Rape Aggression Defense, a University Police Department program aimed at helping women learn the skills needed to defend themselves against sexual assault, excludes men and transgender individuals.
Students have mixed feelings about the class.
“If there was ever an emergency it is great to have that skill,” Freshman Andrea Kang said. “The police can not be there all the time.”
Senior Jennifer Gabriele said “women are usually the targets, so they need to learn to defend themselves more than men.”
However, some students are bothered that men and transgender individuals cannot participate. Senior Rene Cattell said that she does not think that “keeping this class women-only is fair. Everyone has the right to learn how to protect themselves.”
Some students feel one solution may be to create more than one self-defense class.
“If they are going to have a women’s-only class, there should be a men’s-only class also,” Senior and health sciences major, Stephen Monti said. “That way, women will still feel comfortable, but the men can learn how to defend themselves also.”
“A man taking the class will know how a woman will try to defend herself,” Monti said, “so the self-defense class that she took will not be as helpful to her if the man is prepared for her moves.”
“There’s no need for men to take this class if it is for women,” freshman Brian Ferring said. “However, transgender females deserve the right to take the class because they portray female.”
According to the National Center for Transgender Equality, one percent of the United States identify themselves as transgender. Seventy-one percent of transgender individuals said they attempted to avoid discrimination by hiding their gender or gender transition, according to studies the center conducted.
“Just because they don’t look like the gender they feel like they are emotionally doesn’t mean they should be excluded,” Kang said. “They have the same chance of being targeted as any other female”.
Stony Brook University is not the only public institution in New York to offer women-only self-defense classes. The New York Martial Arts Academy was the first women’s defense-school in the tri-state area, according to its website.
According to Newsday, the number of rapes on Long Island has steadily declined. In 2008, Suffolk County had 112 reported forcible rape charges, but in 2012, 48 rape charges were reported. In 2008, 75 cases were found on rape charges in Nassau County and in 2012, 72 cases had been found for rape.
The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network’s website says that 80 percent of attacks happen with men and women under 30 years old.
Tom Clark, one of RAD’s instructors, said he does not blame the school for banning men and transgenders from the class because it is designed that way.
“I am aware of the trend towards integration, but RAD is slow in adjusting,” he said.
Even with RAD’s rules, however, Clark is happy to welcome newcomers. “It wouldn’t bother me if transgenders came into my class.” he said.
On Oct. 1, the Recreation Center added a new class, Self Defense Open To All Genders. According to the Campus Recreation center’s website, “all human beings have a fundamental right to be safe thus the overall goal is to reduce victimization through informed decision making and sensible action.”
The university is working to add a rape prevention class open to all genders, Clark mentioned.