In the 1970s, self-defense training was an integral part of the women’s movement (Matthews, 1994; Searles & Berger, 1987). As rape victim services were professionalized, the focus of anti-rape work shifted from “stopping rape” to “managing rape,” marginalizing feminist self-defense (Matthews, 1994; Searles & Berger, 1987). This marginalization has continued not only because of the shift in focus, but also because police and traditional martial arts programs began offering women’s self-defense programs and the feminist focus of women’s self-defense has been overshadowed by and confused with fear-based, non-women-centered self-defense programming. As social justice, empowerment-focused, and feminist-based self-defense instructor Carmel Drewes says, “even though empowerment self-defense is documented to reduce sexual assault (Senn et all plus years and years of anecdotal evidence), it has been completely shut out of federal sexual assault prevention efforts through the DOJ and the CDC.
This fall a small group of feminist self-defense instructors are gathering in Washington D.C. to kick-off a campaign to bring empowerment self-defense to the forefront of the anti-rape movement. Because many of these experts work for nonprofits, they do not have organizational resources to travel so they have set up a gofund me to raise money to support those of the group with limited resources. Carmel says: “If you can support us at any level, or help spread the word, you'll be helping a group of us meet this fall to galvanize a national strategy to include Empowerment Self Defense in all types of violence prevention efforts and research.” To make a donation or read more about the Empowerment Self-Defense Advocacy Coalition, click here.
IMPACT Chicago Instructor
Matthews, N. A. (1994). Confronting rape: The feminist anti-rape movement and the state. London, England: Routledge.
Searles, P., & Berger, R. J. (1987). The feminist self-defense movement: A case study. Gender & Society, 1, 61-84.
Senn, C.Y., M. Eliasziw, P.C. Barate, W.E. Thurston, I.R. Newby-Clark, H.L. Radtke, and K.L. Hobden. (2015). Efficacy of a Sexual Assault Resistance Program for University. New England Journal of Medicine 372:2326-2335.