In light of growing efforts to end sexual violence, colleges and universities across the nation are struggling to combat the unsettling reality of sexual assault on college campuses. Unfortunately, researchers have yet to find a substantially effective method of reducing campus rape—that is, until now.
Dr. Charlene Senn of the University of Windsor, alongside her team of researchers, has just proven the promising success of a new sexual assault prevention program. Published in The New England Journal of Medicine, this new study has made groundbreaking leeway into discovering what it takes to keep women safe on college campuses.
According to the study, Dr. Senn and her colleagues created the "Enhanced Assess, Acknowledge, Act Sexual Assault Resistance" program with the goal of providing young women with the emotional, risk assessment and self-defense skills necessary to prevent potential sexual assault. More specifically, Senn's program focuses on the fact that most college sexual assault victims are raped by an acquaintance, and so in order to be protected, women need to recognize when an interaction with an acquaintance poses a potential risk. Therefore, the sample of young woman piloting the program were taught how to assess different situations for clues of possible danger, as well as how to successfully defend themselves against perpetrators that they knew and would therefore normally feel uncomfortable confronting or accusing of inappropriate behavior.
According to nymag.com, Senn addressed another prevalent issue in her program that currently stands in the way of safe decision making—the socialization of women. According to Senn, women are consistently taught to be polite, accommodating and submissive. When these sexist ideologies are adopted, young women are likely to believe they're being silly for thinking an acquaintance is dangerous or wrong for standing up for themselves. These ideas cause women to second-guess their instincts, thus halting quick-decision making and causing an escape from a risky situation to become even harder. Senn's study worked to reverse these antiquated ideals and teach women to trust themselves and their gut reactions—all while fostering a sex-positive and encouraging environment. The results? Impressive.
Participants in the experimental group (those who underwent the new program) were 5.9% less likely to experience an attempted rape and 4.6% less likely to be raped than participants in the control group (as evidenced by survey results from up to a year after the study was conducted). Compared to similar studies, this one takes the cake for being adequately conclusive and for developing a program that is proven to benefit its participants.
But isn't it inherently sexist to force women to be trained to avoid sexual assault, rather than creating programs that target the perpetrators (who are mostly men)? Unfortunately, with no real proof of any existing program proven to stop someone from becoming a rapist, Senn realizes the necessity of focusing on defense until a better option becomes available. According to nymag.com, Senn recognizes the need of multiple programs if we truly want to end sexual assault, but such a feat will require time and resources. In the meantime, women deserve all the help they can get, and Senn's program is there to give it to them.
Overall, we're thoroughly impressed and inspired by Senn's commitment to protecting college women. Her study is particularly groundbreaking in that it combats sexist ideals and caters to realistic situations that other programs fail to address, allowing women to recognize red flags that they might have otherwise ignored.
Unfortunately, the study wasn't specifically designed to also help men (who are often unjustly overlooked as rape victims), and so hopefully Senn's success will spark additional work. With advances such as these, researchers may soon be able to provide colleges and universities with adequate tools to drastically reduce the sexual violence that threatens the safety of their students.