Posts Tagged ‘fight back’

Power to the Word? Or Power to YOU?

Thursday, February 6th, 2014

The other day, I was talking to a young lady who was interested in taking my Women’s Self-Defense class. She wanted to know if I thought it would be a good idea. “Absolutely. You’re in high school, you’re starting to go out on dates, to parties with lots of people you might not know well, and you’ll be around people who are drinking alcohol.”

“You teach how to fight?” she asked. When I told her that we do, her excitement grew. “Cool! What else is in the class?” I described that we cover the mindset of the attacker, how to recognize threatening behaviors… rape…

“RAPE?” She threw her arms out in front of her, then turned her head away from me and hugged herself, shutting down any further conversation. The word scared her so much, she no longer wanted to know how to protect herself, how to fight off an attacker, or how to be safe just walking through a parking lot to her car.

As a RAD Instructor, I get this response from women fairly frequently. But here’s the thing: Rape is a word. So is igloo; so is fern. But these other words don’t strike fear in a woman’s heart, don’t send chills up her spine, like the word rape does. Clearly, this is because when we hear the word rape, we imagine the crime that it names. We think of the terror, the violence, the degradation inherent in the act, and we want to distance ourselves from it as much as possible. It’s a natural survival technique.

Unfortunately, it’s also harmful, and can lead to death by extreme violence, or physical, emotional, and psychological damage that can last a lifetime.

RAD stands for Rape Aggression Defense. Our techniques combat the kind of assaults women encounter against one or more perpetrators who use anything from verbal coercion to physical violence to commit the crime of forced sexual relations. And the word RAPE is right there in the center of our logo. Anytime a RAD Women’s Self-Defense class is being held, participants will see that logo–and that word–on our registration forms, self-defense manuals, class eval sheets, and on the uniforms we wear as Instructors. Some women cringe at it. Others have asked RAD directly to remove it from their logo, because of the negative reaction it causes.

And that’s exactly why RAD put it in their logo to begin with–and why it stays there. The point is not to upset the women in our classes (some of whom are rape survivors). It’s to take the power away from the word. Think about it: if just seeing the letters R-A-P-E renders a woman so fearful that she freezes, what will happen to her when an attacker grabs her and threatens to kill her if she doesn’t do exactly what he says? RAD’s point is this: if you can’t say even the word… if you won’t acknowledge that it exists… you can’t fight it.

RAD takes the strength away from the word RAPE and gives that power to women.

In Case of Rape, Throw Up??

Wednesday, February 20th, 2013

Has Colorado lost its collective mind? First, Democratic State Representative Joe Salazar warns that women should not carry firearms for personal protection because, wait for it… they might shoot someone. “[I]f you feel like you’re going to be raped, or if you feel like someone’s been following you around or if you feel like you’re in trouble when you may actually not be, then you pop out that gun and… pop a round at somebody.”

He would have us believe that he knows what women are thinking and whether they are really in danger, even if the women themselves don’t. In a life-threatening situation, he wants us to wait for others to come save us, recommending we make use of call-boxes, whistles, and ‘safe zones.’ In other words, “Don’t you worry your pretty little head, missy. You just wait for a big, strong man to come riding in on a white steed and rescue you from another man who wants to bash your face into the sidewalk, rip your clothes off with a blade, torture and maybe kill you. Heh, heh.”

As if that insult to women’s intelligence and judgment wasn’t bad enough, earlier this week, the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs posted a 10-point “safety list” entitled What to Do If You Are Attacked. They refer to these so-called techniques as “crime prevention tips,” but the fact that they are all reactions to being attacked, rather than proactive measures to avoid an attack illustrate their lack of effectiveness in a rape/mugging/domestic violence situation.

Topping the list is “Be realistic about your ability to protect yourself.” This patronizing warning tells women they just aren’t smart enough or strong enough to defend themselves against an aggressive male, hell-bent on harming them. It’s also downright untrue. Hundreds of thousands of women realize that they have more than enough power in their bodies and minds to save themselves in an attack. They understand, first and foremost, that they are not weak, helpless waifs whose lot is to suffer simply because some criminal has chosen to mess with them. They also know that a solid punch, kick, or elbow strike to certain vulnerable targets will put a dent in an assailant’s plans and afford them an opportunity to escape.

Also recommended as “survival techniques” on the University’s list are vomiting and urinating, to convince the attacker to leave the intended victim alone. So, seeing a woman doubled over, hurling in the bushes, he might think… what? “Oh, gee, she’s having a bad enough time already. I’ll go ruin someone else’s life.” Not likely.

Also, I must point out that it is difficult to force oneself to vomit or urinate on demand–especially in a life-and-death situation such as a rape attempt. Not to mention, while one is trying to accomplish these acts, one can neither fight off the attacker nor run to safety.

Two of the tips on the list actually contradict each other: “Yelling, hitting, or biting may give you a chance to escape. Do it!” is immediately followed by “Understand that some actions on your part may lead to more harm.” In other words, little lady, let him do whatever he wants. Don’t try to fight the Big Bad Man or you’ll just make it worse for yourself. The US Department of Justice reports that women who actively defend themselves against a rapist are more likely to minimize the attack and/or escape than women who don’t fight back. And, they are no more likely to be injured than women who don’t fight back. Note: in some instances, compliance may be used as a survival technique. For example, women who have been told by a rapist with a weapon, “Just be quiet or I’ll hurt your kids” have used compliance to save their lives and those of their children. However, compliance as an option is not the same thing as making yourself helpless in the face of sheer hell.

There are quite a few women’s self-defense classes available on college campuses, at martial arts dojos, in cities large and small throughout the country. Most are good; some are excellent. The instructor who developed these so-called “survival strategies” is not someone I would want teaching my sister, my daughter, or my friends. These tips would seem to teach how to become a victim rather than a strong, empowered woman.

 

 

Use What You Have

Saturday, June 25th, 2011

Upon leaving church a few nights ago, a woman was grabbed and shoved into a nearby alley. Her attacker then forced his tongue into her mouth. Unwilling to become a victim, she fought back using what was available to her at that moment–his tongue. And her teeth.

Biting is not one of the techniques taught in RAD’s Women’s self-defense classes. (RAD does not want the attacker’s blood to get into your mouth. Also, they want you able to yell, and to get plenty of air to fuel your defense. Some schools of self-defense, however, do sanction this technique.)

But back to our heroine. Thinking quickly, she used what she could, struck back fast and hard, and survived. In fact, her attacker was the first to flee the scene. When police arrived, they found “a substantial piece” of his tongue on the ground–about an inch long.

The point is, in a life-and-death situation like an attack, you do whatever you have to do. While RAD doesn’t teach biting specifically, we do teach you to use the tools you have to work with against the vulnerabilities of your attacker. Such improvised weapons absolutely can work for you. For example, at a sports bar in Florida, a woman fought off an assailant with her spike-heel shoe. After a few strikes to his forehead, he was unable to hit her again.

Then, there was the 58-year-old New Yorker who was sitting in a pew in her church, praying and making notes in her journal. A would-be rapist jumped on her and tried to push her down onto the pew. She stabbed him in the neck repeatedly with the pen she had been using to write with. The church’s security cameras recorded him running away, holding his neck.

There have been several reports of women, accosted in parking lots, who fought off their attackers by cutting their faces with car keys. One woman whose home was invaded threw a vase into a mirror in her den and slashed her would-be rapist with a shard of glass.

All of these events have something in common: the women thought quickly, moved quickly, and defeated their attacker. Choosing not to respond with fear and helplessness but with action, they outwitted muggers, rapists, and killers. There would be time to be scared later; during the attack was the time to think and fight for themselves. That’s just what they did. And how they won.

RAD Women’s vs. Martial Arts

Tuesday, December 1st, 2009

When I started teaching RAD Women’s Self-Defense, a male friend who is a black belt in karate good-naturedly joked that he would sit in and watch one of my classes so he could tell us what we were doing wrong.

I joked back that statements like that were the reason RAD Women’s has a “No Men Allowed” policy. We both laughed, and the conversation moved on. But his comment bothered me because I think his viewpoint—that taking up martial arts protects a woman better than a self-defense class geared specifically to her needs–is shared by a lot of people. So, I’m going to clarify that issue now.

There is a reason why RAD and other women’s self-defense programs were developed—and that’s because martial arts training isn’t enough to protect a woman from a rape attack. In fact, the techniques developed specifically for women, capitalizing on women’s strengths (as opposed to men’s), and utilizing positions women are likely to find themselves in during such an attack, were created in response to the rape of a female black belt.*

Martial arts are about fighting. The participants understand that. They approach one other as equals although, of course, each will try to defeat the other. There are moves and countermoves. Opponents spar.

A rapist isn’t looking for a fight. He has no intention of moving against his target, then watching to see what maneuver she might counter with. His goal is to subdue her immediately so he can continue his violence against her. There is no sparring in this kind of attack, no give-and-take. He certainly does not consider his victim a worthy opponent. His desire is to debase, humiliate, and grievously injure (or kill) her. He wants nothing less than total domination of her.

Just as the purpose behind the confrontation is different, so are the positions within it. Martial arts are fought mostly from a standing (vertical) position. Even when jumps and rolls are used, participants return to an upright stance to regroup and prepare for the next move. The rapist, on the other hand, knocks his victim to the ground quickly, and uses violence and threats to keep her there. Knowing how to fight on her feet will not help a woman who finds herself in an unfamiliar, horizontal position.

Also to be considered are the facts of human physiology. In the majority of cases, men have greater upper body strength than women. A woman fighting a man in a standing position will simply not be able to match, much less overcome, his more massive arm, chest, shoulder, and back muscles. However, this does not mean that women are weaker. We’re stronger in our lower bodies—our hips and legs. And this is why we’re so dangerous when we’re on the ground. When a woman has been taught how to direct her strength in a ground fight, she focuses her power effectively against her attacker. His first surprise is that she fights back; he targeted her because he thought she would be an easy conquest. His second surprise is that, used to fighting standing up, he doesn’t know how to approach a ground fighter. He can’t get close enough to counter her moves, or execute his own.

There’s one more very important difference between martial arts and RAD Women’s training. RAD takes into account that women in our society have been taught from childhood to “be nice, be polite,” and not to hurt anyone. Many women have internalized this idea to the degree that they would rather let someone hurt them than stand up for themselves. Such unhealthy thinking prevents them from realizing their full power and potential. It keeps them afraid. RAD Women’s programs teach a new way of thinking, empowering women to overcome the societal conditioning that tells them they’re weak, frail, and unable to fight back successfully against a man–thinking that rapists take advantage of.


*See The Evolution of Martial Science,

http://www.modelmugging.org/evolution.htm