Self-defense does not solve rape culture

“ASU’s promotion of self-defense classes as an appropriate response to sexual assault reeks of victim blaming and shows the school’s blatant refusal to take responsibility for an issue that it is required to address under federal law.”

Originally published to the State Press November 2014.

The way The State Press’s recent article, “Devils Fight Back promotes sexual safety with self-defense classes” talks about sexual violence, you would think that they were talking about inclement weather. It makes sense to teach people to deal with and avoid something like a hurricane; something beyond the influence of us humans. But sexual violence is not an “act of God,” an event out of our control that we just have to learn to deal with. Violence is the result of the actions of individual people, something that we, as individuals, have control over.

ASU’s promotion of self-defense classes as an appropriate response to sexual assault reeks of victim blaming and shows the school’s blatant refusal to take responsibility for an issue that it is required to address under federal law.

ASU, under Title IX, is required to prevent anything that could create a “hostile environment” around sexual harassment or discrimination. This means addressing the problems at their source — not teaching people how to minimize the damage. ASU is under investigation for Title IX violations, and this class is representative as to why.

This self-defense program implies that it’s the victim’s responsibility to avoid being assaulted, and if they don’t know how to defend themselves, then they are at fault. But what of the responsibility people have to not assault? Where are the classes teaching the importance of consent, communication and respect? As long as sexual violence is a problem here at ASU, there is a group of people that needs to hear the message “respect each other and each other’s body, dignity, and education.” Where is that training?

This program is part of ASU’s Devils Fight Back program, a program which in its name implies that the problem we are fighting against exists outside of ASU. But just as the victims of sexual assault are part of the Sun Devil community, so are the perpetrators. The problem is not “out there,” out of our control — it’s here in our community. We need to fight back not against other people, but against widely held ideas and concepts. We need to fight back against the ignorance that exists in our community. We need to fight back against the culture that supports sexual harassment and violence. And as long as ASU continues to push the responsibility to combat sexual assault off of themselves, off of the perpetrators and onto the victims, we are forced to fight back against the very institution that should be defending us.

Christopher Barton
Undergraduate

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