with Teresa Kennedy
Last January, a young woman was raped in the UAA Consortium Library. There is a narrow stairwell that runs up the back portion of the library, rarely used and leading to a locked fourth floor doorway. It was on these steps an unnamed assailant took the woman. He then sexually assaulted another woman in the residence halls. UPD has confirmed this report,and are currently investigating it further.
Many find it disturbing that these assaults were not reported until June.
In 2007, there were two reported sexual assaults at the university, one on the main campus and another in housing. Another rape on the main campus was reported in 2009. In 2010 a report was made, but was later determined not to have happened. The sexual assaults at the library and housing are the most recent to be reported.
Despite these numbers, rape and sexual assaults are not very prevalent at UAA, said UPD Deputy Chief Brad Munn. However, there is no way to account for the sexual assaults that are not brought to light.
“Over the past few years, [rape on campus] has not been a major issue,” said Munn. “We have no control over the things that go unreported, though, and that is a significant problem.”
This is a problem shared by rape prevention resources state and nationwide. Standing Together Against Rape (STAR), a sexual assault program that offers 24-hour crisis help lines and sexual assault consultation, has always struggled with the knowledge that large amounts of sexual assaults are never exposed.
“Historically, there is a lot of shame and guilt around sexual assault,” said STAR Advocate Erin Patterson. “When you take into account that most rape victims are assaulted by people they know, and a lot of shame and guilt is built up because they feel responsible or that somehow this is their fault, they have the tendency to not report.”
When sexual assaults are going unreported, other prevention approaches must be taken. In order to combat rape on campus at its source, the prevention stage, UPD holds annual Rape Aggression Defense (RAD) classes for the female population of UAA.
The RAD program was originally brought to UAA following a request by Residence Life to have a program available to female students on campus that would be able to teach self-defense techniques. Instructors from the lower 48 were brought up to Anchorage and held a seminar that certified law enforcement agents throughout the state to teach RAD themselves and take the program back to their respective regions.
RAD is a national program and has taught over 300,000 women throughout the U.S. and Canada since its inception in 1989. It is currently the only self-defense program endorsed by the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement. The program is open to women of all kinds regardless of ability, age, experience, and strength. The intent of the program is to teach basic self-defense through awareness and recognition of danger, and then how to avoid this.
“Making people more aware of their surroundings through risk recognition, risk awareness, risk reduction, and risk avoidance. Those are the four things that are key,” Munn explained.
Through lecture and repetitious moves, Munn and the other RAD instructors hope to ingrain the moves they teach into the student’s minds, and make them more aware of their surroundings. And if something does happen, RAD instructors teach the students to have a plan.
“What normally happens to people when something bad happens, if they’re not prepared, they freeze. They don’t know what to do,” Munn.
The first RAD program at UAA was taught in the fall of 2007 and was incorporated into the class catalogue in 2009. Each class offers ten spots to students, and most classes see about eight or nine students show up. The whole idea behind the program is to teach students how to temporarily disable an attacker and escape.
UAA student Nicole Bender has seen sexual assault up close, both the actions and how it affected her friends. For her, the RAD class offers a way to avoid that horrible situation.
“It’s scary,” Bender said. “I didn’t know what to do [at the time] and I thought this class would help me.”
For Sarah Strahley, another UAA student taking the course, the horror of sexual assault is prevalent in her life as well, but for a different reason. Her father is a detective, one who investigated the infamous murder of Delaney Zutz, a thirteen-year old girl who snuck out of her Anchorage home in 2002 with a supposed friend, and was found sexually assaulted and stabbed to death several days later. In the Strahley home, where stories like Zutz’ are brought home regularly, sexual assault is a very real danger.
“I wasn’t allowed out of the house on my own for a few weeks,” said Strahley, following the disappearance of Zutz. “I want to have the tools to protect myself if I need to.”
“Making people more aware of their surroundings through risk recognition, risk awareness, risk reduction, and risk avoidance—those are the four things that are key,” said Munn.
Through lecture and repetitive movement, Munn and the other RAD instructors hope to ingrain the moves they teach into the student’s minds and hopefully prevent sexual assaults from occurring at all at UAA, reported or unreported.