Self-Defense in the News: Two Women Who Defended Themselves Against Harvey Weinstein

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.

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Tell: A Poem

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:

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