Monday, July 7, 2014

What's the Fuss About? Controversies about Self-Defense Against Sexual Assault

This blog is a repository of critiques or ignoring of self-defense and responses by self-defense scholars and instructors.

In recent years, there have been numerous on-line comments, articles, and blogs critiquing self-defense and its role in feminist and anti-violence movements. For example, in December 2013, Everyday Feminism published Danica Johnson's article "Ways to protect yourself from sexual assault." Online reaction was swift and brutal, charging Johnson with blaming victims for rape. Everyday Feminism removed Johnson's article and the comments. To get an idea of the reactions, see below in Susan Shorn's "The shark has pretty teeth, dear."

10 feminist reasons to advocate for self-defense, including the decades of research that provide evidence that self-defense stops rape and sexual assault and teaches men not to rape.

Addresses rape culture (shark's teeth), empowerment self-defense, and why empowerment-based self-defense is part of the challenge to rape culture.

Stone, Meg. September 14, 2010. A call forself-defense against victim blaming AND against rape. Presents reasons why it is important to hold perpetrators, not victims, responsible for rape and to offer self-defense with a social justice perspective.

Reveals the shortcomings in rape prevention by comparing to the approach to dealing with swine flu, the threat of which was a prominent news story in 2009.

Addresses the critique that self-defense training inherently blames victims and offers an overview of an empowerment-approach to teaching self-defense.

An overview of how a social-justice empowerment-based self-defense addresses the paradox of self-defense.

Four priorities in addressing the problem of sexual assault on college campuses:
·         More information about the problem with campus climate surveys
·         Engage men as allies and empowering them to step in when someone’s in trouble
·         Develop effective institutional supports for when a student is sexually assaulted
·         Increase transparency by posting sexual assault data and improving law enforcement

Addresses the value of self-defense training as providing a short-term strategy between the current situation and the days when bystanders will reliably intervene and as challenging the implication that women are inherently vulnerable and in need of protection.

Points to ways that the report frames women as damsels in distress, needing men to protect them. Discusses the value of self-defense training for stopping sexual assault.

Collection of responses to the White House Task Force Report.

Stone, Meg. September 11, 2014. Campus Rape Crisis: What is Missing from the White House Sexual Violence Plan. 
Acknowledges the importance of offering programs that are evidence-based; raises questions about why self-defense programs are not included when there is substantial evidence of their effectiveness.

Acknowledges the value of the White House Task Force recommendations, but points to the lack of self-defense training in the report and the problem with a focus on what men can do to save women and what experts can do to help assault victims deal with the aftermath.  

NIA SANCHEZ, 2014 MISS USA June 9, 2014
A compilation of reactions to Nia Sanchez’s response to a Miss USA judge’s question about sexual assault. Sanchez said that women need to be able to defend themselves against sexual assault.

Offers support to Nia Sanchez by acknowledging the uphill battle in bringing self-defense to all women, recognizing self-defense as part of a holistic prevention plan, not the only solution; and a shout-out to Sanchez for raising this issue with the Miss USA contest.

Until women are no longer at risk of sexual assault, self-defense is a solution for women to protect themselves and to make their way in the world.

Agrees that men should stop raping women, but focuses on the necessity of providing women with tools to protect themselves until that day comes of perpetrators stopping rape. Argues that self-defense is not victim-blaming but a realistic strategy in a world where sexual assault is still very much with us.

An overview of how Sanchez responded to a question about the high rate of sexual assault on college campuses, how she was attacked in the media, the role of class, and why self-defense training is so important.

How media ignores self-defense experts and the consequences for public knowledge and awareness.

In response to the charges that self-defense is victim-blaming and anti-feminist, addresses the importance of women’s empowerment self-defense training and why in the absence of public and private safety for women, self-defense training is essential.

Compiled by Martha Thompson, IMPACT Chicago June 7, 2014; updated November 18, 2014.

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