In the article “Kickboxing, Rape, and the Myth of Self-Defense,” which appeared on Medium on April 10th, 2019, Lauren McKeon shared that:
“Knowing how to hurt someone did not stop my assault. There is a movement that resurfaces every few years that advocates for women to learn self-defense to avoid being raped. It’s a divisive issue. Some women argue that every tool is worth having if it can stop a rape or sexual assault. Others say we should focus our energies on teaching men not to rape rather than teaching women how to not get raped.”
Later in the article, she also made the point that “Healing is not linear,” which is probably the most profound statement in this article, and I would add that “Violence is on a spectrum.”
As a survivor of rape, more than once, and finally at the hands of a former spouse, and as someone who has committed my life to helping women and girls learn to defend themselves, I can say that not all fighting skills are the same.
Nor are all fighting skills the right response to acts of violence. Just as violence is on a spectrum, from irritating to life-threatening, the people who perpetrate violence are also on a spectrum from people we love and trust to total strangers.
And this makes it all very complicated.
People are complicated. Life is complicated. Anyone who tries to sell you anything else is truly a part of the problem.
There is so much that we can learn to be safer humans negotiating a complicated world where not everyone can be trusted or believed. Saying that this can be done with a simple “learn to kick and punch” is just as ineffective as saying “let’s teach guys not to rape.” And just saying that last part I can’t stop myself from thinking “how’s that going for us?”
There are no simple solutions.
And yet, if you are willing to actually look at research that has been done over the past 20 years, you'll see that there is a lot that can be learned about what is actually working in the realm of violence prevention.
The media is never going to give you that information. Because media is about clicks, likes, and sales.
Also according to McKeon,
“What we don’t account for is the way your mind can freeze your body. The way you forget that you ever knew how to do anything. The way such a violation can disconnect your core self from your body, then smash them back together again, out of sync. We don’t account for what happens when it’s not a stranger but someone you like or think you could love.”
She’s actually right. Many self-defense systems don’t deal with the mind body connection, freezing, and defending ourselves from people we love.
But in empowerment self-defense classes, these issues are not only dealt with, they’re a priority.
Lauren Taylor, founder of a D.C. based ESD program called Defend Yourself, explains the difference beautifully:
“What distinguishes a class like Defend Yourself from what’s labeled self-defense is the focus on boundary-setting, assertiveness, dealing with everyday things. It’s not just about the best way to do a knee to the groin—although we teach you the best way to do a knee to the groin—but things that happen in everyday life, be it street harassment or an overly boundary-crossing coworker.”
I was not able to protect myself from rape. Not the first time, the second or the dozens of times after that……until I could.
Then, I did.
And I did it because of the amazing wealth of knowledge steeped in love, healing and support that I received from the empowerment self-defense movement.