The need for caution and awareness is nothing new. Rape culture, violence and assault have been an (obviously horrific) common occurrence in history for as far back as historians can date. The cycle never seems to end, but people are becoming more and more aware of the discussion about rape culture spreads. And while the knowledge of what could happen is petrifying, that mindfulness could save your life.
Just a mere 2 years ago, my mother told me that she had signed the two of us up for a local self-defense class. I immediately hated the idea. I knew the dangers of walking alone at night and I didn’t want to think about it. I thought my mom was overreacting, but she finally convinced me to go, and what I found was something that I have learned to greatly appreciate.
Self-defense was easily the most meaningful class I have ever taken. We learned how to walk safely to our cars, the common misconceptions such as not to putting keys between our fingers (it can hurt you more than the person attacking you), and most importantly, what to do if the worst case scenario happens.
At times it got intense, as one would expect it to. We were put in scenarios where people attacked us when we couldn’t see, hear, or while they were behind us. The worst, however, was while we were laying down. The scenario taught us how to get out from under the person. When the dummy was placed on top of my fellow classmates and me, we immediately felt as if someone was really attacking us. Some cried (including me) and some panicked, but with practice, we learned to handle the situation and think through it with a clear mind. The camaraderie of the entire class helped everyone.
I have since used what I learned in my self-defense class. When I first got my driver’s license and began to go to the store alone at night, I became much more diligent of my surroundings. I followed many of the tips that I was given and they have now become second nature. I wouldn’t feel as safe without them.
I also used my newly found skills at a concert that I went to later that summer. There was a boy in front of me, bumping and grinding, and he wouldn’t stop. Inebriated and determined, he became frustrated that I kept telling him to stop. I eventually resorted to taking my stance for balance and using easy maneuvers that wouldn’t injure him, but that would let him know that I was not going to put up with it. Eventually, he cussed me out, moved away, and we later saw him being escorted out of the venue for doing the same to multiple girls.
Though I have never been forced to use my skills in a life and death situation, taking a class allowed me to be mindful of situations that I wouldn’t even consider before. It also empowered me. Knowing that I have the knowledge and ability to protect myself is something that I wouldn’t trade.
I’m mindful instead of scared and I feel strong instead of helpless.
Aside from my personal experience, statistics show obvious differences in sexual assault attacks in women that have taken classes and those who haven’t. According to a study from the University of Oregon, 30% of women who have not taken self-defense reported events of non-consensual sexual contact. This is much higher than the 12% of women who have taken a class and have reported the same events. This is not necessarily to say that the women who have taken classes don’t have as many encounters; it only shows that they have the confidence and courage to set verbal boundaries before the situation escalates, and can defend themselves if it does.
No one ever knows how they would react in a dangerous situation, but there are ways to prevent and protect. The classes can be emotionally draining and triggering (mine definitely was), but they teach valuable life skills that save lives.
I took my class through the Rape Aggression Defense (RAP) program at my local police department, but there are hundreds of different programs all over the world. If you’re interested, stop by your local police department and they may be able to point you in the right direction. You can also ask around or search the web. Self-defense if an important life skill no matter who you are because you can never be too safe.