The Center For Women Students Encourages Ninjas And High Heels
The hoards of men strutting in high heels and women displaying ninja-like agility around campus never fail to create conversation. The Center for Women Students sponsors Walk a Mile in Her Shoes and offers self-defense classes, like RAD, for exactly that reason — the conversation.
Because of the party atmosphere that envelopes the university after the sun sets (or even on sunny Saturdays), it is common for female students to feel uncomfortable walking home alone. Although the buddy system is the best way to go, sometimes the most unsuspecting students can find themselves in a scary situation. These Rape Aggression Defense classes are designed to offer a way for the students to take safety into their own hands.
After many of Penn State’s campuses added the RAD program to the list of resources offered to female students regarding safety, University Park finally implemented a class specifically for the women student population through the Center for Women Students. The RAD program is offered to students for free in order to ensure their safety on and off campus.
“The RAD course is meant to provide valuable information and skills to participants so they feel like they are leaving more empowered and armed with more knowledge than they had before,” said Jennifer Pencek, the Program Coordinator for the CWS.
The University Police has certified instructors to teach the self-defense to the full RAD classes.
“We normally get a lot of interest from students wanting to learn about self-defense and often have a list waiting with students wanting more information. The course typically is offered twice a year with the cap placed on 20 participants for each class,” Pencek explained.
Back in 1985, the Center for Women Students was created after the university noticed the need for a program to create an inclusive and supportive environment for its students. Over time, the CWS helped Penn State with advocacy, referrals, crisis intervention, and support counseling. These resources are included for students at branch campuses.
The Center for Women Students home page has multiple resources that pertain to child abuse, rights as a crime victim, discrimination, and harassment, and the website also offers a Penn State Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Hotline.
With the university continuing to increase the number of resources for its students, it creates a progressive community where students feel comfortable and encouraged to reach out for involvement, assistance, or information.
The CWS logically seems to be less inclusive of certain other demographics at Penn State, especially the male population. But similar to today’s inclusive feminism movement, the Center for Women Students offers multiple ways for men to get involved in women’s equality and safety on campus.
Sergeant Monica Himes of the University Police works closely with the center and attests, “the CWS is a great resource for those that want to help, need services, or want to get involved in making a positive difference. It is for both women and men.”
Encouragement for men to get involved in campaigns like Men Can Stop Rape where their mission is to mobilize men to build violence-free cultures, especially against women. Or the White Ribbon Campaign, where the same strong motivation is to bring an end to violence against women and girls, spread gender equity, and encourage heathly relationships.
The men that make up the Men Against Violence or MAV at Penn State stand side-by-side with their fellow female students with the same mentality to fight against violence and inequality universally.
The Walk a Mile in Her Shoes campaign, where male students battle blisters and stubbed toes in stilettos in the hopes of inciting awareness that sexual assault is a man’s issue as well, helps to change perspective and motivate the campus.
The CWS also offers peer education groups like Peers Helping Reaffirm, Educate, and Empower (PHREE) in order to create an open environment of communication and education of the many aspects that affect students on a daily basis. With fellow students mediating these conversations, it only sparks more opportunity for growth and awareness among the student body.
The university has so many resources that are just under the surface. The Center for Women Students is here to create a welcoming environment and build a backbone for the women’s safety and education, though it’s inclusion of all Penn State students is special; Pencek agrees.
“I think it’s so important for people at Penn State and in the community to learn about the vast array of resources and services available, including the Center for Women Students.”