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Monday, July 13, 2015

Responding to Self-Defense Critics

Before Charlene Senn and colleagues had the opportunity to bask in the positive attention that their rigorous and important study[1] was receiving, the naysayers started:
  • Self-defense is an individual solution to a social problem.[2] 
  • Self-defense places the responsibility for prevention on potential victims not on perpetrators.[3]
  • If a woman defends herself, then the perpetrator will just rape someone else.[4] 
Wondering how to respond to these naysayers? Check out these thoughtful responses from empowerment self-defense instructors and supporters.

Include empowerment self-defense in a multi-pronged strategy to stop sexual assault.
“The CDC has steadfastly refused to consider self-defense training as part of its approach to preventing sexual violence. And because other major organizations - including the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault and a large number of universities and colleges - rely on the CDC for their research, self-defense training has been completely left out of the current rush to develop effective prevention strategies, especially on college campuses.” Jocelyn Hollander. “Why Isn’t Self-Defense Training Available to Every Woman Who Wants It? Huffington Post.

Self-defense training can help stop sexual assault
[In response to Senn’s research] “Dr. Sarah DeGue [CDC] stated skeptically that a man who finds himself thwarted by a woman who defends herself against his aggression could move on to a woman who is untrained or otherwise more vulnerable. Thank goodness public health officials didn’t see the polio vaccination that way. Not everyone has to be vaccinated to make a major dent in a public health problem.” Martha McCaughey. “Hey, CDC: Friends Don’t Let Friends Deny the Effectiveness of Self-Defense Training."

Follow the $
“Who takes issue with a program that cuts assault in half, you ask? The federal government, as it turns out….The two researchers [who cast] doubt on the value of Senn’s findings are both employed by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), whose sexual assault prevention budget in 2014 was close to $50 million.” Susan Shorn. “Show Us the Money.” Bitchslap: A Column About Women and fighting.

Stop either/or thinking and funding
“We agree that men should stop raping! We agree there needs to be a systemic challenge to culture. We are squarely behind third party interveners, female and male. However, sexual predators are canny about attacking when no "good guys or gals" are around. What then? Write the CDC and tell them to stop their either/or thinking and funding.”Ellen Snortland. “A Deadly Double Standard." Huffington Post.

[1] Charlene Y. Senn et al. “Efficacy of a Sexual Assault Resistance Program for University Women.” New England Journal of Medicine. 2015
[2] Dana Bolger “Smart study finds “resistance program” helps women avoid rape—but at what cost?” Feministing June 11, 2015.
[3] Melissa Healy “Sexual assault prevention program cuts risk of rape nearly 50%, study says.” Science Now June 10, 2015.
[4] Jan Hoffman “College Rape Prevention Program Proves a Rare Success.” New York Times June 10, 2015.

Martha Thompson, IMPACT Chicago Instructor

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