Banners, posters and word of mouth should have alerted us all by now that April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. This means promoting consensual, safe sex across campus, among other things.
Unfortunately, there are people out there who aren’t allies in the movement toward a safer campus. From what I’ve found, Portland State isn’t doing much to provide students with ways to defend themselves against attackers.
A friend of mine and I were talking about SAAM when a reality check hit us: We wouldn’t know what to do if we were attacked. We’re both physically active ladies who have seen Miss Congeniality and who learned how to S.I.N.G. from Sandra Bullocks’ character demonstration, but we’d only seen it on television. We needed to change this unwavering truth about ourselves, and we knew exactly how: Take self-defense classes. The university being such a large supporter of SAAM, I thought I’d be able to find very different resources than what PSU actually has to offer.
In 2014, The Oregonian published a ranking of alleged sexual assaults among Oregon campuses; PSU ranked 4th out of 18 schools. I decided to see what PSU had to offer their students in an effort to lower this ranking. Let me start by saying that there’s not much. Why should this change, other than the obvious reason that everyone should be able to protect themselves from sexual assault? Let’s find out, shall we?
A study done by University of Oregon graduate student Jocelyn Hollander found that women who enroll in a holistic, empowerment-based self-defense class are 2.5 times less likely to be assaulted over the following year compared with similar women who did not take such a class. Nearly 3 percent of women without training reported being raped during the following period.
PSU offers a self-defense class you can take for one physical education credit. But that’s only if you sign up in time or even know about it. When I searched PSU’s website, I thought I had found that the Women’s Resource Center offered free self-defense classes for women and female identified students, but when I went in to ask some questions about the class, I quickly found out that it doesn’t actually exist due to budgeting and potential low class enrollment.
The WRC said it’s not their fault for this false advertising but rather the Campus Public Safety Office’s. It used to be when you searched for self-defense classes through the website, an advertisement for free self-defense classes hosted by the WRC would come up under CPSO’s website. Since going into the WRC, this error has been rectified and no longer exists on the website.
For SAAM, the WRC is offering one self-defense class this month. If I hadn’t walked in and talked to them, I wouldn’t have even heard of this class. Where is their promotion or advertising? I firmly believe in what the WRC stands for and their purpose, but they should really work on their PR.
The WRC then told me about Portland Police Bureau’s free self-defense classes and personal safety workshops. I have three problems with this: 1. Victims of sexual assault may have had a bad experience with cops or don’t feel as though they can trust police. 2. It’s not easily accessible to PSU students who may not feel comfortable walking downtown alone. 3. The biggest problem I have is: Why isn’t any of this advertised anywhere on campus?
This made me wonder what other schools offer in terms of self-defense classes. An article in U.S. News found that “more students jump at [the] chance to learn self-defense in a college setting.” A national self-defense curriculum called the Rape Aggression Defense Systems program taught 1,200 universities and colleges (including University of Oregon) around the country how to educate their students about self-defense. In these classes, students learn wrist grabs, knee strikes and campus-focused life lessons. Urban universities such as Pittsburg University and the University of Denver offer free self-defense classes to all genders. So, why is it that PSU, also an urban campus, doesn’t offer any on-campus resources to their students?
With a $44 million new Viking Pavilion on the way, a $7.5 million dollar grant from Oregon Health and Science University that will only go toward funding for the Pavilion, and a tuition increase, I don’t see why it’d be asking too much of PSU to offer their students free self-defense classes.
Sexual assault will never be completely preventable, but there are measures people can take to protect themselves from possible predators. It is PSU’s responsibility to engage and enlighten their students about the safety precautions they can take in order to make their campus a safer place for everyone.