UTPD needs to make self-defense information more accessible

Julia Zaksek

You’re a first-year student at UT. Your parents bought you pepper spray to put on your keychain and told you to be careful, but you feel like you need something more. You know the UT Police Department offers self-defense classes, but they only offer a program of three four-hour sessions with physical training and optional assault simulations. The classes will never work with your schedule, and even if they do, you’re not sure you’d be comfortable participating. 

Given the considerable length of the sessions UT offers, students need another way to learn about self-defense techniques and strategies from a reliable source. In order to ensure that all students can learn about self-defense, UTPD must offer self-defense information on their website.

The self-defense training and materials UTPD offers students are from the Rape Assault Defense systems, a national self-defense program that provides participating groups and organizations with self-defense training certification and course materials. 

“Coming to UT, I really wanted to take a self-defense class with UTPD,” said Anjika Bhalla, business and Plan II freshman. “But whenever the classes were offered, they just didn’t fit with my schedule.” 

For college students, 12 hours is a heavy time commitment. If UTPD provided some of the information they cover at the sessions online, students could review self-defense material on their own time and UTPD could ensure more students know how to stay safe. 

Bhalla said she was surprised UTPD doesn’t offer online self-defense information online. 

“I’d love to have an online resource,” Bhalla said. “If there were information online, I’d definitely look over it.” 

UTPD detective David Chambers said self-defense information is not posted online due to concerns from the Rape Assault Defense program that the information will be found and used by sexual predators. 

“The Rape Assault Defense program doesn’t make their information public until you attend the in-person classes,” Chambers said. “From my understanding of the program, they do it in this way so that the people taking the class can learn the skills, but a person that would potentially want to do them harm can’t go online and learn what defense techniques they’re learning.” 

While the program’s concern may have some validity, it seems improbable that an attacker would be able to locate and exploit self-defense material used by UT. Providing information online would likely decrease — not increase — the probability UT students would be able to defend themselves if confronted by an attacker. 

Students may also be reluctant to attend an in-person session because they are uncomfortable with the program’s intensity. The third session of the program involves students practicing self defense techniques by striking padded equipment held by UTPD officers. At this session, students can participate in simulated assault scenarios and use their learned tactics against instructors. For some students, these sessions may be too much. 

“Since it’s a self-defense class, I would like to trust that the instructors wouldn’t be too intense and cause me harm, but I’d still be worried and uncomfortable,” biology freshman Elika Kashani said. 

Obviously, practical training can help students learn how to effectively implement the techniques that are being taught. However, for students who feel distressed during physical training, these classes would not be effective and could even increase their anxiety about assault. 

Recording class sessions with willing students and officers and uploading them online could allow students to learn how to apply self-defense techniques without feeling uncomfortable or overwhelmed. 

“If there was information online and videos of the techniques they’d teach, students could have that experience, learn how to defend themselves, without having to worry about attending the class,” Kashani said. 

Students deserve to feel safe. Learning self-defense can make students confident in their ability to protect themselves. However, the limited availability of self-defense instruction from UTPD reduces students’ opportunities to learn self-defense. UTPD must provide the information taught at their Rape Assault Defense classes on their website so that more students can learn how to stay safe on campus. 

Zaksek is a Plan II and women and gender studies freshman from Allen.