In an environment where sexual assault is prevalent, self-defense classes have seen a low turnout.
Fifteen percent of female undergraduates at UT have experienced rape since their enrollment. Taking note of the issue, many sororities on campus are making girls attend self-defense classes, and UTPD recently instituted the Rape Aggression Defense (RAD) System. The push for self-defense doesn’t come as a surprise, but the low turnout does.
Annie Teer, social work sophomore and the vice president of philanthropy for Alpha Chi Omega sorority, said she organized a self-defense session with Austin’s Fighting Fit Boot Camp for the members of her sorority. She said the session was two hours long and covered a variety of situations, from unwanted hugs to aggressive confrontations.
“I have always wanted to take a self-defense class,” Teer said. “And I’ve always thought about it as something I should just do because I’m a young woman and it’s a scary
world out there.”
Self-defense instructor Robert Bouse holds the Fighting Fit Boot Camp self-defense sessions called Fear Adrenal Stress Training (FAST). He said that one session is meant to be all a person needs, as the defense mechanisms are ingrained in them for the rest of their life. Teer said one of the exercises they did consisted of the girls dealing with someone coming up to them and aggressively bothering them. The aggressor would continue to bother the girls until they yelled “back off” loudly enough.
“In order for self-defense to work you’ve got to be taught at the primitive level,” Bouse said. “You have to put people into adrenal stress.”
Bouse said self-defense differs from martial arts and other types of fighting because it is specifically tuned to address situations where you’re under stress, since most people do not instinctively think to use martial arts when they’re being attacked and their adrenaline kicks in.
“It was a really cool experience,” Teer said. “At the end of it, you feel so empowered.”
Protection Against Crime is another organization that holds self-defense classes for sororities on the UT campus. Julie Stringer, the National Speaker for Personal Safety for Protection Against Crime, personally held some of the sessions at UT. She said the sessions work to enable girls to recognize predators and trust their gut instinct if a situation feels wrong.
“Our main message is to really empower women to know what’s going on around them and to really be aware,” Stringer said.
Stringer said that she hasn’t seen a particular increase in students seeking to learn self-defense and that she thinks it’s important for more women to realize that they need to learn to protect themselves. Bouse agreed, saying that it can be hard for people to admit that they can’t defend themselves. Bouse held the self-defense session for Alpha Chi Omega and said that only twenty people showed up and that the low turnout is something he sees constantly.
“There’s a huge increase in people who say they want to take a class,” Bouse said. “But we have difficulty filling twenty students in a class.”
Despite the unwillingness of some people to seek out and actually learn self-defense, Teer said a self-defense session is worthwhile and made her feel empowered.
“I would definitely suggest and recommend that everyone takes it (a self-defense lesson), not just women, everyone,” Teer said. “It’s just great, you feel safer and better equipped to deal with tough situations.”