Monday, October 17, 2011

Rob Babcock: I want to right the wrong

At the start of every class I enter, and often times when I talk about teaching women’s self-defense, I am asked, “Why do you do it?”  Sometimes the question is asked with genuine sincerity; often with curiosity; and occasionally with a smug, dismissive attitude that says ‘you’re just a fear-monger; women don’t really need that…”

Regardless of who asks or when in class I give the answer, it is often some version of this story…early on in life, I realized I was left of center in most political, social, and philosophical discussions.  And when it came to women’s issues, I kind of thought I got it.  I would hold the door open, put the toilet seat down, and send my mother flowers on Mother’s Day (never late either!).

But when I was in graduate school, a friend suggested I read Naomi Wolf’s The Beauty Myth.  After reading this book, I had what can best be described as ‘a moment of clarity’ in my life.  I thought it was good enough for me to just not be a part of the problem of victimizing women.  It wasn’t.  I had to be a part of the solution.

I moved to Chicago shortly after that.  I worked on a college campus, and became the faculty/staff advisor for the feminist student group.  From that, I did some volunteer work for Rape Victim Advocates.  RVA is a group that trains women to be sexual assault responders to certain Chicago area hospitals – they send a 56-hour trained advocate to the emergency room to be with a rape survivor, and advocate for her/his needs.  One of the things I identified with most with RVA was they were on the ‘front lines’ so to speak of the anti-rape movement.

Being male, that was not an option.  So I did some outreach and education for them, going to several schools to educate on rape and rape issues.  I then got connected to IMPACT Chicago.  It was a perfect opportunity for me to blend my interest in the physical arts (I was a martial artist at the time) in my interest of reducing the number of rapes perpetrated.

Since joining IMPACT, I have had my reasons both reinforced and expanded…After I started working with IMPACT, I once had a co-worker who, at the end of a long day, was bemoaning the fact that she had to drive to far off mall to buy a certain gift for a bridal shower.  She was tired, and really not looking forward to the drive, but it had to be done that night since the party was in a day or two.  After finding out what store she had to go to, I suggested she go to the mall that was significantly closer to her work and home – only about 15 minutes away from either.  She appreciated the suggestion, but said she didn’t want to go there at night because she didn’t feel comfortable there.

I thought to myself how horrible this is…my co-worker has to significantly inconvenience herself because she doesn’t feel safe.  As a man, I very seldom have to make decisions about my safety when I decide to go places, but for her it was a regular, almost daily, occurrence.  This is terribly unfair – and I want to do what I can to right this wrong.  For far too long women have traded freedom for safety –it’s time for that to end.

So I do IMPACT for many reasons – and it continues to give me more than I give it.   

Thanks for reading my story.

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