Coping with traumatic events is never an easy process. Being able to heal and process difficult events such as sexual assault can be very painful and disturbing to do so. Many individuals try and find ways to prevent re-victimization and turn to self-defence to cope with the threat of potential sexual violence. They also use this as a method to protect themselves from future harm. Although talk-based therapy is evidently helpful for many survivors, it’s also important to consider how physical therapy such as self-defence training enables survivors to feel more empowered. Participating in this method of healing allows participants to learn and practice proactive responses to sexual assault threats and allows them to feel more confident about their surroundings.
A body of research has demonstrated that those who have experienced sexual assault and have decided to take part in self-defence lessons feel less afraid of their environments and have greater confidence tackling new situations. A research paper published in 1990 in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology describes the results of a study where 43 women participated in a Model Mugging program. The training had occurred over a period of 5 weeks, and 27% of the participants had experienced sexual violence in their past. Before the program, the authors reported that these women had lower self-efficacy coping with threats of all kinds. Moreover, they displayed more vulnerable behaviour and were generally more avoidant. However, over time, they learned how to exhibit confident behaviour and how to properly deal with unwanted encounters. This indicates that these women were better able to identify safe situations versus risky ones and how to appropriately handle them. It also demonstrates that this form of healing does have positive results and is an effective method to combat post-traumatic stress disorders and other forms of anxiety.
Another benefit of taking self-defence lessons includes the ability to understand one’s own triggers and different levels of tolerance. Often, when people get comfortable with self-defence, they may request certain situations to test their boundaries and learn more about how they can better protect themselves. They can re-enact past events and learn to tackle them, which gives them confidence to build their tolerance levels. Moreover, since these enactments are repeated and drilled into the survivors, their comfort and confidence levels also increase.
Finally, after events such as these occur, many survivors tend to blame themselves. They question what they could have done differently or what they should have done to protect themselves. Some tend to believe that it’s their fault. In reality, it’s not their fault. Events such as these can happen no matter what precautions one may take. One common theme from survivors is that after taking self-defence lessons, many individuals do feel at ease and describe themselves as being in a much better place.
On more of a personal note, in my own high school, we had someone who taught self-defence come in for a Grade 9 gym class. During that period, he taught us basic self-defence skills and provided some advice on how to tackle potentially dangerous situations. Although this was years ago, I remember feeling empowered and confident after learning new tactics that taught me to be aware of my surroundings. Although this was an isolated lesson and change doesn’t happen overnight, I remember feeling exhilarated and confident.
Self-defence has been researched and proven to assist survivors in mental and physical healing. If you’re struggling and looking for something to help you heal, self-defence could be for you.