everybody’s going nowhere slowly, they’re all fighting for the chance to be last

Holly over at Pervocracy (NSFW text but image free) wrote an interesting post a week ago about the one safety class that every woman ought to take, but nobody offers yet:

I’ve seen a couple dozen assaults in my day, and about two of them were between complete strangers. (Both of those, incidentally, weren’t in “fringe areas” but in convenience stores. Perhaps we should teach our daughters never to go to 7-11, it’s just not worth it.) The rest were committed by partners, siblings, friends, cousins, my boyfriend’s weird friends he invites over, this john my pimp said was cool, and of course Sumdood. It’s sort of comforting in a way to think that threats come from “outside,” but it doesn’t reflect reality. You can creep through the parking lot with a can of mace and total situational awareness and then go home and get raped by your husband.

There’s a class I’d like to teach young women, actually. (Young people. I’ve seen a man streaming blood after his wife broke a heavy ceramic mug over his head.) Identifying and getting the fuck out of destructive intimate relationships. Not a brief sideline to Stranger Danger self-defense but a whole class on the real threat. Best for kids young enough to not be in serious relationships yet, but open to any age. It would save ten times as many lives as this “young ladies are fragile flowers that mustn’t go into the big bad world alone” bullshit.

Hell yes.

Picture a four hour seminar. The first two hour block would cover Signs of Abusive Behavior. Not just physically abusive stuff, but the psychological trauma as well. Does he act like a radically different person in private with you than he does in company? Does he make you feel dumb, weak or vulnerable? Does he threaten you? There should be lots of discussion on this, as a lot of people make excuses for this behavior (“but he takes care of me”; “but he says he loves me”; etc).

I’m not an expert on that part, so I’ll let someone else write that curriculum.

That’s the first two hours. Everyone gets a break to cool down. When they come back, all the chairs are pushed out of the way. The second two hour block is nothing but self defense.

You cannot teach a new student everything there is to know about self defense in two hours. You couldn’t teach it in twenty hours, and you’d have a well-meaning amateur after two hundred. But there are three reasons to include this part anyway:

  • Two hours of self defense, taught well, are better than zero hours.
  • It demonstrates to a willing audience that self defense is accessible – that it’s not the province of ninjas and commandos, but something anyone can learn.
  • If one technique sticks in someone’s mind and saves their life a month, a year or a decade down the line, it was worth it.
The first hour of this two hour block: learning how to strike. How to throw proper boxing strikes (throw from the shoulders, square the hips, turn off the rear foot). How to throw elbows and knees. How to use the base of the palm, the edge of the hand and the heel of the foot. Where to strike. Which targets will stun someone (sternum, throat, groin), which will break something (elbow joints, knee joints) and which will kill (back of the neck).

The second hour of this two hour block: responses to four common attacks. Why four? Because that’s pushing the limit of what a brand new student will retain. I’d feel better if we only did three, but we’ve got the full hour; why not use it? Maybe someone’s videotaping this.

Each response will have two variations: a submission response (control the attacker through pain) and a striking response. I include two different levels because of the potential variety of attackers. People talk about how “there are no rules in a fight.” While this is true, that doesn’t mean we completely ignore context. If your husband of ten years tries to sexually assault you because he got drunk and isn’t taking your “No” seriously, you don’t want to gouge his eyes out. But you want something that will get him off you immediately.

I pick these attacks based on some fairly common male-on-female assault scenarios (if anyone has some better suggestions, let me know):

  • Two-handed choke (attacker has both hands around the victim’s throat).
  • Lapel grab (attacker grabs the lapels of the victim’s shirt or jacket. This response can also be used for an attacker grabbing at the victim’s chest).
  • Pinning on the ground (attacker pins the victim’s wrists and kneels between her legs. Grapplers will recognize this as being “in the guard” and can guess at some responses).
  • Hammerlock (attacker grabs victim’s wrist and pulls it up her back)
We’ll spend fifty minutes working those. In the last ten minutes, everyone gets up in front of class and fights off one attacker, who uses any of those four at random. No model mugging suits, either. I’m not qualified to say if those full padded suits work or not.

Teach that two hour seminar at one major university in each of the fifty states and male-on-female assaults, murders and rapes would go down by a third in five years. The first two hours would teach prevention – helping women identify bad situations and get out of them. The second two hours would teach the cure.

As always, constructive feedback is appreciated.

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4 Responses

  1. I’d probably include one of the following attack scenarios: wrist grab (from in front), pinned or trapped against a wall, and being grabbed from behind bear-hug style. I think the last is relatively uncommon, but I’ve noticed that people get really freaked out by the idea that someone could grab them from behind, so it’s probably good to address. It would probably also be good to briefly address what you can do if someone lifts you off the ground, because people freak out about that too. Perhaps split the self-defense portion over two days? I know it’s hard to get beginners to retain so much information, but even having seen it or tried it a couple of times helps, I think.

    I’m actually basing this off an interesting women’s self-defense class I took a couple weeks ago. I thought the one thing they did really, really well was what we did for the last couple minutes: put on padding (lots of it), had the woman stand with her eyes closed in the center of the ring, and had an attacker hit her (hard) from a random direction. She had to recover and drive him away from her while he fought back. It’s not perfect, but it was a good exercise for the older women who were less sure of what they could actually do/recover from.

  2. @Anon: good suggestions. *scribbles*

  3. I could write the first two hours 🙂
    I toured western mass colleges with an assault awareness group for two summers…

    I recommend reading Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker (security specialist) to every woman I know, and moreover every person I know.

    The physical stuff I’m worthless on.

  4. The other thing I forgot–

    I hate when the classes never have more than one male (usually the teacher). Having the women practice on each other is fine to start, but women generally can’t grip as hard and just aren’t as intimidating to each other as a larger male is. I always preferred it when I could practice with a male partner instead of a female one after getting the basics down. And again, it’s part of getting an idea of what it could really feel like–being gripped by someone who means business instead of someone who’s just going through the motions.

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