By Emma Brenner
Public Safety and Police Services at Kutztown University offered Rape Aggression Defense (R.A.D.) training for women only on March 18, 19 and 21. But why women only? Why was R.A.D. not offered to men on campus? This pressing question led to my investigation, which included interviewing both KU R.A.D. organizer Corporal Amy George and Director of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies, Dr. Colleen Clemens.
In 2015, the Association of American Universities carried out the Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Sexual Misconduct through 27 colleges.
The study found that 23.1 percent of women and 5.4 percent of men reported experiencing sexual contact through “physical force or incapacitation.” Undergraduate transgender, gender-queer and non-conforming individuals had the highest rates for rape.
According to the R.A.D. website, the program offers self-defense courses to men, women, children and seniors. This further provoked my interest to investigate R.A.D. on KU’s campus.
“It is offered to men,” said George, the instructor for both men and women. Over the years, only a couple of men had expressed interest in the program.
“We just can’t do a program for only one person—that goes for men and women,” she said. “We only do this program once a semester because we do have limited resources, and it is free to all participants.”
George stressed her willingness to answer any questions about the program, offering both her office phone number (484-646-4135) and her email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
From this interview, it was evident that Public Safety and KU Police were doing their best to offer self-defense training with the resources they had available to them. Now the question arose: were certain cultural attitudes impacting men in a negative way and dissuading them from seeking help?
HuffPost released an article in December 2017 highlighting a young man, Andrew, and his sexual assault at Brown University.
Andrew joked about the incident to his friends, preferring to sound as if he’d been in control. But after suffering a panic attack and meeting with a therapist, he prosecuted in 2012.
Two other victims had previously filed a joint complaint against the same assailant, resulting in the criminal’s suspension. It wasn’t until after Andrew’s hearing that the assailant was expelled.
In the same article, Steven LaPore, founder of the organization 1in6, said, “Culturally we still don’t want to see men as vulnerable or hurt.” He pressed how this stigma results in fewer resources being available to men.
“I think we’ve done a pretty good job of seeing men’s roles as bystanders and preventers, but we don’t recognize men who are survivors of sexual assault and abuse,” said LaPore, quoted by Emily Kassle.
KU’s Dr. Colleen Clemens was eager to share her thoughts on the cultural pressures men face.
“This cultural moment is more freeing for men than damning, as all of the walls that have penned men in from having emotions are finally crumbling,” said Clemens, referring to the #MeToo movement. “This moment is bad for rigid and dangerous ideas of masculinity; it is also a freeing moment for men.”
She encouraged students to take the class WGS 10, Introduction to Women’s, Gender and Sexuality studies.
“I would rather see more dialogue about the systemic roots of sexual assault in hopes to prevent it as a campus instead of relying on the individual to protect themselves in the moment of assault,” she noted.
KU has made some strides in addressing this dialogue and men’s cultural challenges. Last semester, the MSU housed the FMLA screening of “The Mask You Live In,” a documentary on masculinity. Men Can Stop Rape also visited KU, thanks to the Women’s Center.
Clubs and leaders at KU are raising awareness for sexual assault against all genders. Men are coming forward and statistics prove that males are facing sexual violence, but are also encountering prejudice for reporting their experiences. So the question becomes, how do our male students at KU feel? Perhaps our next step is to ask them.