Prof. Charlene Senn and colleagues did a major study on college women who were trained in empowering self-defense and compared their outcomes with those in a control group who had no such training but only access to brochures on sexual assault. The study, just published in the New England Journal of Medicine and reported on in the New York Times today, found that those who took the program called “Enhanced Assess, Acknowledge, Act Sexual Assault Resistance” were victims of completed rape a year later significantly less than those in the control group (5.2% vs. 9.8%; relative risk reduction, 46.3%). The self-defense program also reduced the incidence of attempted rape (3.4% in the resistance group vs. 9.3% in the control group; relative risk reduction, 63.2%). In addition, incidences of nonconsensual sexual contact and attempted coercion were lower in the resistance group than in the control group.
Now, as we have been saying, the CDC’s public health approach to preventing sexual assault on college campuses insists that we use data-driven approaches that contribute to making population-level changes and that also change the cultural norms that support sexual assault. This new study and the press it’s getting make it impossible for the CDC to continue to suggest that there is simply no data on victim protective factors that will contribute to the prevention of sexual assault. Training women to resist sexual assault is a key protective factor. If the CDC ignores it and continues to stand by only bystander intervention training, then it will become obvious that ideological factors, not a lack of data, explain the CDC’s resistance to resistance.