Letter to the Editor: Rape defense program only helps select few

Last Tuesday, women on campus received an email from WKU Student Wellness publicizing a “FREE Rape Aggression Defense (RAD) Program” open to 20 female WKU students over the age of 18 and of any ability. The program is sponsored by WKU Police Department and WellU. While some students on campus believe that this RAD program is a great opportunity to better protect themselves from sexual violence, others are disappointed in its execution and lack of comprehensive education about sexual violence. 

There are several problems with this program as a way to combat sexual violence on campus and in the surrounding community that should be pointed out. First, we believe that a class limited to 20 people is extremely restrictive and only allows a very small portion of WKU’s students to participate. Second, as far as we know, the email was sent out only to students registered as “female” at WKU and this excludes another portion of WKU’s student body that is also at high risk of sexual violence and equally as important to keep safe: our fellow transgender students. Third, this program ignores the root of the problem that is sexual violence and further perpetuates the false ideal that rape and sexual assault is more commonly committed by strangers. The Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) offers these statistics: two-thirds of rapes are committed by someone the victim knows and 73 percent of sexual assaults are perpetrated by a non-stranger. Moreover, when women are left with the burden of protecting themselves, instead of others being taught not to commit acts of violence, we perpetuate rape culture’s entrenched idea of victim blaming, i.e., when the victim of a crime is held entirely or partially responsible for the crime committed against them.  

The RAD program may be helpful to a handful of students on campus, but education programs that promote respect and gender justice are one of the more effective means of alleviating the underlying causes of sexual violence. The double standard upheld in the support of a program such as RAD to prevent rape is present and reminds women that they are constantly at risk because those who believe sexual violence is permissible are never held accountable. The complete elimination of rape and sexual assault will not successfully come at the hands of self-defense programs, but rather programs that teach not to rape. WKU Police Department and WellU should be seeking partnership and collaboration with groups on campus that have been working to fight sexual violence and gender discrimination for years, such as the Title IX office, the Gender and Women’s Studies Department and the Institute for Citizenship and Social Responsibility, in order to create more comprehensive and effective programs that will end problems of rape and sexual assault on campus and make this space safer for all of its members. 

-The Coalition for Social Justice