North Texas Daily

SHARP training course teaches self-defense, rape prevention

SHARP training course teaches self-defense, rape prevention

November 02
19:35 2014

Alana Holt / Contributing Writer

There were four sexual assaults at UNT in 2012 and seven in 2013 — a 75 percent increase, according to the UNT 2014-2015 Annual Security and Fire Safety Report.

But UNT is helping women fight back.

UNT offers a Sexual Harassment and Rape Prevention self-defense course to educate students on how to avoid being attacked and how to retaliate against an attacker.

“Our job is to educate,” Dean of Students Maureen McGuinness said. “There’s no one way to attack this. It’s being as preventative and educated as possible.”

The UNT police department and dean of students host SHARP at least once a month. Cpl. John DeLong leads the class.

The class covers principles of how to avoid high-risk situations and hands-on self-defense, including counterstrikes and disarming techniques, DeLong said.

“The whole purpose of it is to educate people, to help them be able to defend themselves if they end up in a situation they don’t want to be in,” DeLong said.

At least one male instructor will help instruct the class, DeLong said.

“The reason we put a male in the class is because … most of the time… the female has to defend herself against another male,” DeLong said. “So we put a male in the class so they can actually go through the techniques of pushing us off so they have a bigger person, a stronger person and they can see that these techniques work.”

Nearly 98 percent of assaulters are male, according to the White House Council on Women and Girls.

If a student is assaulted and reports the incident, UNT police department and McGuinness come together to provide emotional support, as well as legal help if the victim wants to press charges. UNT also brings in Denton County Friends of the Family, a shelter for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence.

But of the one in five women who are sexually assaulted in college, less than half report the incident to the police, according to the Rape Abuse and Incest National Network.

McGuinness said guilt is the reason sexual assault is one of the most underreported crimes.

“It’s a very private crime,” she said. “Victims are afraid people won’t believe them and that there won’t be any justice.”

Reporting the incident is just the beginning.

Following a sexual assault report is a sexual assault exam, police investigation and, if the victim is willing to press charges, deposition and discovery, DeLong said.

McGuinness advised victims not to shower or change clothes because that could be washing away evidence.

DNA is the strongest piece of evidence to get a conviction, DeLong said.

After an assault is reported, Denton County Friends of the Family Crisis Line dispatches a sexual assault nurse examiner, usually requested by the officer working the case, sometimes requested by the Denton Regional Medical Center, Friends of the Family male mentor Daniel Ceske said.

“The purpose of this exam is to evaluate and treat any injuries that may be present as a result of a sexual assault,” Ceske said.

Solving a sexual assault case takes about two weeks of investigative work. The victim will go through initial statements after the SANE exam and then information about any witnesses and suspects is gathered. The investigator will then interview witnesses and suspects. Then it gets sent to the district attorney and handled by the court system from there, when the process will take longer, DeLong said.

“Whenever the case gets filed here, it’s considered an intake, and it will be reviewed by the prosecution, and then it gets sent to the grand jury,” said Amanda Mention, who works in Denton Friends of the Family’s violence assistance division.

Although sexual assault cases can be a long process, DeLong said the UNT police department has a good success rate getting cases to higher courts.

“Over the five years I’ve been here, I can’t think of anything that has gone unsolved,” DeLong said.

SHARP classes for men will be held noon-5 p.m. Nov. 15 at the Greek Life Center. The all-female SHARP class will not meet until the spring. To attend the class, contact DeLong at john.delong@unt.edu or 940-369-7924 at least two weeks in advance.

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