Learning self-defense to fight off sexual assault

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Learning self-defense to fight off sexual assault

By Minju Park, Columnist

Move-in Day — the day of bustling around, dragging large duffle bags up flights of stairs and completing the transition to living away from the security of our family homes.

Parents’ eyes brim with tears as students assure them not to worry. With final warnings and pieces of advice, parents drive away and leave students alone in a potentially unsafe environment.

The startling reality is that 1-in-5 women and 1-in-16 men are sexually assaulted while in college. Given the likelihood of sexual assault, every student needs to be prepared to deal with these situations. 

While statistics and other data reveal the concerning prevalence of rape culture on college campuses, the numbers become much more real when we hear about incidents right on our own campus.

Since the beginning of the school year, there have already been three reported sexual assaults on campus. While we tend to have an “it can’t happen to me” mindset in regards to sexual assault, the proximity of these incidents indicates that the threat is closer to home than we think.

Our University and many others have tried to combat the issues of sexual assault by implementing required programs like FYCARE (First Year Campus Acquaintance Rape Education) and complete the online program Haven Plus, which helps to “raise awareness, educate and ‘apply resources and tools effectively.’”

However, research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveals that “brief, one-session educational programs” have not shown “lasting effects on risk factors or behavior.” Instead, universities may need to switch focus to “using data to better understand sexual violence and student needs…developing comprehensive prevention plans…selecting prevention strategies… and evaluating strategies.”

These more effective programs may take longer to develop and longer to implement. The idea that students on campus should be able to protect themselves has become a college prerequisite.

Self-defense classes are one way to teach students how to keep themselves safe. A study by the University of Oregon found that “12 percent of the women in the self-defense group reported some form of sexual intrusion during the follow-up period, versus 30 percent in the control group.” These results clearly illustrate how participating in a self-defense class may help women reduce the number of unwanted sexual interactions.

Additionally, self-defense classes have additional benefits besides protecting oneself from unwanted advancements. It gives an opportunity to let out stress and provides sufficient cardio and muscle training exercises.

Although some argue that encouraging women to learn self-defense is anti-feminist and victim-blaming, to me this doesn’t seem to be the case. Rather, I believe that learning how to fight for themselves can be an empowering skill for women.

Sexual violence on campus is not just a women’s issue. All college students should come prepared with skills that a self-defense class can provide in order to counteract rape culture and help keep our campuses safe.

Minju is a sophomore in Media.

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