“Alleged” is used to cover the ass of the media and those who must consider the facts of a case. By using this word, we are allowing the accused to remain “innocent until proven guilty,” a protected right, so the person who has been accused is alleged to have committed the violation. This has no bearing on whether or not the violation took place, only on whether or not the accused is guilty. Since victimization is determined by the one who suffers a violation, we should not be saying “alleged rape victim,” or “alleged assault victim,” and media has no business doing so. When we use the word to describe a victim, we instil doubt in the mind of the listener/reader as to whether or not a violation has occurred. Let’s stop doing that. Let’s start believing the victim; it harms nobody if we use “alleged” to describe only the accused, and it extends the “innocent until proven guilty” right to everyone involved.
I was asked a question:
You keep saying you’re not a ‘women’s self defence’ instructor. Why not?
Simply put, “Women’s Self-Defence” can be one of two things: it can be a women-only safer-space, in which case I am not allowed to be there, or it can be a contribution to rape culture; a perpetuation of a system wherein men get to set rules for women in order for women to remain safe from sexual assault (the efficacy of those rules being disputable).
Now, that isn’t to say I cannot teach women -I most certainly can, and do- or that I cannot address issues that disproportionately affect women, like sexual assault. It’s important I do it in ways that recognize a few key realities:
1) I, as a man, cannot occupy a women-only safer space.
2) Power-hoarding on the part of men contributes to all spaces being unwelcoming and unsafe.
3) Men have the most power in preventing sexual assault because we are the ones who harbour the offenders.
4) While I would never tell anyone to do something they don’t feel safe doing, most of the “advice” being trotted out to women is victim-blaming in nature, tends to be either ineffective or outright *damaging,* and should be demystified and debunked.
5) All risk-reductive strategies should be evidence-based and supported, not just a list of “alwayses and nevers.”
Beyond that, the law is the law, movement is movement, and counter-violence is counter-violence – it really doesn’t need to be gendered in order to be effective.
Now, I have a question for you:
What are some ways men can make spaces safer and more inviting for women?
I get asked from time to time why I’m so involved in the discussions on topics like sexual assault, street harassment, misogyny, and so on. I’m a counter-violence & self-defence instructor, after all, not a “women’s self-defence” instructor. True. But if someone says, “self-defence advice” what’s the first thing you think of?
“Don’t go out alone at night.”
“Stay out of Neighbourhood X.”
“Don’t dress too sexy.”
“Don’t leave your drink unattended.”
“This is what you do when some guy grabs your wrist.”
That’s where the conversation is. And it’s bullshit, victim-blaming advice. If we’re going to give advice to anyone on how to be safer, let’s at least give the right advice. “Self-defence” is an implicitly gendered term; guys don’t learn to defend themselves, they learn to own the space they’re in, to not accept treatment they don’t feel they want or deserve, to be comfortable, and some even learn to fight (also, they usually don’t but that’s a topic for another rant). Women are constantly pressured to learn to defend themselves, to take defensive measures, to “reduce risk” in ways that don’t actually reduce risk. I can only imagine how much of a headache that is, how difficult it makes just getting ready to go out or meeting someone new or getting to sleep at night.
Men have the power to stop violence against women. If we don’t abuse our partners, if we don’t rape, if we don’t engage in street harassment, if we don’t tell jokes that undermine the feminine experience, then we know someone who does. Let’s not be that guy and let’s not allow that guy’s existence to be all that comfortable; let’s shame him out of existence. Let’s make public and private spaces safer and more inviting for women. If we accomplish that, we’ve actually done something to not only protect women from violence, but we’ve improved our half of the species.
I read with interest a piece on Huffpost entitled “How We Can Prevent Another Steubenville.” In it, Kelli Goff discusses what she thinks is the real issue behind Steubenville: alcohol.
If a teen drives drunk and is killed in an accident, or worse, kills someone else and we find out their parents never discouraged them from drinking and driving, we blame the parents. Yet for some reason we don’t discuss the role of alcohol in sexual assault the same way. Continue reading
The holidays are upon us, a time of year when assaults are on the rise due to a great many factors. In order to help increase safety for everyone, let’s keep a few things in mind: Continue reading
Let’s do a two-part exercise:
Imagine, in your mind’s eye, a photograph. The image on it is of a person who, based on colour, creed, gender or other status, is routinely placed in a position of being considered insignificant or “less than.” Perhaps even someone who
The rape apologist is an odd animal. Usually they pass off their apologia as advice to women on how to stay safe, but that advice is unreliable at best. This approach to victim-blaming has earned them another nickname: the concern troll. When someone doesn’t understand victim-blaming, I am willing to give that person the benefit of the doubt; I will often engage in civil discussion with a victim-blamer who just doesn’t get what it is they’re saying, to what extent victim-blaming contributes to re-victimisation, or even what accountable language is. However, there is a difference between this and the true rape apologist: The true apologist puts considerable time and effort into creating a scenario that absolves the rapist of (predominantly) his responsibility, casts doubt onto the victim’s authenticity (the false rape claim), assigns guilt to the victim by way of some magical set of actions the victim should have carried out in order to not be raped (unfortunately, there is not a pill that wards off rapists in either the literal or figurative sense, as it is the rapist who is in control of the actions of the rapist – nobody else), and frequently conflates rape and sex. These apologists also tend to erase the vast majority of victims and perpetrators by insisting rape happens “out there,” committed by strangers, and also erase many victims by simply not acknowledging male victims, trans victims, child victims, elderly victims, and so on. The “casual” victim-blamer is someone who has bought into the line of the rape apologist, mostly because that line has been sold with no competition to a public hungry for answers for millennia. Continue reading
Wow. I just finished reading a real piece of work on someone else’s blog. He had the nerve to post it to the Slutwalk Toronto Facebook page because he was taking a very novel approach to victim blaming (read: “not very novel at all”) and wanted everyone to see he was totally incapable of absorbing new ideas.
Our esteemed writer is a believer in what he terms the “Oleg Volk school of rape prevention.” Mr. Volk, however, is not a preventer of rape but a proponent of “gun culture.” Volk uses propaganda tactics to argue his point on firearm legislation, equating those who favour gun control to racists who would prefer all potential victims of crime be unarmed and defenceless. A similar tactic was used in Canada recently when Vic Toews said those who were not in favour of strict internet controls were on the side of child pornographers; the tactic is the same regardless of who uses it, and betrays the lack of understanding of an opposing argument as well as a penchant for fear mongering. Guns and self-defence, or counter-violence in response to assault, is an option not everyone chooses to employ, or is capable of employing. Mandating counter-violence of any kind, which is what the either/or fallacy amounts to in the context of self-defence, is highly problematic and can serve to call into question the authenticity of a victim of crime. Continue reading
This is International Anti-Street Harassment Week, going until Saturday the 24th. To show our support for making the streets safer for women and girls, we’re distributing the following pamphlet on street harassment:
Feel free to click, print and share or let us know you’d like copies of it and we’ll do our best while supplies last.
With Border Land School Division’s recent decision to remove the ally cards from classrooms, The Best Defense Program – having been teaching in schools since the early 90s – seeks to make our position on the matter clear: We wish to be allies to all those who might be targeted based on gender/identity, or sexual orientation.
Childhood is not a time where the vulnerable should be placed in a position of seeking allies, but of having responsible allies who are informed placed before them. As a group we support the efforts of teachers who would be such an ally, fully aware of the controversy that comes with identification as an ally to marginalised groups and individuals. To meet this end, we have entered into discussion with the Rainbow Resource Centre to ensure an inclusive approach to our programs.
I know this may have an effect on our ranks, but this isn’t a topic open to debate. This is what it means to take a side.