In light of the university’s recent decision to begin their Rape Aggression Defense (R.A.D.) initiative for self-defense training, upset students have accused the university of victim blaming. There appears to be a clear disconnect between intentions, one that brings more harm than good into the conversation.
What must be understood about sexual violence is that no program, initiative, nor curriculum with a snappy acronym will solve it.
It is important to acknowledge that the university is attempting to respond to the issue. It is clear that their intention is not to blame survivors.
While the administration means well in responding to a problem greater than the scope of individual incidents, it hinges on assumptions we have about safety expectations; assumptions which invariably tread on a victim-blaming mentality.
It is reasonable to expect that one has a right to safety in all spaces, regardless of the presence of substances. Since the university responded to allegations by implementing a self-defense initiative, it implies that safety is not an inherent quality of public spaces.
The root cause of sexual violence lies, unfortunately, far beyond the reach of UCSB’s administration. It is ingrained in our culture and education, and it’s something that must be systematically erased over time.
I have no doubt that the university wants to see the perpetrators face consequences for their actions as much as the student body. But, the student body has to acknowledge the sinister cultures surrounding gender and sexuality so that we can eradicate the mentality entirely via education.
A brief clarification must be made in regards to the program being targeted towards women exclusively. After attending the discourse panel held between staff and students to discuss sexual violence on campus, it was explained that initially there was in fact a R.A.D. course offered specifically for men.
The course approached subjects differently, dealing with the de-escalation of fights and other prevention strategies. The initiative never came to fruition because there was a lack of interest from male students.
While defeating or eliminating sexual violence lies beyond the realm of any one university, we can certainly do more to combat or prevent it on a small scale. A great shortcoming we see in the college’s reactions to accusations of sexual assault is the tendency towards damage-control.
Damage control often manifests through short-term solutions, which is R.A.D.’s fatal flaw as an initiative meant to decrease sexual violence. It also silences the conversation prematurely; it creates the illusion of resolution without offering a solution.
The processes that collegiate departments use to deals with gender and sex-related issues also often fail students. It is not uncommon for suspects or perpetrators to graduate from college and earn their degree before the office charges them. Once a suspect is no longer a student, these cases are significantly more difficult to settle in court.
To reiterate, sexual violence is not limited to college campuses, and isn’t something we can expect a single educational entity to solve single-handedly. In minimizing the crime to its individual cases, we inevitably risk diminishing its true severity within greater society.
The solution lies not in discrete actions, but in promoting healthier and better expectations for safety and one’s autonomy. No one is responsible for a violent action against them; however, people are responsible for perpetuating ideologies which lead perpetrators to commit acts of violence.