Preventing Sexual Assault: Know the 3 “P”s

This April marks the twenty-second year of Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Every 73 seconds, someone in this country is sexually assaulted. That amounts to 433,648 victims (age 12 or older) of rape and sexual assault every year in the United States. In light of this staggering number and in honor of this important month, it’s time we understand the extent to which people are impacted by sexual violence and learn some strategies for preventing sexual assault.

Let’s face it, sexual assault impacts everyone. No, I’ve never been a victim of sexual violence, but I have absolutely been impacted by it. As a retired law enforcement officer, I’ve comforted victims and listened to them as they shared their experiences, cried with them, tried to reassure them, and did the best I could to use the process of law to ensure the perpetrator wouldn’t harm them or anyone else in the future.

I would do anything to have been there to prevent them from becoming a sexual assault victim in the first place. While it’s impossible to change the past, we can help prevent sexual assault in the future. This has been my goal as a self-defense instructor, and now it’s my goal as the author of this article.

Preventing Sexual Assault

What Is Sexual Assault?

Sexual assault or sexual violence is sexual activity obtained without the consent of the victim. I begin every self-defense class with the same story — that in almost 40 years of law enforcement, like any other officer, I responded to and investigated numerous instances of sexual assault. Anyone, regardless of their gender, social status, sexual orientation, race, or age, can be a victim of sexual assault.

In most sexual assault cases, the perpetrator was known to the victim or was in a relationship with them. Some were trusted friends, and some were complete strangers or someone they had just met. Nearly 85 percent of sexual assault victims knew their perpetrator before the attack.

Types of Sexual Violence

Sexual violence can occur in person or online. Incidences of sexual violence may include:

  • Rape
  • Sexual assault, with or without penetration
  • Child molestation
  • Indecent exposure
  • Cyber flashing
  • Female genital mutilation
  • Sexual harassment

Strategies for Preventing Sexual Assault

The “3 D’s” (Direct, Distract, and Delegate) are often taught in training college students, faculty, and staff on how to combat sexual assault and domestic violence on campuses. Well, my martial partner, Master Dawn Holben, and I teach the “3 P’s” of sexual assault prevention in our women’s self-defense classes — Prepare, Prevent, and ultimately Prevail.


Preparing can mean lots of things — from mentally preparing for an attack to taking self-defense classes that teach you how to physically disable an attacker or get away safely. In our women’s self-defense classes, we focus on interrupting the attacker by being prepared with a plan. After all, an attacker has a plan, and it doesn’t include the victim fighting back or thwarting them. Surprise them with a plan of your own.

I believe a big part of being prepared lies in making the decision ahead of time that you won’t become a sexual assault victim — or you won’t ever be one again if you have been.

In martial arts, learning a few select “go to” moves, and having the right tools can have a major impact on which direction a potential sexual assault can go. And yes, I’ll say it because I believe it: carrying and practicing with a MUNIO, a discreet, non-lethal self-defense keychain, is one of the best things you can do short of taking the time to completely learn a martial art or take self-defense classes, something we encourage every woman to do.


The best way to prevent sexual assault from occurring is to prevent placing oneself in a dangerous or compromised position in the first place.

While this may be the most obvious strategy for preventing sexual violence, you can substantially lower your risk of sexual assault by taking the following precautions:

  • Avoid going out alone at night.
  • Avoid alcohol and drugs so you can stay alert and in control of your environment at all times.
  • Create boundaries as early as possible and communicate them firmly.
  • Trust your intuition; get out of any situation where you feel uncomfortable.
  • Assert yourself — being passive can often be misinterpreted as giving consent. If you’re being pressured into sexual activity, firmly make your wishes or limits clear to the other person.


Only in very few sexual assault cases who didn’t receive prior training did I see a potential victim prevail. For those that did, there seemed to be one similarity between them: they fought back and refused to be a victim.

It’s not always possible to fight back, especially when the perpetrator is a lot bigger than you or is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, but sometimes it is possible, and you should absolutely do everything you can to escape or disable your attacker. Learn the basic self-defense moves, which anyone can do. Whether it’s elbowing your attacker, striking them in the eyes, or headbutting them, these simple moves can take the perpetrator by surprise and help you escape safely.

With some training and learning how to use a self-defense weapon, I believe anyone can be empowered to prevail over their attacker in the case of sexual assault.

Sexual Assault Awareness Month: Let’s Write An Alternative Ending

It’s our hope and prayer that we can prepare, prevent, and prevail over the blight of sexual assault in our homes and communities. This Sexual Assault Awareness Month, take the steps you need to ensure you’re prepared for and protected from sexual violence, and encourage your loved ones to join you.

About the Author

Chuck Edwards

Master Chuck Edwards is the co-owner of More Than Conquerors Martial Arts and a certified instructor for MUNIO Self Defense Workshops. He is a 4th Dan in Chon Sul Kwon Hapkido and has been a police officer for the past 40 years serving as both municipal police chief (retired) and Chief County Detective (retired). During his career he’s observed too many incidents where the victim could have prevailed had they known basic self-defense skills. He now teaches self defense to the average person to empower them with the confidence and skills needed to protect themselves and prevent them from becoming a statistic.

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