A response to: Self-defense prevents assaults on campus

The WGAC staff had an overwhelming need to respond to the article in Thursday’s edition, Self-Defense Prevents Assaults on Campus.

Prevention means to keep something from happening. Although self-defense can be a mechanism to minimize feelings of threat and create a heightened sense of safety, it certainly does not prevent assault from occurring. We appreciate the number of students, faculty, staff, campus and community partners that are involved with the movement to end interpersonal violence of all types.

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However, reading the article has left some people feeling triggered, disheartened, invalidated, dismissed and ultimately disrespected.  This is a community of higher learning and the great thing about higher education is that it’s a space where, ideally, critical thought happens.

How easy it is to say “well if you’re getting assaulted then it’s your responsibility to do something about it.”  How about moving the conversation to saying, “hey, don’t assault someone.”

And, as a community member, how do we each have the responsibility to interrupt problematic behavior? There seems to be a disconnect in the article, because it talks mainly about stranger rape when the majority of sexual assaults occur by someone that the victim knows. Our institution prides itself on impacting not only ourselves, but our world. We are all affected when these assaults are happening within our community, which makes it everyone’s shared responsibility, not solely the victims.

Furthermore, although the term “assault” was broadly used, the article centered specifically around women needing protection. The statement “women should take self-defense because ultimately their safety boils down to them,” gives the impression victims, not perpetrators, are responsible for preventing assault. It also implies that men don’t experience rape, that everybody possesses the physical ability to participate in self-defense, ignores acquaintance rape, is victim blaming, and dismisses the greater conversation about violence prevention.

If you or someone you know needs resources or support, you can call the Victim Assistance Team 24 hours a day at 970-492-4242.

Women and Gender Advocacy Center Staff