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Monday, June 23, 2014

Self-Defense Training Prevents Sexual Violence Against Women

Jocelyn Hollander's recent study into whether self-defense training prevents violence against women is a cogent report further supporting the case in favor of such programs. The main goal of Hollander's study was to explore a possible relationship between women who complete an empowerment-based self-defense class and their subsequent victimization. While her research was limited in its design in that she could not use a completely random sample (she studied women enrolled in college classes), the results of her work are compelling, to say the least.

Hollander's main result was that women enrolled in a 30-hour self-defense class reported significantly fewer sexual assaults during the year after completion of the class than other women at the same university. This result was robust even when pre-existing differences between the groups were controlled for. As Hollander explored the results she obtained, she noted that not only was the overall quantity of reported sexual assaults reduced, but the severity was reduced as well. Secondary results also showed that the self-defense training increased women's confidence as well as their belief that they could defend themselves if necessary.

For those of us who have had the experience of participating in one of these self-defense courses, we can anecdotally report the increases in confidence and self-efficacy. Hollander's results continue to add to the evidence-based background for the success of programs like IMPACT Chicago. More conclusive evidence means that we are closer to the wider acceptance of empowerment-based self-defense training as a primary prevention strategy. Hollander recognizes the enormity of these implications:

"Sexual assault is a widespread problem with far-reaching effects for both individuals and communities. Virtually every other prevention strategy has proved ineffective at reducing sexual victimization. If self-defense training reduces women's subsequent risk of sexual assault, it would provide an effective and fairly simple way to reduce women's vulnerability to violence."

Empowerment-based self-defense techniques are simple, effective and at the same time, revolutionary. These classes teach that women are physically capable of defending themselves, which is something the majority of the world believes to be impossible. This work by Hollander moves groups like IMPACT Chicago one step closer to being taken seriously as a viable primary prevention measure for sexual assault. Graduates know that it works and while we believe this should be enough to convince people to offer classes like these on every college campus, once the evidence has been collected, it will be even harder to refute.


Molly Norris, IMPACT Chicago Instructor and IMPACT Chicago Recruitment Team Leader

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