Suc­cess in train­ing women to pre­vent rape: study


A pro­gram that teaches uni­ver­sity-age women how to avoid rape has shown some suc­cess in re­duc­ing the num­bers of women in Canada who are sex­u­ally as­saulted, said a study Wed­nes­day.

Pre­vi­ous re­search has sug­gested that as many as one in four young women are raped or are vic­tims of at­tempted rape while at­tend­ing col­lege.

The find­ings pub­lished in the New Eng­land Jour­nal of Medicine are based on a group of nearly 900 women at three Canadian uni­ver­si­ties.

The first- year stu­dents were ran­domly as­signed to ei­ther look at brochures on avoid­ing cam­pus rape or to com­plete the train­ing course.

Dur­ing four sep­a­rate three­hour ses­sions, the women learn “in­for­ma­tion, skills and prac­tices to as­sess risk from ac­quain­tances, to over­come emo­tional bar­ri­ers in ac- knowl­edg­ing dan­ger and to en­gage in ef­fec­tive ver­bal and phys­i­cal self­de­fense,” the study said.

In­struc­tors also helped stu­dents “ex­plore their own sex­ual val­ues, de­sires, bound­aries and rights,” ac­cord­ing to the study.

The pro­gram, known as the En­hanced As­sess Ac­knowl­edge Act Sex­ual As­sault Re­sis­tance Pro­gram, has been in devel­op­ment for over a decade by Char­lene Senn of the Uni­ver­sity of Wind­sor.

One year af­ter com­plet­ing the train­ing, women in the EAAA pro­gram ex­pe­ri­enced 46 per­cent fewer rapes and 63 per­cent fewer at­tempted rapes than women in the con­trol group.

“We found that the one-year risk of com­pleted rape was sig­nif­i­cantly lower for the women in the EAAA re­sis­tance group than in the con­trol group,” said Senn.

“What this means in prac­ti­cal terms is that en­rolling 22 women in the EAAA re­sis­tance pro­gram would pre­vent one ad­di­tional rape from oc­cur­ring.”

In­volve Per­pe­tra­tors Too?

The pro­gram is the first de­vel­oped in North Amer­ica to show some suc­cess against pre­vent­ing rape be­yond a few months, said Senn.

She also stressed that only the per­pe­tra­tors of rape can stop their ac­tions and women should not be blamed for sex­ual as­saults on them.

“What this shows us is that, while we wait for ef­fec­tive pro­grams for men or for cul­tural shifts in at­ti­tudes to hap­pen, there is some­thing prac­ti­cal we can do to give young women the tools they need to bet­ter pro­tect them­selves from sex­ual as­sault,” Senn said.

An ac­com­pa­ny­ing ed­i­to­rial in the New Eng­land Jour­nal of Medicine ap­plauded the rigor of the study but ques­tioned the im­pli­ca­tions of train­ing women to avoid rape.

The study’s “pri­mary weak­ness is that it places the onus for pre­ven­tion on po­ten­tial vic­tims, pos­si­bly ob­scur­ing the re­spon­si­bil­ity of per­pe­tra­tors and oth­ers,” wrote Kath­leen Basile, a be­hav­ioral sci­en­tist and ex­pert on sex­ual vi­o­lence at the U.S. Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion.

“What hap­pens when women who com­plete the in­ter­ven­tion can­not suc­cess­fully re­sist rape?”

She said ef­forts to pre­vent rape need to in­clude po­ten­tial rapists them­selves, and should start younger than uni­ver­sity age.

“Women- fo­cused ap­proaches used in iso­la­tion for pre­ven­tion not only de­flect re­spon­si­bil­ity from po­ten­tial per­pe­tra­tors, but also rep­re­sent only a par­tial so­lu­tion,” Basile said.

“We can have a greater ef­fect through com­bined ef­forts that also fo­cus on po­ten­tial per­pe­tra­tors, by­standers, and broader com­mu­nitylevel in­flu­ences.”

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