Why should ESD be accessible not only to girls and women, but also to boys and men and people of all genders?
According to the research, the ratio for sexual assault for women is approaching is 1:1. In other words, almost every woman will suffer from some form of sexual assault or harassment in her life.
Until now, statistics had predicted that 1 in every 10 men will suffer from gender-based violence. However, recent, more in-depth research has shown that the numbers may be drastically higher-- possibly even reaching 1 in 6 or 1 in 5. Some studies would go so far as to imply 1 in 4.
Read that again. 1 in 4 men may experience some form of sexual attack in their life-time?
Why the confusion? Why don't we know exactly what the statistics are for boys and men?
Because men are afraid to talk.
Really? Men afraid to talk?
If it's about sexual assault - certainly.
We know that it is often difficult to convince women to report gender-based violence because they’re frightened they won’t be believed, or they are intimidated by repeated police interrogation, because of public discussion of their sexual habits, or having to meet the attacker face to face in court, because of public exposure... The list goes on and on.
It is not surprising to discover that it is equally, or possibly more, difficult for men to report sexual abuse or assault. The shame factor and believability issue can be even greater. While women are usually perceived in the public consciousness as "weak" and therefore always vulnerable to being hurt, men are perceived as having the power to prevent such harm from coming their way.
The reality is probably even harsher than this new research would suggest. If, with the reticence men have for admitting they have experienced gender-based violence, research could uncover that one in five or six men has been harmed by gender violence, imagine how many more men and boys remain silent. They don’t dare talk about what happens to them for exactly the same reasons that women are afraid.
Given this information, the question arises - who is helping boys and men who have been sexually assaulted? For abused girls and women, tens and perhaps hundreds of organizations have been set up around the world to provide support, shelter, emotional support and financial assistance.
But what about the men and boys?
As an organization, ESD Global understands that gender-based violence is a danger to women and men alike. It is one of the only women's organizations that set out, from the start, to provide violence prevention education to children and adults of all genders.
ESD Global instructors are experts in self-defense and various martial arts. They have worked diligently to develop an effective set of safety tools that don’t require twenty-five years of self-defense or martial arts experience to acquire. They have been teaching these techniques to women to girls.
ESD is a curriculum that provides physical skills that are adapted specifically to harness the strengths of women and girls’ bodies and psyches and set them against the weaknesses of the bodies and minds of assailants. However, what makes the ESD method unique is its ability to be adjusted to all populations.
But the curriculum for boys and men had yet to be created. ESD Global personnel until now have been women. Theoretically, they could have speculated and tried to guess how someone of a different gender experiences violence, and they could probably have created a violence prevention protocol that would help men and boys too.
But at ESD Global, it is believed that everyone deserves a voice in their own empowerment. Just as ESD has an effective curriculum to prevent sexual assault against women that can be taught throughout the world, it was decided to allocate budget, time, and place for men to accommodate ESD skills to male bodies and perspectives.
The ESD Men’s Incubator was born.
There were many hurdles to jump, just to create our group. For two years, ESD Global’s leadership searched for men to create an ESD curriculum for boys by taking part in the ESD Men’s Incubator. It became very clear that not only were men silent about gender violence, but that it was very difficult to find men who would acknowledge the issue let alone help find a solution.
The organization issued an international call to action for men and invited them to take part in the program. Only a small number wrote back and offered to participate. Eventually, twenty or so men from around the world were accepted into the incubator.
Thirteen actually came.
In August of this year, under the auspices of ESD Global, we, thirteen men, met in Huguenot, New York. Each of us was from a different country and region of the world, each with expertise in self-defense, martial arts, or working with boys and men surrounding issues of gender and sexual assault.
The purpose of the incubator was to sit together for six days, and come out on the other side with a curriculum accessible enough to be taught anywhere in the world and provide men and boys with the tools they need to prevent and deal with gender-based violence.
Our challenges were numerous. First, it was clear that in most clubs where martial arts such as judo, karate, aikido, jiujitsu, etc, are taught, there is almost no discourse on gender-based violence and the possibility of facing a sexual assault.
Martial arts techniques are not designed to be used in such sensitive situations. But a sensei or a martial arts master who wants