Britt: Female students should learn self-defense

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Paige Britt happily showing off her safety-alarm keychain. - Opinion Editor / Sylent Michaels

During my senior year of high school, once each of my close friends had gotten their license, we each got each other safety alarms to put on our keychains. The excitement of this milestone was shadowed by the new world of danger we had now entered. And not just the dangers that come with driving; the dangers that we would now face as young women going out into the world alone. Something as small as a quick trip to WaWa could potentially mark any one of us as a target to someone else, and we were doing what we could to protect one another and ourselves. 

Now, each of us in our third year of college, not only have safety alarms but have been given items such as pepper spray and tasers. All are equipped with a key ring, so they are within reach in most circumstances. While going to college and living on campus are incredibly exciting things, we are each now exposed to a number of new, unfamiliar dangers. Something as simple as walking across campus or going to a party could end in tragedy for any one of us. Any woman. Any student. 

Walking in the parking garage to get to my car or leaving a club meeting has me gripping my keys close to my chest. It doesn’t matter that I’m only by myself for one or two minutes, because I have been told since I was little that I constantly need to be on alert. Like all kids are taught to be when learning about things such as “stranger danger,” but there has always been a caveat that made adults warn me more sternly on the topic: I’m a girl, and that makes me a target. 

This has followed me into all aspects of my life and is not only applicable to my time so far in college. That being said, I have not felt unsafe during my time at Rowan. I do spend limited time on campus as a commuter student, but still. This does not mean that I’m not aware of the crimes that have happened at Rowan, as we all get alerted by the university. 

However, a recent study from NorthJersey.com reported that in 2019 and 2020, Rowan had the third highest amount of crime in the state compared to other NJ universities and colleges. Not only this, but the top reported crime was rape, having been reported 19 times. The Rowan University Annual Security and Fire Safety Report from 2023 showed that the number of reported rapes that happened on campus was 4 in 2020, 11 in 2021, and 18 in 2022. 

Frankly, this data was a little jarring to learn. The sheer fact that crimes happen on college campuses is not at all surprising. And sadly, a dark truth is that sexual assault and rape can and do happen anywhere, sometimes especially on college campuses. The 19 reported cases do not represent all of those that went unreported, and the stories of those that may still be unheard. But to learn that the college you are currently attending ranked third in the state in terms of crimes, and specifically the most common category of crime reported was rape? For anyone, this should be upsetting information. From the perspective of a woman, it is a painful reminder of the world we live in. A reminder that this kind of crime and violation can happen to anyone, by anyone, and you may never know. That girl you sit next to in class, your professor, your roommate, your friend. 

The only solution to stop rape is for people to stop raping, not for victims to change their everyday behavior. This being said, you are not powerless, defenseless, or vulnerable. There are things you can learn to protect yourself. 

“I believe that it is important for women (and men for that matter) to learn self-defense. In a way, it’s another form of life insurance. It’s a dangerous world, and women are the targets of many assaults and crimes. There are many techniques and theories that may seem like common sense once you learn them. That being said, people don’t think to use them unless they train it and constantly remind themselves. Learning self-defense is great for your safety, but can also lead to mental/emotional fortitude and physical fitness,” said Aidan Coakley, coach of Rowan’s Karate Club and Karate instructor in Mullica Hill.

About once or twice every semester, Rowan holds a Rape Aggression Defense course that is open to all students, faculty, and staff. Instructors teach students physical moves to protect themselves, as well as small ways to avoid potential danger in party settings or simply when you’re by yourself. This is something I recently found out even existed, and it is a great free, on-campus resource that people should be taking advantage of. 

“Most of my friends love going out and love a party. I think it’s important to have that for people who are going out, they should have access to something that could protect them,” said Rachel Amarille, a junior at Rowan University. 

Other options to learn some self-defense techniques at Rowan could be by visiting the Karate Club or the MMA Club. 

“For a more self-defense-oriented approach, I would go to KSD. Self-defense is more than punching and kicking. It’s about grabs, locks, and realistic scenarios. With that in mind, I would go to an Okinawan/Japanese dojo. There are plenty in the area! I would recommend OKKA Mullica Hill or The Shotokan Academy,” said Coakley.

From student to student, person to person, and woman to woman, please stay safe. And I do not mean lock yourself in your dorm and don’t enjoy life. Remember your power, remember your strength, and use it. Most importantly, remember you are not alone.

For comments/questions about this story, DM us on Instagram @thewhitatrowan or email thewhit.opinioneditor@gmail.com.

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