10.18.17 by Amy Jones
I’m always annoyed when people gain fame by behaving badly, and I really don’t want to spend much time on Harvey Weinstein at all. But there are two women who have come forward and told the world about both his detestable actions and their courageous defense against him. Those are the people I want to talk about. Their names are Ambra Battilana Gutierrez and Katherine Kendall, and they deserve to be remembered and celebrated.
Before I get into their stories, I want to make a couple of points that are at the heart of the empowerment model of self-defense. First of all, the fact that these two women were able to defend themselves against assault (or rather, further assault) in no way changes the truth that Weinstein’s behavior was his choice and that he is solely responsible for his actions. Nor does it imply that what they did was ‘right’ and what other women who were targeted and victimized by Weinstein did was ‘wrong.’ When someone like Weinstein makes the choice to commit an assault against a woman, she does what she can in that moment to protect herself. Right and wrong are meaingless concepts in this context, and imply a level of responsibility that just doesn’t exist. It’s also a fallacy to assume that if other women had done what Ms. Gutierrez or Ms. Kendall did, they would have experienced the same results. Every situation is different, and there isn’t a rulebook for these kinds of encounters.
06.27.17 by Amy Jones
Over the summer, the Chicago Tribune published an article (dated June 25, 2017) about a woman who used her wits, communication skills, and some strategic positioning positions (what we would call the Think, Yell, and Run fingers) to escape a man who sexually assaulted her. Of course, to hear the Trib tell it, “her ordeal eventually ended early Thursday when a ‘good Samaritan’ Uber driver came to the woman’s rescue as she ran from her attacker [. . .].” Reading further, though, it’s clear that the woman had called the Uber driver from the perpetrator’s bathroom, so it sounds to me like she saved herself.
My intent is not to cast aspersions on the Uber driver, at all — I’m very glad he helped her in the final phase of her escape. Still, it’s a little irritating that the article highlights his ‘good Samaritan-hood’ of responding to a fare, but doesn’t frame the woman’s own actions — which, according to the article, include a) calling an Uber once it became clear that the assailant was ignoring her wish to go home, b) setting a clear verbal boundary during the assault, c) noticing that it wasn’t working and switching strategies to stalling by insisting the perpetrator use a condom, and d) escaping his grab attempt — as self-defense. In other words, it’d be nice if the Trib gave the survivor a little more credit for her own self-protective actions. Still, I applaud the Tribune for publishing the article, and including the survivor’s actions in the narrative.
05.16.17 by Amy Jones
Our friends at IMPACT Chicago have just posted a great article written by Tabitha Olson, one of the amazing assistants in our self-defense program. In the article, Tabitha writes about two recent incidents of sexual harassment she experienced, and how she was able to face them down. It’s not the first time she’s written about how her self-defense skills have aided her — she’s also the author of The Power of Posture. I’m delighted that Tabitha has become more active in the self-defense program here, even though I hate the incidents that motivated it. Kind of like the way I love the work I do, even as my greatest hope is that one day my work will become unnecessary.
Since that happy day hasn’t yet arrived, I’ll take the opportunity to remind you about our May workshop, just for women and girls ages 15 and up. It’s this Sunday, May 21st, from 1:30 – 3:30 PM, and the fee is sliding scale between $20 and $40. If $20 presents a financial barrier, just contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll waive the fee.
10.05.16 by Margarita Saona
Something incredible happened in my country [Margarita’s home country is Peru — ed] that presents evidence of the power of telling (the fifth finger of self-defense) and the idea that one wave sets thousands in motion. A small group of women started organizing a protest because of a couple of cases where the judicial system had not prosecuted men who had blatantly abused women. They created a closed Facebook group. The members quickly rose from a couple hundred to, now, over 60,000. In this group, meant to coordinate the protest about these cases, one woman started telling her own story as a survivor of abuse. And another one followed. Soon there were thousands of women telling their stories, and every minute the members of the site witnessed the shocking reality: the stories of women’s verbal, emotional, and physical abuse at the hands of men could not be contained neither in their numbers nor in the horror they related. Even though the group is still closed, many of these women, along with their allies with ties to the media, started to reveal what was happening on this Facebook site to the general public through opinion columns and newspaper articles: one after the other they denounced the pervasiveness of the terrible secret all these women had kept. A public Facebook site coordinated the details of the event and on August 13th the march #NiUnaMenos took tens of thousands of Peruvians to the streets in several cities to manifest their repudiation of the violence against women, the awful truth that had remained hidden for so long. I believe that the brave women who started sharing their stories have opened the eyes of even those used to minimizing these abuses. It is, of course, everybody’s prerogative to share a traumatic story or not. But this phenomenon has confirmed my belief in the importance of telling, both as a way to heal for the victims and as a way to create a stronger community capable to standing up to violence.
And I wrote this:
06.25.16 by Amy Jones
One of our training members at Thousand Waves recently related this a tale of successful self-defense to us. At the time of the incident, she was a second-degree black belt, but the skills she used to avert a potentially violent (and certainly unpleasant) altercation were all non-physical self-defense techniques. Here’s the story:
I am pretty sure I averted a robbery last night in the Mexico City metro. My family and I were about as ridiculously conspicuous as could be, the only people dressed in formal wear on the train platform (we are here for my partner, D, to officiate at a wedding and were on our way there). A group of three people standing about 10 feet away from us went from speaking quietly with one another to one person tilting their head towards D, and then moved to within 2 feet of us on an otherwise not-crowded platform. I told him and my son to move down as the train arrived, so we could just get on another car (hoping this was all in my head and would just be over once we moved), so as the train arrived, we moved down about 20 feet to get on one car down. The three people ran to get on the same car as us (neither car was crowded when the train arrived) and split up, entering the car behind us through both doors and sitting spread out from one another across the car. I made very solid, uncomfortably long and serious eye contact with the individual sitting nearest to me (while I stood with my back against the doors). Scanning the train, I also saw that a train security officer was in our car. I made eye contact with him as well. When we left the train, I was prepared to make noise, and the security officer held up the train, making eye contact again with D and me (I nodded and said in Spanish that we were okay) before the train pulled off with the three people still on it.
I’ll never know whether they intended to rob or otherwise harm us, and I am fine with that. It was an uncomfortable situation where my first benefit-of-the-doubt assessment revealed that something was not right about the situation, and I acted upon that assessment. We’ve ridden the metro several times since then with increased awareness and have encountered nothing but grace from our fellow riders. Thank you to everyone who has taught and practiced self-defense with me for helping me manage this situation, whatever it was, and helping me develop tools to make myself and others around me safe in the places where I want to be.