In Kenya, Where One in Four Women has Been Raped, Self Defense Training Makes a Difference

After a short training course, rape in a group of adolescent girls dropped from around 25 percent to under 10 percent

A slum in Nairobi
A slum in Nairobi Gates Foundation

One in four adolescent girls living in the congested slums of Nairobi, Kenya, falls victim to rape each year. An organization called No Means No Worldwide is trying to improve that disturbing statistic. According to one study the non-profit conducted, a short course in both verbal and physical self-defense can significantly improve the girls’ odds of escaping their would-be rapists, Stanford School of Medicine reports.

Sexual assault usually is not openly discussed in Kenya, but in this trial more than 400 high school girls, aged 14 to 21, discussed the topic. In addition to learning self defense techniques, they also received information about what to do and how to get help if they ever suffered sexual assault.

In the 10 months after receiving self-defense training, more than half of these girls reported using what they had learned to fend off would-be attackers. The proportion of them who were raped fell from 24.6 percent in the year before training to 9.2 percent in the 10-month period after.

Another 120 girls served as a control group. During the trial, they took a life skills class that is administered by the Kenyan government. The proportion of these girls who went on to suffer rape remained about the same, or around 25 percent.

Next, No Means No Worldwide plans to move into trials with boys to see whether teaching them not to attack women has any effect on curbing sexual violence.

While the problem of rape in Kenya may seem remote to Western readers, a recent survey found that nearly 1 in 5 women in the U.S. say they have been raped or suffered an attempted rape at some point in their life.

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