Friday, August 1, 2014

Unlike Tigger, we're NOT the only ones..

So there is a National Women's Martial Arts Federation..  and they offer self-defense training. As part of getting your NWMAF certification, you have to agree to the following statement (among other things)
Be in agreement with the philosophical assumptions developed by the NCASA Self-Defense AD-HOC Committee regarding the teaching of self defense presented:
  1. Women do not ask for, cause, invite, or deserve to be assaulted. Women and men sometimes exercise poor judgment about safety behavior, but that does not make them responsible for the attack. Attackers are responsible for their attacks and their use of violence to overpower, control and abuse another human being.
  2. Whatever a woman's decision in a given self-defense situation, whatever action she does or does not take, she is not at fault. A woman's decision to survive the best way she can must be respected. Self defense classes should not be used as judgment against a victim/survivor.
  3. Good self defense programs do not "tell" an individual what she "should" or "should not" do. A program should offer options, techniques, and a way of analyzing situations. A program may point out what USUALLY works best in MOST situations, but each situation is unique and the final decision rests with the person actually confronted by the situation.
  4. Empowerment is the goal of a good self defense program. The individual's right to make decisions about her participation must be respected. Pressure should not be brought to bear in any way to get a woman to participate in an activity if she is hesitant or unwilling.

You guys, these are important things, because it is important to teach how WRONG it is to engage in victim-blaming (and its relative slut-shaming). In the first sentence, it hits the nail on the head: Women and men sometimes exercise poor judgment about safety behavior, but that does not make them responsible for the attack.

I know far too many rape survivors. But even with the number of women I know that have come out the other side of rape, the percentage of those same women that reported the crime is soul-crushingly low. And of the women who were brave enough to tell what happened, to tell their story, they are far to often subject to armchair quarterbacking behavior: 
  • Why didn't you do [this]? 
  • Why would you go [there] with [him]?
  • What were you thinking [doing that]?
  • Were you [drinking / doing drugs / wearing something "inappropriate"]?
  • Why didn't you just [fight back / scream / get help]?
These are also covered in the guidelines above (see b and c, receptively). But it's the last one that gets my attention. And here's why: if we accept that rape is sexual contact without consent, we must accept that we (as human beings) need to respect people's feeling about participation in anything. In other words, you cannot force a survivor to participate in a self-defense program—it becomes counter productive.

So. When we are teaching classes, we must be particularly careful when instructing. I rarely ask female students to stand in for a victim when we are demonstrating advanced techniques that involve throwing or disarming the attacker. That may seem odd, but think about how you may normally instruct....  "ok, I'm attacking [student] so I throw a punch like so, and [they] counter by doing..." 
That might be problematic. So instead, I say things like, "okay, [student] is going to be the attacker," and then I make sure that's ok with them. Because not all students like to attack either!* So once I find a willing attacker, I will explain to them if I'm going to throw them or get them on the ground in any way. And then I demonstrate the technique.

And here's the most important part: if you're going to partner people to practice the technique, always look to see if there are people uncomfortable with what's going on. Not everyone is going to speak up and say, "excuse me, I don't want to do this because it makes me uncomfortable." They might not want to stand out. So make sure to walk the room, talk with the students, look at how they're participating. Are they avoiding working by talking or some other manner? Do they seem anxious? Are they finding excuses to not participate?

That's when you can take a moment, and take them aside (so one can hear) and ask them if there's something up, or if they would like to try a different technique that may be less aggressive. Don't single them out--be chill about it. You don't want to trigger any anxiety, but you can gently give excuses that will give them an "out."

And then, of course, try to follow up with them later--maybe after class or with a phone call. Be there to listen, be there to help. But above all, don't blame the victim.

* as an aside, my oldest boy HATES to attack me. It's a chore to even get him to practice hitting drills with me because he doesn't like attacking people, period. I'm OK with that, and luckily my younger boy is content to attack me whenever I ask.

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