Monday, May 16, 2016

Empowerment Self-Defense is Primary Prevention

One of the ongoing arguments of the Center of Disease Control (CDC) is that self-defense is an example of risk-reduction and not primary prevention.  And guess what CDC funds and promotes: primary prevention. So how self-defense is labeled has a profound effect on the ability of self-defense organizations and instructors to offer self-defense training to people who do not have the economic resources to pay for or travel to self-defense training. 

Based on principles of primary prevention (Nation 2003), ESD programs fit the criteria of primary prevention:  
·        Are comprehensive
ESD programs meet the criteria of multiple interventions and multiple settings. In terms of multiple interventions, ESD programs provide a range of tools for individuals to interrupt sexual violence, including awareness, assessment, verbal and physical strategies.  ESD programs work with various systems and organizations attempting to address violence, such as schools, communities, religious centers, prisons.
·        Include varied teaching methods
ESD programs also use a variety of teaching methods, including lecture, story-telling, role-playing, and discussion, with an emphasis on interactive instruction and active, hands-on experiences that increase the participants’ skills
·        Provide sufficient dosage
Charlene Senn and others (2015)  found that 4 3-hour units of self-defense training were effective. Most ESD programs offer shorter sessions to meet public demand, but most ESD organizations offer longer programming, totaling at least 12 hours
·        Are theory driven
ESD programs are driven by theories of gendered violence and how it intersects with other systems of privilege and oppression, such as disability, nationality, race, religion, sexual orientation, social class. ESD programming builds upon the latest theoretical understandings of gender, intersectionality, trauma, and violence.
·        Provide opportunities for positive relationships
A major aspect of any ESD program is building positive relationships among participants. As one woman in an IMPACT Chicago program recently said: “The relationships that the program fostered led me to not only feel connected with the women in the program, but also all of womankind.”
·        Appropriately timed
Lack of funding has affected the ability of ESD programs to offer programs for every age, but many offer programs for children and teens with the goal to intervene prior to experiences of violence.
·        Socioculturally relevant
ESD programs work with groups throughout their communities. This means working with organizations to adapt curriculum in ways appropriate for the group being served. That is, a program for 11 year old middle school girls will differ from a program offered for college students or for an all-gender group.
·        Include outcome evaluation
Again funding would increase the ability of ESD organizations to undertake outcome evaluation, but many ESD organizations already do so. For instance, for over 25 years IMPACT Chicago has collected information before and after every course in order to examine the changes as a result of a self-defense program. IMPACT Chicago has also analyzed videotapes of participants in self-defense scenarios to determine effectiveness.
·        Involve well-trained staff
Training and certification are key component of ESD programs. Many ESD instructors are certified by the National Women’s Martial Arts Federation through a rigorous certification process ( IMPACT International also certifies instructors who complete a rigorous training process.

The ESD Advocacy Group, See Jane Fight Back, and other individuals and groups are demanding that the CDC and other federal organizations broaden their outlook on what constitutes primary prevention and include empowerment self-defense.

Martha Thompson
IMPACT Chicago Certified Self-Defense Instructor
NWMAF Certified Self-Defense Instructor


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