Domestic violence and sexual assault are global issues affecting people from every background and walk of life. As a community, we have the opportunity to be active participants in protecting ourselves and recognizing the signs of these transgressions so we can be of help to potential victims. As part of our Community initiative at Grace Farms, we offer a Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Prevention program to raise awareness on these topics. The class is organized by Fred Pickering, Assistant Director of Safety at Grace Farms Foundation and former police officer with the New Canaan Police Department, and run by Sgt. Sofia Gulino of the Norwalk Police Department, who has provided answers to common questions about sexual assault and domestic violence below.
What does the five-week domestic violence and sexual assault prevention course consist of? What can I expect when I come to the class?
Participants in the free, five-week course can expect a professional, safe training environment, where they can engage in a physically and mentally challenging course. Certified instructors lead participants through the Rape Aggression Defense basic program which teaches risk awareness, reduction and avoidance strategies paired with physical defense skills. Participants will also hear from guest speakers from the local sexual assault crisis and education center. Topics covered range from domestic violence to safe use of technology, victimization prevention, campus safety and personal safety. The class is currently open to all women, and we are looking into creating a class for men and boys as well. New classes will be announced shortly for late Summer, just before back to school, so stay tuned to our calendar for more information.
Can individuals who are currently experiencing domestic violence or sexual assault attend this class?
Most women enrolling in the program know very little about self-defense. Some are survivors of previous assaults and join our program because they feel vulnerable. The program is open to women ages 14 and older. We have been particularly popular with young women who want to ensure they can protect themselves on campus once they leave for college.
What are some tips you can provide to help those in domestic violence or sexual assault situations?
Trust your personal perceptions. If something does not feel right, follow up appropriately. Learn about risks to your safety so that you may increase your awareness, reduce your exposure, recognize risks and know how to avoid them. Preparation is the key to personal safety. Find a method of self-defense that works for you and practice. How you train will impact how you will respond in a real-life situation.
What are some signs of domestic violence and/or sexual assault that might not be immediately recognizable at first? (i.e. Do abusers show any potential warning signs?)
In approximately 80% of cases of sexual assault, the offender is known to the victim. If a person you know begins to take physical or conversational liberties, does not respect your wishes or boundaries and attempts to isolate you—however charming or subtle he/she may be—it’s time to take action. This is the time to consider the options of self-defense and other protections available to you.
What resources are available to victims or those who might suspect they are victims?
We encourage victims to notify the police, seek support from trusted friends and family members, and use the services of a professional, non-profit counseling center such as the Center in Stamford. The 24-hour hotline is 203-329-2929. Victims can also call 211, 24/7 to be connected with crisis assistance and counseling services. Additionally, the RAD program, which is offered across the United States, permits participants to return for any portion of the course, at any time, for free.
What are some common misconceptions about sexual assault?
Some recurring myths about sexual assault include:
Myth: A lot of victims are lying about being raped, or give a false report
Fact: Only 2-8% of rapes are falsely reported, the same percentage as for other felonies.
Myth: Wearing revealing clothing, behaving provocatively, or drinking a lot means the victim is “asking for it”.
Fact: The perpetrator selects the victim—the victim’s behavior or clothing choices do not mean that they are consenting to sexual activity.
Myth: Sexual assault is usually committed by strangers.
Fact: Less than one quarter of sexual assaults are committed by strangers, according to RAINN.
Approximately 43% of sexual assaults are committed by friends or acquaintances, and 27% are committed by a current or former significant other.