Opinion: Self-defense classes do not alleviate all the fear on campus

ASU offers self-defense classes for students, but that does not make campus safer

Use the buddy system. Never walk alone at night. Make sure your location services are on. These were all the warnings my mom gave me before I left for college. 

Even though I carry a taser with me, the idea of making the journey across campus alone at night still sends shivers up my spine due to the stories of students being attacked on college campuses, either behind the science building or during their usual walk back to the dorm. 

In November 2018, two female students at UA were assaulted within days of each other near campus, reports state. Earlier this month, a female student at Santa Fe College's Northwest campus reported that she was forced into a car at knifepoint and sexually assaulted on campus

While ASU does offer self-defense classes geared toward women, taking these classes is not enough to diminish the fear that surrounds women on college campuses. The University should not only prepare students for these dangerous situations, but create a safer campus environment that prevents these situations from happening. 

ASU PD offers a self-defense class called Rape Aggression and Defense Systems which, “is a comprehensive course for women that begin with awareness, prevention, risk reduction, and avoidance that progress to the basics of hands-on defensive training," according to its website. 

The R.A.D. Basic program, which is geared toward women, focuses on teaching women to use hands-on defense tactics with their elbows, feet, fists and knees. The R.A.D. for Men course focuses on decision-making when faced with aggression, avoiding altercations and hands-on self-defense skills.

Women can be seen as vulnerable when they are walking alone, either during the day or late at night. College women are often unaware of their surroundings as they reply to text messages and have headphones in their ears.

Elizabeth McNeil, an instructor for the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts who also has expertise in women's and gender studies, said that self-defense can help teach students the basic skills they need to protect themselves. 

“I do think the buddy system is definitely helpful but I understand that underlying thing that girls talk about — that why should anybody not just be able to walk somewhere and not be afraid,” McNeil said.

According to an article from Get Inclusive, “Stalkers will victimize approximately 5.2 million women with domestic violence-related stalking being the most common.”

While taking a self-defense class can often teach women confidence and the skills needed to deter an attacker, it is not enough to get rid of the fear in the back of a woman’s mind when someone has been following her for one block too many. Being aware of surroundings is key to preventing attacks on college campuses. 

For women, the fear of being attacked often does not have to do with being mugged or physically assaulted. While this is a real issue for all college students, women's thoughts often lead to the worst-case scenario.

According to statistics from the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, “One in five women and one in 71 men will be raped at some point in their lives.” 

This reality for women is not something that can be prevented, most times, by a simple self-defense course. There will always be a feeling of fear even when walking down a street or home from class. ASU should help foster this feeling of security on campus. 

It is, however, helpful to gain defense skills that were not taught to us growing up other than the S.I.N.G method in “Miss Congeniality.”

Reach the columnist at psaso@asu.edu and follow @paytonsaso on Twitter.

Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the authors’ and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.

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