Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Peer-to-Peer: Beyond Napster, into interrupting assault

This article in a California college paper describes a peer program of men learning to recognize when other men are setting women up for sexual assault, and how to interrupt it. There should be programs like this on every college campus. Only a small handful of men commit most of the sexual assault, and until other men hold their buddies accountable and call them on bad behavior, that handful will continue to get away with rape.

One drawback, however, to this article is that is characterized all self-defense classes as a "fad" and of limited use because they focused on stranger danger, where the real risk is from acquaintances. The author got it part right. Yes, the real risk is from acquaintances. And yes there are lots of classes marketed as "women's self-defense" that do focus on physical skills and stranger danger. However, that is not true for all self-defense programs. Like any other service marketed in this country, anyone looking for a self-defense program needs to do a little research.

The National Coalition Against Sexual Assault's Ad-hoc Committee on Self-Defense set these guidelines for assessing a self-defense instructor and class. The National Women's Martial Arts Federation certifies only those instructors who demonstrate in-depth knowledge of real risk factors, assault dynamics, and patterns of violence against women. VITAL Self-Defense's website has a questionnaire you can use to assess a class you're considering (you have to, however, contact them for the answers to the questions).

After all, the best defense against anything is education.