Students may soon get credit for rape defense class

BY HAYLEY BRUCE | MARCH 31, 2011 7:20 AM

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Alison Stephan struck a red foam pad with an unforgiving fist.

“No,” the UI freshman screamed, hitting the angry Sharpie-drawn face between the eyes.

Stephan was one of nine women who participated in the UI Department of Public Safety’s Rape Aggression Defense program Wednesday.

The women stretched, then practiced self-defense stances and striking, replicating the instructor’s form with firm, controlled motions.

A chemical-engineering major, Stephan said she and her mother decided to enroll in the class together once she entered college.

“We both figured it would be a good idea, and it’s just one of those things that’s nice to know in case you find yourself in a bad situation,” Stephan said.

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Soon, students such as Stephan may be able to learn how to protect themselves for a grade.

UI police Crime Prevention Specialist Alton Poole is in the early stages of negotiating with university departments about offering the course for college credit, a change he and the UI police hope will increase enrollment, build positive report with students, and provide instructors with a bigger venue for instruction.

“At other universities, they offer [Rape Aggression Defense] for credit,” said David Visin, an associate director of the UI police. “And we think that it’s really a great education opportunity for women.”

The 12-hour, three-week course was first offered through the department in 1994, when officials wanted to address violence against women on campus.

If Poole is successful, the UI would become the second college in the state to offer the program for credit. St. Ambrose University of Davenport has offered the class as a one-credit undergraduate class through the Kinesiology Department since 1993.

“The more women who could take classes like this, the better environment we would have,” said Robert Christopher, the St. Ambrose assistant dean of students and director of security.

Christopher said the program has experienced increased enrollment, with the tradeoff of only offering it on a semester-schedule.

Visin said if the department was able to get the course accredited, it would continue to try to offer the course to the general public.

“We do have people who took this class and have used it in their own lives to save themselves or others,” he said.

The class gives police a chance to have a better relationship with students, he said.

“It would really give us a more positive contact with students,” Visin said. “Especially for the police, they’re always arresting people for public intoxication and checking IDs at the bars, and really these officers are people, too.”

Offering the class as a course for credit would allow the department to have more classes and make it easier to publicize the course, said UI police Officer Christina Rarick, who has taught the class for three years. Now, it’s difficult to plan the classes because so few people know about them, she said.

“We give them a bunch of different options to use if they do find themselves in a situation where they need to protect themselves,” Rarick said.

Carrie Stephan, Alison Stephan’s mother, said it would be “wonderful” if the class was accredited.

“As a parent, I wanted her to take the class to be aware of her surroundings, what to do, what to expect, and how to be safe,” the 46-year-old said. “I had wanted to take the class myself for years, and now that [Alison] is 18 and in college, I thought it would be the perfect time.”

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