Monday, March 25, 2019

Challenging Myths about Empowerment Self-Defense and Domestic Violence

People resistant to training women in domestic violence situations to defend themselves often offer three concerns : women will feel blamed for the violence, it will be too risky for women in domestic violence situations, and it will trigger traumatic memories. 

In "Get Out of My Home and Don't Come Back: Empowering Women Through Self-Defense," Jan Jordan and Elaine Mossman highlight the responses they got from participants in self-defense courses with refugees and others related to these concerns (Violence Against Women 2019. 25(6):313-336.

1. Empowerment Self-Defense Training Affirms Violence is Not Women's Fault While Equipping Women with Skills for Protection of Themselves and Others
"Participants and refuge workers were typically insistent about experiencing the course only in empowering ways and with no hint of victim blaming. This finding reinforced what the self-defense teachers told us about the ways they consciously strove to validate the many different ways women responded to prior victimization. A pragmatic approach to ensuring women’s safety meant that while emphatically affirming violence against women is not their fault, they considered it essential to equip women with skills they could use in their own, and others,’ protection." (p. 329)

Women Practice Recognizing Risks and Explore Options to Minimize Violence
"The feedback we received indicated that an important aspect of the courses involved time spent talking about ways to minimize or avoid the use of violence. The emphasis was on learning ways to manage fear and read situations so that each woman could choose the best and safest response in any given context. This was likely to differ for different women, and even for the same women at different times, being influenced by factors such as how drunk or drugged their partner might be or whether a weapon was present. The self-defense teachers talked us through the ways they worked with the women to explore different options and courses of action they could take when they felt the tension building. The emphasis on protection, not aggression, was well-recognized." (p. 329)

Triggering is Not Necessarily Negative and Empowerment Self-Defense Provides Support 
"Both refuge workers and the self-defense instructors themselves spoke of their awareness that the material presented could trigger reactions and traumatic memories in course participants and sought to be well equipped in each environment with what supports were available. Several of the self-defense teachers said how much they valued support workers participating in the course alongside the women. If someone was triggered, one of the workers could take them aside, while the teacher continued with the rest of the group. Triggering per se was not viewed as a negative consequence." (p. 329-330).

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