Fear Tactics or Self Defence, Which Works Better in the Education of Sexual Abuse
Written by Maggie Kenney
“All of the girls in the room please stand up,” the speaker in the front of the large conference room overlooking East Ridge’s cafeteria said. “On a statistical level, the number of girls standing in this classroom will be the number raped out of the 200 girls in your grade.” This startling statistic is one of many shared in the 12th grade Embedded Health curriculum. Ranging from issues of domestic abuse to sexual assault, numbers are thrown at students about the risks that they will face in their adult life. However, the health curriculum at East Ridge High School currently fails to provide students with the tools to prevent and defend themselves against threats of violence. In order to effectively prepare students for future success in college and beyond, East Ridge High School should take another look at their health curriculum and tailor it to provide students with the greatest number of tools to defend themselves.
All East Ridge students are required to participate in Embedded Health, a program that integrates health into the core classes so that each student completes the curriculum before graduating. The lessons are structured so as to focus on one overarching topic per year. Senior year is focused on preparing students for their future lives, introducing themes such as nutrition after high school, CPR & AED Training, and personal safety.
The final lessons maintain a specific focus on date rape, sexual assault, and sexual harassment. With an intense focus on the troubling trends on college campuses, the presentations on the topic place an immense amount of attention on the prevalence and probability of being sexually assaulted. Many times throughout the presentation, the teachers stressed that 1 in 5 college females will be raped before they graduate from college. To many students, the rhetoric provoked a sense of fear and anxiety about what they were to face in the coming years on a college campus. The focus of the lessons was on the statistics, the likelihood that you will be raped or assaulted or abused, rather than preparing students for these future problems.
The solutions presented to students were to avoid becoming overly intoxicated and to watch drinks carefully. However, according to Campus Safety Magazine in March 2012, only 43% of sexual victimization incidents involved alcohol consumption by the victims. So what are the other 57% of victims supposed to do? The current health curriculum fails to go beyond the common stereotypes of sexual assault situations. This leaves students who make common sense choices about their alcohol consumption in a dangerous predicament. First, they may expect that because of their self control and ability to make good choices, they are not at risk for any of the issues that are addressed. Additionally, even if these students do recognize the threat, they are left completely vulnerable and unable to defend themselves if they do end up in such a predicament.
In order to protect and ensure success for as many students as possible, the East Ridge health curriculum should avoid its current fear tactics and switch to a self-defense based program. Integrating self-defense education into physical education and health classes will give students practical skills that they will be able to utilize in future dangerous situations. This form of teaching also forces students to get out of their desks and be instrumental in their own learning. The Odyssey in May 2016 outlines several other benefits of self-defense classes including bullying prevention, fitness development, and self-confidence improvement. Most importantly, a University of Oregon sociologist found that “women who took a ten-week self-defense training were significantly less likely to experience unwanted sexual conduct than those who didn’t.” Several schools in the metro area already offer self-defense as a gym class, providing students the opportunity to learn how to defend themselves. By empowering East Ridge students, they will be capable of leaving this institution of learning with confidence rather than fear.
In order to fully commit to East Ridge’s ideal of preparing students for a successful future, they have to look past the National Merit scholars, the impressive ACT scores, and the rigorous AP classes. Although health is only one credit out of the many needed to graduate, its impact on the lives of students can be either encouraging or detrimental. It is necessary, especially in today’s world, to provide students with comprehensive solutions to prevent and defend from rape for them to be successful. Restructure our health curriculum; Don’t allow East Ridge students to become a statistic.