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Opinion: #MeToo opened our eyes but women need the power to fight back

Self-defence class held at Langara College is a good first step to preventing sexual assaults in the first place

Illustration by Rena Medow
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By Patrick Penner

Self-defence programs are a simple and underutilized strategy for combating violence against women and provide an immediate solution to a ceaseless threat at their door.

And right now, women need an immediate solution. They can’t wait for historical norms to progressively shift.

The #MeToo movement

Most social campaigns addressing the issue focus on support for the victims.

While the #MeToo movement’s successful wave in building public awareness should be praised, it has not offered techniques to prevent attacks from occurring.

Today, most deterrence strategies focus on educating men.

But why does prevention have to appeal to the good behaviour of male aggressors?  The message should be geared towards giving women agency.

The benefits of self-defence training

A University of Oregon study found women who participated in self-defence classes experienced significantly fewer sexual assaults than women who did not.

The study found the participants not only gained self-esteem and developed confidence in their physical abilities, but were also less likely to be attacked in the first place.

This suggests the control group had changed their behavioural and interactional patterns so they were more likely to deter potential attackers by assertively responding to even minor inappropriate advances.

Looking at the global numbers of reported assaults underscores the problem facing women.

The World Health Organization reports that 35 per cent of all women have experienced physical or sexual violence by a man, and 30 per cent have experienced that violence at the hands of an intimate partner.

Considering the numbers show a significant amount of violence against women is committed within a relationship, the implications of diminishing female vulnerability are profound.

Equipping women with tools to recognize warning signs and create forceful responses to unwanted advances could prevent them from being trapped in defenceless environments.

In the wake of Christine Blasey Ford’s largely dismissed testimony in front of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, enabling women to seize power with their own hands should be encouraged at all costs.

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