February 25th, 2015
(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Universities across the country have been eating this program up since 1989, and no wonder: R.A.D. is a perfect slice of patriarchal fear-cake, studded with nuggets of bad advice and thickly frosted with condescension.
Take, for example, these “Risk Reduction Strategies”:
HOME: Try “casing” your own home, at night and/or during the day. Attempt to gain access when locked and “secure.” If possible, invite a security survey from your local Police Department.
Drapes and Shades: Draw the drapes and pull the shades. If the drapes are thin or worn, you may want to consider investing in a heavier fabric to prevent silhouetting.
Shrubs and Bushes: Try to keep the bushes and shrubs trimmed for consistent shape, which will make it easier to detect motion near windows.
None of this is exactly bad advice. Doing these things won’t make you any less safe, although doing all of them (there are six full pages of Risk Reduction Strategies) might make you kind of paranoid. But the fascination with peeping Toms and sinister lurking shadows and… bush trimming? I’m sorry, that’s not normal. It’s not logical, either. When I told self defense instructor Lynne Marie Wanamaker about R.A.D.’s “buy heavier drapes” suggestion, she asked, “Why? Because heavier drapes will keep your neighbors from seeing the person you live with when he assaults you?”
Wanamaker is referring to the fact that in most sexual assaults, the perpetrator and victim already know each other. Wanamaker is well aware of that fact, because she trained at the legendary Center for Anti-Violence Education in Brooklyn. You won’t be surprised to learn that an expert like Wanamaker, educated by a multi-racial organization where lesbians and trans people are central to the leadership, has a different perspective on self defense than the cops who teach R.A.D. Wanamaker’s curriculum covers the full spectrum of violence women encounter—not just home invasion and abduction, but harassment, domestic abuse, bullying, coercion, and intimidation. She also teaches tools for preventing, disrupting, and surviving all of these forms of violence. As a growing body of research shows, this approach—developed largely by feminists and activists like the founders of the Center for Anti-Violence Education—can significantly reduce sexual assault rates.