Coming into my freshman year of college, there were a few things I was sure of: I couldn’t wait to be away from home, my dorm was going to have some sick posters, and… I was going to have to be careful. During this transitional period, I received tons of helpful advice from family, friends, and orientation leaders. But I found it intimidating that every other comment highlighted the prevalence of sexual violence on college campuses.
“Buy your books online… Watch your drink.” “Get to know your professors… Always carry mace.” “Participate in clubs… Don’t walk alone at night.”
The fact is, sexual assault is a huge problem on college campuses across the country. 23% of college women have experienced some form of unwanted sexual contact, according to a study conducted by the Association of American Universities. Our government, our law enforcement, and our universities are working on ways to address this epidemic, but in the meantime, all they can tell us is, “Be careful.”
Sexual assault is never the victim’s fault. Ever.
That being said, there are ways we can respond to the potential risk and to better prepare and protect ourselves from dangerous situations. For me, self-defense was the best option. I attended the R.A.D. (Rape Aggression Defense) program offered by UNCW’s police department, which offers concentrated information and training that can benefit every woman, regardless of fitness level or previous self-defense experience. UNCW offers this program 3-5 times each semester, and it’s completely free.
I never could have predicted the impact that R.A.D. has made on my life. I was taught ways to optimize my own physical strength and to use an attacker’s force to my own advantage. I can barely do a push-up, but that didn’t matter. I learned that self-defense is about more than brute force–it really comes down to knowledge and preparation.
Before taking a self-defense class, I underestimated my own ability and thought that I stood no chance in a physical altercation. Now, I’m not about to go challenge Ronda Rousey, but I do trust that I’m able to quickly break away from a creepy fella with a strong grip. More than anything, this experience has given me confidence. Even with the most basic training, I feel empowered to take control of my own safety and to protect myself in an emergency situation.
I hope that in coming years, as our universities work to address campus sexual violence, we will see a decrease in campus assault incidents. Until then, I am thankful for the peace of mind that self-defense has given me, and I hope that others will feel as empowered by self-defense as I have.