The traditional script around sexual assault blames victims and perpetuates a common belief that there is little women can do to protect themselves. In fall 2017, the University of Iowa offered a new one-credit sexual assault resistance course called Flip the Script that aims to challenge those notions.
Gender-based violence prevention is a key component of maintaining a healthy and safe campus where all students can achieve success—and sexual violence prevention and education requires a multidisciplinary, comprehensive approach. Students at the University of Iowa participate in a variety of prevention programming, including an online program required before they arrive on campus, an in-person bystander education workshop during On Iowa!, and multiple options for continued engagement throughout their time as students. The majority of programming focuses on primary prevention, which aims to stop gender-based violence before they occur by changing the cultural norms that allow violence to persist. While primary prevention continues to be the priority, Flip the Script provides an additional education option for students interested in learning resistance strategies.
Flip the Script was based on the Enhanced Assess Acknowledge Act (EAAA) curriculum, developed by Dr. Charlene Senn at the University of Windsor. In a randomized controlled trial published in the New England Journal of Medicine, women who completed the EAAA program were 46 percent less likely to experience a completed sexual assault and 63 percent less likely to experience an attempted sexual assault.
“Outcomes like those of the EAAA curriculum are currently unparalleled in the research. We felt it our responsibility to make this program available to students at UI,” says Sara Feldmann, course coordinator.
Flip the Script is open to all students who identify as women, regardless of sexual orientation and inclusive of trans women. The course stresses it is NEVER a victim’s fault if they are sexually assaulted and reminds participants that there is no risk for sexual violence without the presence of a perpetrator. It’s comprised of four core units:
- In Assess, students learn to recognize characteristics in the environment and in other people that increase the likelihood of sexual assault.
- In Acknowledge, students explore personal beliefs which create emotional barriers to resistance.
- In Act, students learn verbal and physical strategies that effectively deter perpetrators.
- In Relationships and Sexuality, students clarify their relationship preferences and desires in order to recognize and resist partners who don’t respect those choices.
Feedback from course participants has been positive. Students in the fall 2017 course showed a 12 percent increase in perceived risk of acquaintance rape. One student reflected on learning about risk of acquaintance rape, “A lot of the myths that we hear about rape being attempted by a stranger are not true. It is most likely to happen to you by someone you know.”
“I want all students to have this opportunity. If I don’t use these skills, I feel that I could use them to help my friends.”
Students’ self-efficacy for self-defense increased by 35 percent, and their knowledge of specific effective forceful verbal and physical resistance strategies they could use against an acquaintance increased by 26 percent.
“I am capable of a lot more than I think I am,” reports one student. “I want all students to have this opportunity. If I don’t use these skills, I feel that I could use them to help my friends.”
New facilitators will complete training in summer 2018 to offer four sections of Flip the Script this fall, and plans are in place to collaborate with Dr. Senn to create a version of Flip the Script for non-binary students.
“It’s gratifying to see successful implementation of EAAA at the UI, but this is only the first step,” says Feldmann. “There are segments of our population who experience proportionately higher rates of sexual violence who are not served by the current curriculum. We are excited that Dr. Senn is similarly committed to seeing EAAA adapted for gender non-binary students as well as the larger trans community.”
Students can register for fall sessions through MyUI. Learn more about Flip the Script at this website.
2018 Year In Review
This article is part of the 2018 Year in Review, which highlights some of the Division of Student Life's accomplishments from the previous academic year.