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Troy L. Wheeler

Troy L. Wheeler

 

 

Strategy: Providing Self-Protection Courses for Women

Strategy This strategy encourages women to expand self-awareness with verbal, nonverbal, and physical self-defense techniques. Community Problem Addressed One . . .

Strategy

This strategy encourages women to expand self-awareness with verbal, nonverbal, and physical self-defense techniques.

Community Problem Addressed

One out of every four college women is sexually assaulted during their four years at college, according to a Ms. magazine article (April 1997). According to a Bureau of Justice Assistance, U.S. Department of Justice study in 1992, between 1927 and 1987, over 2.3 million women reported sexual assaults in the United States. Seventy-one percent of these women avoided being raped by taking self-protective measures. This strategy teaches personal safety strategies and gives women the confidence to report assaults.

Key Components

Women can be offered personal safety courses at universities, either as a voluntary class or for credit; community centers; adult education classes; or recreation programs. The instructors are often police officers and would include at least one female officer. University police officers or local law enforcement officers must first be trained by professional self-defense and personal safety personnel and become certified instructors. They then combine physical resistance techniques with classwork geared at teaching risk reduction and crime prevention tactics. The course should educate women about risk reduction techniques, instill self-dependency through empowerment; help women understand the responsibility of making smart and safe decisions and the proper use of self-defense; and increase the women's knowledge of their own physical power.

Key Partnerships

University departments, such as the student health center, which can provide a sexual assault crisis counselor, and the athletic department, which can provide training facilities for the course, should be contacted as possible partners. University printing departments can provide the printed materials to support the courses. These programs can be funded through the university police department budget and can be sponsored by the academic department that offers students credits to participate.

Other community organizations, the local media, nonprofit service agencies, and campus groups dealing with women's issues should be partnered with to gain exposure and to promote the relevance of these courses for women's safety. Partnership with victim advocacy services from the court system and local hospitals where victims are taken could help students realize all the mechanisms of support available to them should an assault occur. Most importantly, instructors should be compassionate to the students and try to understand the emotional impact physical and sexual assault has on survivors.

Potential Obstacles

Because of the intensive physical interaction in these personal safety courses, instructors may be held liable for any injuries and students must be made to sign a release before beginning the class.

Examples of Success and Results

The Rape Aggression Defense (RAD) program was implemented at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine [4,000 students], in 1990 following local officials' exposure to the national RAD program. Security personnel at the college had learned from testimonies of student workers that sexual assaults on campus are substantially underreported, often because the victim is afraid of the assailant. After certifying three officers in the RAD techniques, which promote awareness, prevention, and risk reduction and avoidance, Bates marketed the class to students in course bulletins and at the university's main dining facility. Three years after it began, there was a waiting list of students wanting to participate in the course taught each semester. The first year following the beginning of the classes there was a rise in the number of reported on-campus sexual assaults, showing that women are more empowered and felt more confident in reporting sexual assault. Now, women are better able to keep themselves out of dangerous situations and defend themselves.

The program has extended outside of the university setting in this Maine town of 40,000. Once a year, the program is taught to members of the community at adult education courses held at the local high school. Testimonies from women, both town residents and students, have shown that the women feel more aware of their surroundings, more conscious of decisions that affect their safety, and more self-confident of their chances of defending themselves in the case of an attack.

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