John Harp Michelle Norton

Lisa M. Chmiola Jim Parsons

Is education the answer in sexual assault?

According to a recent study conducted at The Ohio State University, sexual assault education programs don't necessarily help women reduce their risk of being sexually assaulted.

The study, which was conducted with 94 Ohio women in 1997-98, found that those who completed sexual assault education were just as likely to be assaulted as those who hadn't. But they needed a study to find that out?

The results of the study showed that 33 percent of both groups of women surveyed - those who did and did not complete education programs - had been victims of a sexual assault in a seven-month period.

"The bottom line is, just because you take a self-defense class or are involved in an assault education program doesn't mean you won't be attacked," said Deborah Schipper with OSU's Rape Education and Prevention Program.

As Schipper said in her response to the study's findings, education alone cannot make women invulnerable to sexual assault. But what the research did not focus on was how the women fought back during the attacks and how they dealt with them afterward.

"Programs are effective in teaching women how to fight back," she said. "When women are raped, studies have shown survivors are able to handle feelings better if they've fought back during the attack."

One of the study's authors, Kim Breitenbecher, said the fact that the women surveyed were still attacked was that the education program was only 90 minutes long. She also suggested that men be trained so they do not sexually assault women.

While her ideas are interesting, Breitenbecher seems to have missed the point that Schipper expressed so well: No amount of training is going to stop sexual assault, whether it educates men or women. It doesn't matter what information the education program contains or how long it is. If we want to see an end to sex crimes, we will have to change our perceptions toward those crimes as a society.

As Schipper pointed out, focusing education programs on men only intimates that women are powerless to take control of the situation themselves. And we all know that, for those men who want to commit sexual assault, a program educating them on its evils will probably do next to nothing in combating the accumulation of years' worth of ideas about women.

The real solution is to change the perception of women in our society. But unfortunately, until we are able to erase the idea that women are attackable and unequal, education and similar attempts at prevention are the best deterrent available for those to fight back against assault.


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