UTPD Offers Self-Defense Classes to Prevent Sexual Assault

October 14, 2015

To help women defend themselves from attack, UTPD will be hosting Rape Aggression Defense classes again this fall. The 12-hour RAD class teaches students self-defense and prevention techniques against assault.

These classes coincide with the recent awareness of campus safety as more people are paying attention to the issue of sexual assault on college campuses. Three weeks ago, the Association of American Universities released the results of a survey about sexual assault given to 27 schools across the country. About one in five female undergraduates who participated in the survey reported having been sexually assaulted while attending college, according to the survey results. The results of the survey are important to understanding how these incidents are reported and to give continuing support to survivors of assault, according to UTPD Lt. Laura Davis.

“It is also important as a community to continue to educate the public to identify behaviors that are consistent with sexual assaults and address them before a crime is committed,” Davis said.

Davis said UT’s crime statistics are relatively low among similar schools, including for sexual assault. According to data from the U.S. Department of Education, from 2010 to 2012 UT Austin had 0.10 “alleged forcible sex offenses” reported per 1,000 enrolled students, while the majority of other public universities range from 0.20 to 0.75.

However, the report also says that a campus with a low reporting rate may not be safer, because some campuses encourage sexual assault survivors to come forward more than others. In addition, the numbers of reported incidents may not accurately reflect how often they occur because sexual assaults often go unreported for a variety of reasons.

According to the survey, 28 percent or less of the most serious cases of sexual assault are even reported. In addition, over 50 percent of survey respondents who experienced these serious cases did not report because they “do not consider it serious enough”; others said that they were too embarrassed or ashamed to report, or that they did not think the university would do anything about the incident.

One solution, endorsed by organizations such as Voices Against Violence, to prevent these incidents is self-defense classes such as RAD classes. According to the UTPD website, RAD is a self-defense program that focuses on “awareness, prevention, risk reduction and avoidance” in addition to defense techniques intended to resist an attack.

“To aid in the prevention of an attack, the program provides instruction on basic awareness skills and crime prevention,” UTPD Officer William Pieper said. “With regard to stopping an attack, the RAD program provides basic self-defense strategies that can be used if one is attacked.”

According to Pieper, the skills can be used in a variety of situations where a sexual assault may occur.

“An interesting thing about the RAD program is that it doesn’t focus on specific situations,” Pieper said. “In the last session, they do various scenarios to let the students practice their skills, but the defensive tactics can be used in just about any threatening situation.”

RAD was first brought to UT by Voices Against Violence. Health Education Coordinator Erin Burrows said that Voices Against Violence does not currently operate the program, but they refer students to RAD and promote it as a “risk-reduction strategy.”

RAD has been at UT since the spring of 2001, paid for by a grant from the Office of Violence Against Women in the U.S. Department of Justice.

According to Pieper, UTPD has already heard positive feedback about skills from RAD that helped stop dangerous incidents.

“One story that stands out in my mind was a staff member who was faced with someone in a bar who was not taking ‘no’ for an answer,” he said. “As he became more aggressive, her assertiveness stepped up and a simple tactic stopped his advances.”

This article was written for J311F: Reporting Words during the fall of 2015.

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