary prevention with a system of science-based training and messaging.

With award-winning Bystander Intervention Training and award-winning workshops proven to connect, campuses are able to dramatically improve their ability to engage men and women to prevent sexual assault and misconduct.

Our comprehensive “System” approach includes multiple workshops, leave behind expert tools, and capacity building options that equip campus professionals to deliver our workshops.

Inquire about availability and about how Dr. Matt Gregory can help your institution or fraternal organization at info@culturestrength.com.