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    Self-Defense as a Way to Prevent Violence against Women

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    In this day and age, women are constantly being taken advantage of by men. Women, regardless of race and ethnic background, are subject to violence. Some women try to speak out about the prevalence of this abuse; however, the programs that they are creating are just not enough to end the violence towards women. These programs hardly ever include ways for women to protect themselves; the programs are usually only ways to spread awareness. Women’s self-defense training has been excluded from sexual violence prevention, when really, women’s self-defense should be taught as the main way to prevent violence towards women.

    Self-defense is necessary to combat violence, rape, burglaries, and domestic abuse. For women, knowing self-defense can be a matter of life or death. In 1909, a woman, Nataly Berger, was attacked on the streets of New York City by an unknown man. Instead of Berger waiting for her attacker to do something to her, she decided to attack him (Rouse). Although she was able to get away safely, this shows that even more than a century ago, women were being attacked for no other reason than the fact that they were women.

    Berger is just one example of someone who decided that they would not be a victim of sexual assault. Many years later, Obama was one of the first presidents to address the issue of sexual assault by stating that “sexual violence is more than just a crime against individuals,…it threatens our families; it threatens our communities. Ultimately, it threatens the entire country” ( qtd. in Burleigh). Sexual violence does not only have a negative effect on the victim. Sexual violence harms society as a whole. In Native American culture, it is said that an attack on a woman is an attack on the entire tribe (Mankiller).

    Many people are not aware of just how severe sexual assault is. (Mankiller). This is why it is incredibly necessary for all women to take self-defense lessons. The most common way women are fighting against violence is through crisis hotlines (Mankiller). This tactic, however, only helps after women have been attacked. Women should be able to defend themselves so that they are no longer victims and do not need to call hotlines.

    Another reason why it is necessary for women to learn self-defense is that in some areas, the police department cannot be depended upon because in “many jurisdictions, police officers fail to answer in a timely to emergency calls from abused women” (Mankiller). Because women are rarely taken seriously when they call to report abuse, they need to take control of the situation and not wait for someone to finally take them seriously once it is too late. Because “women [have] the ability and the right to defend themselves,” they should learn self-defense because it may save their life one day (Rouse).

    One of the most common places where sexual assault happens is on college campuses. College campuses should always feel safe for all students and serve as a second home, but this is often not the case. The United States has been ranked as one of the top ten most dangerous countries for women (Mandel). The prevalence of sexual assault is only increasing. “One in five college women said they had experienced some type of sexual assault,” and this number may actually be much lower than the actual proportion of women that have experienced sexual assault on campus due to their fear of speaking out about their abuse (Burleigh).

    Also, because many women choose not to report their abuse, men are still at the campuses and can continue to assault their targets (Burleigh). Men sexually abuse women no matter how intelligent and good they may seem to be. Even Harvard Law has been under investigation due to the numerous amount of police reports filed by women regarding sexual assault (Burleigh). Some organizations have been created to try and end this violence. One example of this is the “End Rape on Campus” organization which was created by college students that are fed up with just how unsafe college campuses are now (Burleigh).

    Under the Clery Act, campuses are required to report campus rape when someone reports it to them, but campuses rarely ever follow through with this because of the fear that it may hurt their reputations (Burleigh). Because of this, women should learn self-defense because they do not have many people looking out for their best interests. Many students at colleges have been participating in the ‘Me Too’ movement and while this movement does raises necessary awareness to prevalence of sexual assault here in the United States and across the world, it offers no advice on how to solve the problem of violence (Mandel).

    When people think about self-defense, they usually only think of punching and kicking. Although in some cases that may work, the best option for women, in order to defend themselves, may be guns. This is because “guns can level the playing field, potentially saving women’s lives in the process” (Mandel). One woman, Ms. Kaehler, encouraged her friend, Ms. Schaffer, to purchase a gun because violence towards women was common in her workplace. Schaffer received a gun permit and carried the gun at work. Several weeks later, a man attempted to sexually abuse her, but because she had her gun with her, she was able to get her male co-worker to stop what he was doing (Mandel).

    In this case, the woman did not actually fire her gun; it was merely used as a scare tactic but it saved her from being raped. Guns are proven to work to prevent sexual assault, and the same people that are often trying to spread the most awareness about sexual assault and how dangerous it is for women are usually the politically left-leaning, but these people are also against gun rights, so it is very interesting to see that they do not want what is best for women (Mandel). No matter what political ideologies someone has, it is important to see that if women should truly feel safe, they should have the option to carry a gun in their workplace and out on the town if they choose.

    Although sexual violence is still very common, some policies have been put into place to try and encourage people, both men and women, to defend themselves if they are ever to come under attack. The most well-known self-defense law is called the “Stand Your Ground” law, which states that people no longer need to retreat when they are being attacked, even if they are easily able to do so. Instead, they should stand their ground and fight back (Alvarez). This is especially useful for women who are being sexually assaulted because they have the assurance that they will not be punished as long as they can prove that they needed to defend themselves.

    This law is one of the 21 self-defense laws that have been created in the United States because of the increased attacks on innocent people, especially women (Alvarez). This new law, however, does concern some people. Whereas the old law stated that when being attacked, it is the job of the victim to try and get away, the new law states that the victim can literally pull out a gun if they feel it is necessary to do so (Alvarez). Though this is a concern, it is difficult to abuse this law, because in most cases, there must be a witness that could also claim that it was self-defense (Alvarez). Women should not fear getting in trouble for using self-defense.

    Self-defense, according to some people, is not the answer to end violence. Some find self-defense far too extreme. They believe that “every permissible act of self-defensive assault, could, in principle, have its permissibility be massively overdetermined” (Hereth). While in some cases, women do assume the worst of men when really there is no harm being done to them, most women have a very good reason to defend themselves when they feel threatened. A man must be doing something physically threatening to make the women attack. Although it is true that “assaulting persons is always morally serious,” sexual assault is also “morally serious” (Hereth). So if a woman is being attacked, she should have the ability to attack back. In some cases, in order for a woman to totally free herself from danger, she needs to kill the attacker. If this is the case, the alive person will claim self-defense, while the dead person cannot claim anything because they are dead (Alvarez). It is better, of course, that the attacker is not killed in order to have a proper court case, but sometimes, it is the only way to free oneself from danger.

    The main benefit of learning and knowing self-defense is being able to defend oneself if they are ever attacked, but there are also many other benefits of self-defense. One benefit that comes from learning self-defense is increased fitness. As a physical activity that one must practice constantly to get better at, it helps people get in shape and then stay in shape. After Nataly Berger fought off the man who attempted to attack her, she volunteered to teach self-defense to both men and women. Hundreds of people came, and overall, they all became fitter and more health-conscious (Rouse).

    Another benefit of self-defense is the increased sense of empowerment women develop from their training, especially women that were once victims of rape. When a group of rape victims was asked about how they feel about themselves, the victims that had taken self-defense lessons after their attack, on average, felt a higher sense of empowerment than the victims that had not taken a self-defense course (Pinciotti). Although it would have been better if the victims had known self-defense before they were attacked, their newfound awareness about self-defense still helped them to cope. Even women that have not been attacked and say that they feel relatively safe all of the time “developed a sense of physical and personal empowerment” (Rouse).

    Not a day goes by without women being abused by men. There will probably never be a day in which that happens, but there are ways that women can try and protect themselves from being another statistic. Learning self-defense is the only reliable way in which a woman can properly protect herself from violence. Because of this, society should focus less on creating programs that only spread awareness, and they should focus more on teaching women how to actively protect themselves.

    Works Cited

    1. Alvarez, Lizette. “Self-Defense Law in the Spotlight.” International Herald Tribune, 22 March, 2012, pp. 2. SIRS Issues Researcher,
    2. Mankiller, Wilma, and others. “Violence Against Women.” The Reader’s Companion U.S. Women’s History, 1998. SIRS Issues Researcher,
    3. Mandel, Bethany. “Women Need Guns.” National Review, vol. 20, no. 16, 27 Aug. 2018, pp. 36-37. EBSCOhost,
    4. Rouse, Wendy L. “Gloves Off: Women and Self-Defense.” Phi Kappa Phi Forum, vol. 98, no. 1, Spring 2018, pp. 26-29. EBSCOhost,
    5. Burleigh, Nina. “Confronting Campus Rape.” Rolling Stone, no. 1211, 19 June 2014, pp. 46-49. EBSCOhost,
    6. Hereth, Blake. “Against Self-Defense.” Social Theory & Practice, vol. 43, no. 3, July 2017, pp. 613-635. EBSCOhost, doi:10.5840/soctheorpract20178316.
    7. Pinciotti, Caitlin M. and Holly K. Orcutt. “Rape Aggression Defense: Unique Self-Efficacy Benefits for Survivors of Sexual Trauma.” Violence Against Women, vol. 24, no. 5, Apr. 2018, pp. 528-544. EBSCOhost, doi: 10.1177/1077801217708885.

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