Many women on college campuses have been given a plethora of advice on staying safe. In the new Flip the Script course, the University of Iowa aims to teach real methods of resistance while educating students about sexual assault in a college environment.
The UI is the second school in the United States to implement the Enhanced Assess, Acknowledge, Act curriculum and the first to offer academic credit for its Flip the Script class.
Fifteen hours and four units long, this female-dominated course aims to confront stigmas placed on victims of sexual assault and teach students about self-defense, consent, and more. The four core units include Assess, Acknowledge, Act, and Relationships & Sexuality.
“As women, we learn to fear being alone at night,” said Sara Feldmann, the compliance coordinator in the Office of Sexual Misconduct Response. “But statistics show sexual assault is more likely in relationships with people we trust. If we only think of danger as something that jumps out of a bush holding a knife, we’re missing the greater risk.”
The goal of facilitators in the class is to inform students about different sexual activities and behaviors, expanding how they might view their own desires.
According to the Sexual Assault Research Education Center, the course originated as a randomized controlled experiment by Charlene Senn at the University of Windsor in Ontario, Canada. Conclusions indicated that women who completed the class were 46 percent less likely to experience a completed sexual assault.
As the only program of its nature to produce significant results in a clinical trial, Flip the Script was then adopted by Florida Atlantic University. The UI followed its example, discovering Senn’s studies through an article in the New England Journal of Medicine.
“I think it’s a privilege being able to offer and facilitate this course,” Flip the Script instructor Meghan Quigley said. “In the first two semesters, I have loved watching the empowerment of young women once they practice these resistance moves we teach them. That’s what I really enjoy.”
Quigley worked on the research team for Speak Out Iowa, a campus climate survey about sexual assault at the university, and she has now incorporated relevant data into her course.
“We implement our local statistics because it makes it feel more real,” Quigley said. “We’re not trying to do it all with this class. My goal is that the young women I intersect with in this course will leave with a little more power and a little more sure of themselves.”
Despite the course being in its third semester at UI, many students are unaware it exists. There are eight students enrolled in a class which would otherwise be capped at 20.
“I had friends who went through sexual assault their freshman year,” UI senior Bre Ward said. “It would have been very helpful if there was an environment where they felt comfortable coming forward.”
Instructors want to market Flip the Script to incoming students, but they try to avoid suggesting that it’s capable of solving the ultimate problem of sexual assault on college campuses. Feldmann said the solution lies in stopping people who act coercively.
“I think it’s really important to be able to talk openly about sexual assault,” Ward said. “This is definitely [a] class I would have been interested in had I known more about it.”