Women’s Rape Prevention Program Halves Rate While We Wait On Men’s Programs, Cultural Shifts

Women can reduce their risks of being raped by following instructions presented in a sexual assault resistance education program, researchers say. Rape prevention classes have been studied in the past with limited and inconsistent results, but Dr. Charlene Senn, a psychology and women’s studies professor from the University of Windsor in Canada, utilized her decades-worth of research to create a program she says can actually reduce women’s chances of being raped. Many are not happy about the study design. Many women are asking why we should spend our resources asking the potential victims to prevent their own rape. It’s backwards they say.

While Dr. Senn seemingly agrees, she states that because the effects of sexual abuse and assault on women are so devastating, women can not afford to wait on men or our culture to change.

“Being sexually assaulted can result in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, alcohol use and decreased safer-sex practices, among other negative health outcomes. In addition to the specific health consequences for the woman, the social and financial costs to society are also high.”

Dr. Senn’s program involves more than teaching women to walk with keys between their fingers for self defense or avoid parking structures at night, but those are certainly mentioned. Most rapes are not stranger rape though, so the program focuses more heavily on acquaintance and date rape. Of course, programs like this have been presented before. They generally warn women to be on the look out for date rape drugs, to go to and leave parties with a buddy or group, to avoid drinking from pitchers, and to never leave a drink unattended. Dr. Senn’s program also teaches these things, as most women would expect. However, Dr. Senn’s program is much more elaborate than previous programs.

She calls it the Enhanced Assess Acknowledge Sexual Assault Resistance Program (EAAA) and when she tested it with the help of fellows from the University of Guelph, the University of Calgary, and Tufts University School of Medicine, she says it was capable of halving the incidences of sexual assault. In the supplemental appendix attached to the study which was published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the interventions taught in the program are extensively detailed. It reads more like a women’s empowerment class than a rape prevention class. Repeated throughout the program is the concept that rape is about power and control, and women can be taught to maintain their own. The text of the documents for the class indicate that many times, women don’t realize the early signs that a man is trying to control them, and far too many women allow themselves to feel uncomfortable for the sake of being polite. The program does not place blame on these characteristics, but does try to inform women what to look out for.

Students were explicitly coached on how to overcome emotional barriers that prevent them from defending their own boundaries. The women were even taught how to evaluate their own sexual desires and values and recognize that they have value. The EAAA program is “the first in North America to demonstrate positive outcomes for longer than a few months, and the study is the first to show how resistance training may not only reduce a woman’s risk of rape, but may reduce their risk of other nonconsensual sexual abuse,” according to a report in Medical News Today.

University of Arizona psychologist Mary Koss called the results of the program startling and implied that women don’t need to wait for men or society to change.

“Universities should move right away to figure out how they can implement a program like this. We don’t have to look at women as being so helpless and vulnerable. There are tools to empower women that can dramatically cut their risk of rape.”

Blogger Dana Bolger from the website Feministing still thinks it’s wasting energy that could be better spent getting to the root of the problem. She says that while its helping individuals, it’s doing nothing to curb actual rape statistics in the whole population, only in those enrolled in the program. She quotes something a friend once told her.

“If you’re pushing a woman to change her behavior to ‘prevent’ rape, rather than telling a perpetrator to change his, you’re really saying ‘make sure he rapes the other girl.'”

Kathleen Basile of the U.S. CDC said that a program like this must be implemented, and it must be started at a younger age. She said that the same type of social instruction should be targeted towards men as well, according to the Associated Press.

The Inquisitr wants to know what you think. Please tell us in the comments area below. If part of the dynamics behind acquaintance rape is that women don’t realize just how much their own desires matter, and if a class can teach young women to re-examine their rights to their own bodies and feelings, couldn’t a similar education plan teach this same concept to the aggressors? Let us know what you think. If this type of rape prevention education works better to hinder rape, could a similar program (explaining to men what entitlements they actually don’t have) also reduce sexual assault rates?

[Photo via University of Windsor]