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Monday, August 28, 2017

Challenging Rape Culture with Empowerment Self-Defense

Clara Porter Prevention Action Change
Despite the deep efforts of government, staff, faculty, and students over the last 8 to 10 years in the U.S., changing rape culture on college campuses remains particularly challenging.
·       While all can agree that “rape is bad,” sexual violence is still normalized on college campuses
·       Many still do not see the common college scenario of someone targeting the drunkest girl at a party, feeding her more alcohol, and taking her away from others and “having sex with her” as rape… Even though that is clearly what it is.
·       Compounding this is the reality of the issue of victim blaming which is still prevalent. All too often the person targeted is seen by their peers as at least partially responsible for the assault – which in turn has a dampening effect on reporting.

Empowerment Self Defense provides the most dramatic reduction in the incidence of rape and attempted rape on college campuses. ESD produced a 50% reduction in attempted and completed sexual assault (Senn 2015), meaning that a large percentage of assaults are not even attempted. 

ESD graduates have the tools to recognize the precursors to sexual violence and prevent it before it begins; training influences how people set boundaries and express what they need, want, and feel in every aspect of their lives – which has an impact on everyone around them. This shift sends ripples into their peer groups, class and dorm-mates and supports other positive work on campus.

We know that efforts to change campus culture need to be multi-pronged including: campus wide messaging and awareness campaigns, education, policy and judicial work, and empowerment self-defense.

Key elements to the success of all these approaches are:
·       Treating men as allies 
The majority of attacks are perpetrated by men but the majority of men will never perpetrate sexual assault. This means that men have an important role to play as peers and bystanders.
·       Meet allies where they are
Maybe the best we can get is that an ally finds a rape joke a little less funny or participates in a TBTN Rally
·       Building awareness of campus supports and develop a shared language
A shared language in the campus community around gender-based violence and consent will help make it more possible to talk about sexual violence on campus and reduce victim-blaming, making it easier for survivors to come forward. 

All of these have a role to play in changing campus climate and impacting campus culture around rape. Of these approaches the research shows that the approach that is most effective at dramatically and directly reducing the actual incidence of rape is ESD.

Clara Porter, MSW
NWMAF and CAE Certified Self-Defense Instructor
Member of Empowerment Self-Defense Alliance and ESD Global
Director, Prevention Action, Change
Portland Maine

Clara's presentation for an ESD Global webinar organized by IMPACT Chicago Instructor Martha Thompson: "Three Reasons for Feminists to Advocate for Empowerment Self-Defense." Clara addressed Reason #3: Challenge rape culture. Thank you to producer Yudit Sidikman. Look for an ESD-related blog the last Monday of the month.

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