UIPD offers self-protection course addressing specific student concerns

Unknown to most students, UIPD regularly offers self-defense courses to students, encouraging them to have a plan for self-protection.


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The University of Iowa Department of Public Safety is housed in the Old Capitol Mall.

Katie Ann McCarver, News Reporter

The University of Iowa Public Safety Department offers self-protection classes to students, providing instruction in self-defense and encouraging students to value their personal safety.

Classes vary from Rape Aggression Defense to Better Men. Better Hawkeyes. UI police Community Outreach Officer Alton Poole said the recent unprecedented deaths of students at UI and ISU have increased awareness of personal safety among college students.

“We’ve had a few more requests or inquiries,” Poole said. “To a degree, everyone’s worried about their personal safety, and we hope that people will continue to be vigilant and seek safety classes.”

In addition to students, Poole said a separate class is available for faculty and staff that focuses on assessment and de-escalation of dangerous situations.

“Our overall mission is to provide a safe-learning environment to the university,” Poole said. “At the forefront, a lot of what we do is community outreach.”

Often, this means teaming up with the Iowa City police to administer self-protection courses together.

“We’ll coordinate about availability and sometimes conduct classes together,” Poole said. “We have a nice working relationship with IC police, the Coralville police, and the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office.”

Poole emphasized that they try to address the specific concerns of students, who can request a class either on the UI police website or by phone call.

“We encourage people that no matter what they do or where they go to have a personal safety plan,” Poole said.

Statistics show that 98 percent of violent perpetrators are male, and women are targeted more often, Poole said, so many classes are categorized under an umbrella of gender-based violence.

“In the news, you read about the stranger danger,” Poole said. “But over 75 percent of violence is perpetrated by someone you know. We say you should look for signs and cues and understand the antics of a predator.”

In fact, 90 percent of sexual assaults on college campuses are committed by persons known to the victims, and only 5 percent of these crimes are reported, Poole said.

“Our solution to sexual violence is not in how the target responds but in the nature of the instigator,” UI Office of Sexual Misconduct compliance coordinator Sara Feldmann said. “We’re optimistic we are using strategies that can lead to a culture change, but in the meantime, if there is evidence that certain forms of self-protection will be effective, we need to get those out there.”

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To increase student safety, the UI police offer additional resources such as the Rave Guardian app and the Students Helping Out Program.

Every weekend, a group of three to four Students Helping Out representatives walk around for five hours downtown and are prepared if someone should approach them asking for help or notify them about a nearby altercation.

“We’re trained in bystander intervention, CPR, and first aid,” UI senior and group member Melanie Long said. “I want to stress that we’re not cops and won’t arrest students. We’re a safe space in the downtown area, there to make sure everyone’s having a good and safe time.”

Consistent with the “If You See Something, Say Something” campaign by Homeland Security, Poole said students should seek training for bystander intervention.

“Safety is all of our responsibility,” Poole said. “Crime is random and can happen anywhere, anytime. If you go through a class, you can breathe and fight to execute your own safety in that kind of situation.”

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