New Podcast

Mellisa Holtzman, one of the directors of Elemental, recently recorded a podcast about the program with the Journal of Applied Social Sciences. In it, she describes Elemental and some of the research on the program's effectiveness. Download the episode (10 minutes, 4MB).

What is Elemental?

Elemental is a sexual assault protection program that was developed at Ball State University by Chad Menning, Mellisa Holtzman, and a team 15 students from a number of disciplines across campus. The program combines educational programming on assault, consent, party culture, party safety and so forth with physical and verbal self-defense training. During the 7 hour seminar, students learn how to recognize sexual threats early, give and get consent, communicate with partners about sex, and use a variety of self-protection techniques that vary in intensity and level of violence.

What Makes Elemental Unique?

Most sexual assault protection programs focus on either educational programming or self-defense training, but not both. Research, however, suggests that self-protection efforts may be most effective when programs combine these features.

By focusing on education and self-protection Elemental offers an organized and holistic curriculum that is grounded in social science research, based on martial arts protective strategies, and has been demonstrated to effectively increase safety awareness while lowering the risk of assault.

Although many protection programs attempt to deal with both stranger and acquaintance assaults, few actually account for how an acquaintance assault changes the way a victim feels about using self-protective strategies.

The physical defenses taught in standard self-defense seminars (gouging eyes, strikes to the face, knees to the groin) may not feel "appropriate" where a person's aggressor is a friend, boyfriend, girlfriend, or classmate.

Elemental uses a martial arts tradition that focuses on one's feelings and circumstances (see Pedagogy). This allows us to teach participants to recognize threats early so they can use verbal tactics to control the situation before physical responses are necessary. Should the situation escalate, we also teach participants physical tactics that vary in degree and intensity. The goal is to give participants choice in the way they respond.

Most sexual assault protection programs assume female victims and male aggressors. While statistically many assaults conform to this assumption, not all do.

One in four college women are victims of a completed or attempted sexual assault before they graduate and rates are similarly high for gay and bisexual men, but they are rarely included in prevention efforts.

Elemental is open to heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, transsexual, and transgender women and men. The program is inclusive of all individuals because anyone can be at risk of sexual assault.

Elemental Program History

Since the initial interdisciplinary fellowship project to develop the program through the Virginia Ball Center for Creative Inquiry at Ball State University in the spring of 2011, over 250 students have trained in Elemental's system. The success of this innovative program on Ball State's campus and its growing record of effectiveness have sparked the expansion of the program beyond its home institution. Today, Elemental Sexual Assault Protection LLC partners with Vizi Courseware to deliver seminars, cutting-edge instructional and review materials, and instructor certification on small and large scales. Through our certification programs, individuals and institutions can receive training for themselves or their staff and then offer the Elemental program within their communities, university settings, and so forth.