As hard as it is to believe for those of us who know what high quality self-defense is about, self-defense for women remains controversial. In response to a statement from an anti-violence organization that “…if you are promoting changes to women’s behavior to ‘prevent’ rape, you’re really saying ‘make sure he rapes the other girl.’ Lisa Scheff (Bay Area) and Lia Nagase (Prepare Portland) remind us that self-defense can stop violence for ourselves and others.
Lisa Scheff of IMPACT Bay Area says: “While changing the way you dress has no bearing on whether you are sexually assaulted, self-defense skills can and do prevent rape. Teaching women to recognize their own boundaries and say ‘no’ when someone tries to cross them, and then teaching them the physical skills to back up their ‘no,’ does indeed teach women to change their behavior. So in the case of self-defense, changes in a woman’s behavior may prevent her from getting raped. Not to mention, there are a whole host of other positive benefits even if the changes are never used to prevent an attempted rape, from speaking up in the classroom and workplace to setting polite but firm boundaries with family members when they cross our boundaries.”
Lia Nagase of Prepare Portland says: “The more times someone hears ‘no,’ the more difficult it is to ‘get away’ with perpetrating an act. The same message applies to boundary-setting, especially interpersonal boundary-setting. If someone encounters a ‘no’ from their partners about pushing, say, a lower-on-the-spectrum sexual boundary: is there a chance that the pusher could keep searching until they find someone who won't set a boundary? Sure. But is there also a chance that healthier boundary systems start to become part of their lens? Yep. Also, there's the attempt and work toward establishing a cultural norm of empowerment, choice, strength, resistance.
Related blogs In October, we shared insights from IMPACT Directors about the lack of relationship between how women dress and sexual assault, in November, we addressed why self-defense is NOT about “raping the other girl.”