The elements of earth, wind, fire and water have proven too strong to contain at Ball State as the Elemental Self Defense program, created by students, will be expanding to other universities next year, including Antioch College in Ohio and Florida State.
“The more people we can help and affect, the better off we’ll all be,” said Mellisa Holtzman, associate professor of sociology and co-founder of Elemental.
Holtzman said Elemental is a distinctive sexual assault protection program. The program follows a video of different scenarios, stopping and breaking down potential responses based on elements that define personality types: earth, wind, fire and water.
Anyone is welcome to the program, Holtzman said. She said one distinct part of the program is that they focus on defense from acquaintances, instead of just stranger rape.
“We bring in a lot of props that we feel are important to learn to protect yourself from a sexual assault,” Holtzman said. “Because we’re dealing with acquaintances, many of these situations take place on beds or on couches or in dorm rooms. We bring beds and couches to the seminar and we teach people how to protect themselves on those surfaces.”
So far, Holtzman and Chad Menning, associate professor of sociology and co-founder of Elemental, have brought the program to Antioch College.
“[The program] went over very well at Antioch,” Holtzman said. “They want to have us back to teach it again and again. The individuals who had us out want to become a certified instructor and offer it on a regular basis on their campus.”
Jesse Taskovic, a sophomore Japanese major, attended an Elemental training session last fall and said spreading the training is a good idea.
“It’s infectious, it’s going to really relay the message of safety,” Taskovic said. “Not just in terms in sexuality but in terms of so many other things… because the program is open to such diverse crowds.”
Taskovic said since his training he has used the tactics he was taught.
Over Winter Break Taskovic said he was on a date and went back to the person’s apartment when the guy said he forgot his wallet.
When he began making advances on Taskovic, Taskovic took a wind approach and did not give him permission to touch him. When that didn’t work, Taskovic switched to fire response and pushed him off.
“[The program] helped me avoid what potentially could have become molestation,” Taskovic said.
Taskovic said he will return to Elemental training in the fall to reinforce what he has already learned.
“It’s changed me, it’s protected me, it’s ensured I can have a happier life and I really would wish that on anyone, so I really encourage anyone who could… to consider it,” Taskovic said. “It really does give you tools to maintain a healthy lifestyle.”
Holtzman said she and Menning are also working to expand Elemental in Muncie and will be holding training in two different locations off campus in the fall.
“[Menning and I] don’t want Elemental to be restricted to Ball State students, although it was originally designed by Ball State students,” Holtzman said.
Holtzman said part of the process of marketing Elemental off campus is using Vizi Courseware. The software functions as the platform for them to share information about the program with other people, she said.
“Bottom line, people generally never feel that they’re at risk until they’re suddenly in a situation that they don’t know how to get out of,” Holtzman said. “It’s better to get this kind of training early and never need to use it, than to never get this training and suddenly find yourself in a situation where you wish you had the training.”