Four Ways to Lessen Campus Rapes

Building empathy and learning self-defense can reduce campus sexual assaults
April 15, 2015 Updated: April 15, 2015

Campus rapes and sexual assaults can be reduced. It will take multiple approaches. One key is for victims to feel willing to report the crime. Another is to handle reports fairly. Another is to build respect and empathy. Another is to learn to protect oneself and to intervene to protect others.

The worst effect of Rolling Stone’s “A Rape on Campus” story about an alleged campus rape at the University of Virginia, is that its feeds the myth that women often lie about sexual assault, but they do not, according to Dr. Laura Salazar, associate professor of Health Promotion and Behavior at Georgia State University.

“No, we do the opposite,” she said, with emphasis. “Women who are assaulted under-report.” Rolling Stone’s story, in which the reporter failed to verify basic facts, and editors failed to require clear attribution and transparency, “adds fuel to the fire … the idea that women lie” about rape. This makes victims even more reluctant to ask for help or for justice, according to the scholar.

Salazar developed a Web-based training program “proven to reduce the likelihood that college-age men will be involved in sexual assaults, and to raise the odds that they will intervene to stop a potential assault,” according to a university statement. Taking a detailed community survey before and after the program is how its effectiveness is measured.

Salazar’s program aims at the hearts and minds. It builds respect for women, and empathy for victims of sexual assault. It teaches people how to intervene if they see someone in danger.

In the male version, “we want to show true personal narratives, show what it does to victims, parents, brothers,” she said.

Some sexual assaults happen on campuses, according to Salazar, because young people are concentrated there, because of drinking, and because some young men do not understand consent. Sexual predators also target people at colleges, as they target people in other environments.

We want to show true personal narratives, show what it does to victims, parents, brothers.
— Dr. Laura Salazar

Some men have an idea that a woman says no to sexual activity only because she is protecting her reputation—saying “yes” would mean she was a slut, according to Salazar. Teaching men to take a “no” at face value, to take women’s words seriously, is protective.

She is developing a program for women, too. The female version includes self-defense. Both programs teach people how to intervene as bystanders, and how to create a safer campus environment.

Safer, but not perfectly safe. Rape can be reduced but not eradicated, according to Salazar. “It’s critical to understand that there is only so much you can do to avoid rape,” said Salazar. “Some feminists believe they haven’t been victimized because they did everything right.” But that idea increases the trauma of rape survivors. It is also untrue.

Because of Title IX, the federal law that mandates equal educational opportunities for both sexes, Salazar cannot sell a male-only version of her rape prevention program to most colleges. But Greek organizations, men’s colleges, and athletic organizations use it, she said.

 Educational interventions are aimed at people of good will.

 For people of ill will, something else is required.

 “The biggest impact I can make is to empower individuals to protect themselves,” said Jarrett Arthur.

 There are some simple basic moves “such as an eye strike, striking to the nose” that can buy a person time to get away. “It’s absolutely 100 percent within your right, legally and humanly, to do what you need to do,” said Arthur.

She teaches Krav Maga, the hand-to-hand combat technique developed by the Israeli Defense Forces. Because Israel has universal military service, Krav Maga was designed to work for everyone, athlete or non-athlete, big or small, according to Arthur. She founded M.A.M.A., Mothers Against Malicious Acts.

Self-defense should be part of freshman orientation, said Arthur.

Like Salazar, Arthur wants students to limit drinking, use a buddy system, and learn how to intervene to protect others. “As people on this planet, you should be what we call an upstander, as opposed to a bystander,” she said.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.