Risk reduction is the focus of risk reduction on potential victims. Meaning that most risk reduction strategies are targeted towards potential victims or bystanders who learn strategies to use in-the-moment, should an attack or attempted sexual assault happen. Some examples of risk reduction programs include blue safety lights on campus, self-defense classes, bystander intervention techniques, the buddy system, rape whistles, etc.
While some individual people feel safer knowing that risk reduction strategies exist, it can be problematic if a campus only uses risk reduction in its efforts to curb sexual assault and rape. Perhaps the biggest flaw of risk reduction strategies lies in the fact that most strategies are designed for victims to use during a stranger assault. We know that statistically 97% of victims are sexually assaulted by someone they know and trust. Most of these assaults happen within a context where things like mace or pepper spray would not be useful. Most perpetrators of acquaintance rape use manipulation, coercion, and pressure during the assault. And let’s be real, how many of us hold a can of mace in our hands while we are making out with someone “just in case” things start to go farther than we want them to go? It’s just not realistic. Also, risk reduction strategies have the potential to increase victim guilt and self-blame. If a survivor or bystander is trained in self-defense but does not use the techniques (or uses those techniques unsuccessfully) during a sexual assault, it can leave the victim feeling like they should have done more.
WGAC wants to validate and honor that some people feel more empowered to navigate their daily lives after having completed self-defense training. This may be the case for some students at CSU. While we don’t currently offer self-defense classes through the office, we are looking for ways to incorporate similar efforts in a way that feels affirming, safe, and feminist.
SELF-DEFENSE ON A FEMINIST SITE??!!
What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of self-defense? Let us guess… a beefy dude in a padded suit teaching women how (and where) to kick an assailant “where it counts”? If that’s what came to mind you might be asking yourself, “what the HECK is self-defense doing on this ‘feminist’ center’s website?!” Give us a moment to explain.
WGAC’s educational programs and victim services are firmly rooted in the philosophy that the only person responsible for preventing a sexual assault is the person who is going to commit it. Therefore, a victim is never at fault for their assault, no matter what they do. Period. End of story.
Having said that, we also recognize that for some people, personal empowerment and self-advocacy involves learning any number of personal protection strategies. For some folks, simple tasks like walking across campus at night, declining a date, speaking up for a promotion at work, speaking in class, etc. feel daunting and at times, impossible.
For this reason, some people (primarily women and queer men) often report feeling more empowered to navigate their daily lives after having completed a personal protection training. WGAC wants to validate and honor that this may be the case for some students at CSU. We are in the process of developing a new curriculum and are committed to addressing the issue of personal protection in a way that feels affirming, victim-centered, safe, and feminist. If you are interested in this topic, check out one of our workshops on campus.
You may have noticed that we tend to use the terms “feminist self-defense” or “personal protection and empowerment”. We do this intentionally because it helps differentiate our philosophy from traditional self-defense courses that primarily focus on physical defense strategies to be used in an instance of stranger assault. While we certainly understand that stranger assault is a real danger for many students, we believe that traditional self-defense curriculums can feel victim-blaming and too often miss the opportunity to broaden conversations about personal safety. The beauty of personal protection and empowerment (or feminist self-defense) is that the movement includes strategies to address a wide range of issues related to overall empowerment and self-advocacy in multiple facets of our lives.
Here are a few examples of the things that can fall under the umbrella of personal protection/empowerment/feminist self defense:
- Self-empowerment tactics—these include knowing your own personal boundaries, feeling good about your body, having self confidence in expressing your desires and needs
- “In the moment” anti-violence tactics—these include things like strategies for escaping from a hold, throwing punches & kicks, how and what to scream, etc.
- Safety Planning tactics—these include things like the buddy system, safewalk, ramride, carrying mace, or any other plan that is made ahead of time.
- Community response tactics—these include things like community watch groups, “bad date” books, the Hollaback movement, etc.
- Bystander intervention tactics—these strategies include teaching people to recognize red flags in potentially non-consensual interactions and offers tips for feeling empowered to intervene in sexist/racist/homophobic/etc. situations
The REFRAME campaign is intended to help all of us reframe the conversation about interpersonal violence in a way that teaches consent, skills for intervening and how to respond to problematic language, and behaviors.
Consent Turns Me On
A campus-wide campaign aimed at reducing the rates of sexual assault by promoting healthy sexual relationships! CTMO events provide students with the opportunity to share the ways they ask for consent in the moment. We firmly believe that asking for consent is not only the right thing to do, but it can also be a total turn on. So tell us…. How do you ask for consent?