Empowering Women, Not Just Protecting Them
Have you heard of Brock Turner? What about Emily Doe?
Well, Brock Turner was convicted of raping an unconscious 23 year old women in an alley, behind a dumpster on Stanford college campus. Emily Doe was his victim (a pseudonym to protect her privacy)
It turns out that this is not an isolated incident in the U.S. Shockingly it is estimated that 1 in 5 young women will survive a sexual assault during her college years. In fact the White House has taken steps to set up a task force to investigate which has recommended
1) conduct surveys to identify the extent of sexual assault on their campuses,
2) implement evidence-based prevention programs (especially healthy relationships education, bystander intervention education, and other programs that enlist men as allies),
3) ensure that schools and colleges respond effectively to survivors, and
4) improve enforcement procedures.
It is fantastic that steps are being taken to highlight and protect young college women but here’s the problem. How will this help someone going to a college party tonight? Can you really feel safe? Can you be assured that others will come to your aid? We need to empower women, so they can firmly say this will never happen to me
Focusing only on long-term prevention is a massive step forward, but that cannot be the only thing done!
What would help the young woman at this weekend’s party?
Women’s self-defense training. Recent research shows us that holistic, empowerment-based self-defense training is an effective, immediate, and inexpensive way to prevent and respond to sexual assault. College students who complete a self-defense class are significantly less likely to be sexually assaulted in the following year than similar women with no self-defense training.
Self-defense training has also been found to empower women by increasing confidence, shifting understanding of their own bodies, and changing gender expectations and interactions.
Self-defense training solves two problems
- it provides a short-term strategy that fills the gap between the current situation and the day when bystanders reliably intervene or, better yet, perpetrators reconsider their behavior. It gives women tools to use when there are no bystanders, as we know that perpetrators prefer to isolate their victims before assaulting them.
- self-defense training challenges the belief that women are vulnerable and in need of protection.
We know that women’s resistance can stop assault, and that self-defense training enhances women’s ability to resist – and, incidentally, is enormously empowering to women. While we wait for long-term, perpetrator-focused strategies to work, shouldn’t all women have access to this information?