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Monday, March 24, 2014

Why People are Against Self-Defense Training and What You Can Tell Them

A big surprise to many people who have seen the positive effects of IMPACT self-defense training is that there is resistance in the anti-violence movement to women learning self-defense. The positive outcomes of self-defense are not limited to personal anecdotes. There is much evidence that through self-defense training (Gidcyz and Dardis 2014), women and girls:

  • Learn rape resistance strategies that decrease rape
  • Experience positive mental health outcomes
  • Increase their feelings of empowerment and self-efficacy
  • Increase their general confidence and assertive sexual communication
  • Do not blame themselves for prior sexual violence once they learn self-defense 
  • Reduce post-traumatic stress
  • More actively engage in social and recreational activities.
In spite of the overwhelming evidence for the effectiveness of self-defense training, misperceptions and misrepresentations remain (Gidcyz and Dardis, 2014), such as
  • Women are not strong enough to resist rape
  • Rape resistance is ineffective 
  • Self-defense programs blame women for assault 
  • Men should be solely responsible for stopping rape and teaching self-defense puts the responsibility on women.
All of us who have experienced IMPACT self-defense training know that women are strong enough to resist, that rape resistance is effective, and that women are not to blame for assault. The remaining question is, then, does teaching self-defense put responsibility on women when it should be on men? The answer is not either/or—men do have to stop raping women, but in the meantime, women need self-protection skills.

As Susan Schorn, self-defense instructor and author of Smile at Strangers, testified to the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault:
"In the next 24 hours, 720 people will be assaulted in the United States, some of them on college campuses. Research shows that empowerment-based self-defense skills can prevent many of those assaults, and reduce the trauma and harm resulting from virtually all of them. And those skills could do the same for another 720 people the next day. And the day after that—that’s over 2,000 assaults we could prevent or mitigate, just between now (Wednesday) and Friday, with some simple but powerful instruction. So as we work toward our long-term goals, please be aware of the immediate, on-the-ground benefits of empowerment-based self-defense. It is a crucial tool for preventing and reducing the ongoing, daily harm of campus sexual assault, while also advancing the cause of cultural change."

While we work to change cultural values, norms, and behavior that support gender-based violence, Let’s make sure people have the tools to resist sexual violence right now!

Martha Thompson, IMPACT Chicago Lead Instructor

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