Last week as I was walking across the Diag, I noticed some chalk scribbled on the ground that immediately caught my attention. "1 in 4 women" followed by "No More Victims." My immediate reaction: frustration.
Why, you ask, was I perturbed? I am well aware that between 20 and 25% of college women will experience an attempted or completed sexual assault (according to the Department of Justice), and I believe that this kind of statistic should be advertised to both men and women of U of M's community. I do not, however, believe that the (non-student) self-defense organization who is responsible for plastering these statements on the Diag has any business to do so in a way that implies that being trained in self-defense will keep a person from being sexually assaulted.
For some reason, many people in our society believe that knowing how to beat someone up is going to keep them from being raped. Well, I'm here to tell you that this notion is completely false. To quickly cite some statistics, 90% of survivors were assaulted by someone who they know, and 60% of assaults take place in a survivor's home. Is knowing how to throw a punch going to safeguard you from your study buddy? What about your partner? Maybe yes. Probably not.
Choosing to train in self-defense or to fight back against an assailant should be left up to the survivor, not the greater public. No one knows what he or she would do in the situation until it happens, so it's not anyone's place to pass judgment on what a survivor "should have done." As a Department of Justice survey shows, of survivors who fought back against their perpetrator, only 50% said it helped; the other half said that fighting back actually made the violence worse. This shows that in some instances, fighting back may not be the smartest, or safest, thing to do.
So, to the (non-student) self-defense organization: your messages aren't helping the movement to end sexual violence; they are actually perpetuating society's idea that women must be proactive and do whatever they can to not make themselves a victim of sexual assault. However, we must recognize that it is not a woman's responsibility to learn self-defense in order to protect herself from any possible assaults. Rather, it is a perpetrator's responsibility to not assault someone.