Anyone that says girls are weak, need to only look at the bruises on my chest, ribs, and face to know that that’s a lie. This past weekend, I had the opportunity to conduct a self-defense seminar for high school aged Girl Scouts from several of the local troops. Eleven girls showed up, unsure of what to expect from the day, but with positive attitudes and open minds. Because of their age, we focused on real world situations that they’re going to possibly encounter (or as could be the case, already encountered and never want to feel that powerless again). These topics centered on domestic violence situations and date rape. We utilized methods that were easy to remember, which made them more likely to be done in the heat of an actual violent encounter. To get their minds in the game we used role playing scenarios (where I played the bad guy, thus the reason why I’m all bruised up today) to show them how to handle the adrenaline and scariness of the situation and keep to their game plan – which is to fight for their life if they have to.
I was very pleased by their performance, even though some of the scenarios were designed to make them feel uncomfortable each one was able to fight off my bad guy attack and get to safety. I’m encouraged by this because I think it’s something that every young woman should learn, not because I think we should crush their ability to lead healthy relationships, but because they need to understand that the threat is real and it’s immediate. The common statistic that’s thrown around (so much so that I forget which study it is) is that 1 in 3 women will be sexually assaulted during their lifetime. But that’s not the end of the story. In most cases it’s by someone they know. Unfortunately, it’s not clinical enough for many people so they ignore it or just brush upon it, focusing instead on scenarios that involve a stranger or home invader. However, that’s not what high school and college women are dealing with. In many cases it’s someone they’re related to who are much older, or it’s a peer that they thought they knew and thought they might like to build a relationship with.
I’m pleased that Sidekicks Family Martial Arts Centers has placed itself at the forefront in educating teens on how to protect themselves. However, that’s not where the conversation should end. The VAST majority of information relating to protecting teen girls from these kinds of situations is about educating the teen girls, as if to say “we as a society are unable to stop boys from being boys and you’re the one charged with stopping yourself from being raped.”
Almost no conversation is going on in the public realm to teach boys to be men, which includes teaching them to respect boundaries and the wishes of others. The foundation of this conversation has to do with the objectification of women. Objectification is natural to men, in my opinion. I think it stems from our hunter/gather stage before we developed into a fledgling society. It enabled men to devalue something so that we didn’t think twice about killing it. Living breathing animals and even people (in the case of wars) become things with no real value so that we can psychologically cope with the idea of taking its life. This spills over into other areas of our lives which because of what popular culture is feeding us on a regular basis, includes the objectification of women. Now, to the young man, the girl really is a piece of meat to do with as he pleases. Think of the language that’s used in these situations. Men describe a woman they see in terms of her individual physical attributes rather than as a whole, as if he was evaluating her for cuts of meat in a butcher shop.
In order to be successful in truly reducing the number of sexual assaults this type of education needs to be happening with boys at the same time we’re arming the girls against the ones that haven’t had this type of training. Martial arts programs, like the one taught at Sidekicks Family Martial Arts Centers, goes a long way in having that conversation because the foundation of a true martial artist is respect – treating others the way that you want to be treated or even better, treating others the way that they want to be treated.
While I have the bruises to prove that girls don’t have to have a passive role in their safety and in their own lives, we’ve certainly got work to do.