LindseyAranson, Staff Reporter
In 2014, Miss USA Nia Sanchez received harsh backlash on social media for her assertion that women can prevent sexual assault if they are “confident and…able to defend [themselves].” Although a Canadian research study proved that the risk of rape can be cut in half after one twelve-hour “resistance” course, Sanchez’s argument branded her a victim-blaming antifeminist among twitter “feminists” who feel that instead of teaching women self-defense to prevent rape, society should focus on changing rapists’ behavior.
Combating those who see women’s self-defense as controversial, Chattahoochee student Pallavi Kenkare (SR) aims to raise awareness of this issue. While she acknowledges that “the important thing is to change the [perpetrators’] behavior,” she recognizes the “sad reality” that eliminating all sexual assault is “not going to happen in a year or so; it’s a huge cultural change that’s going to happen over time.” According to Kenkare’s extensive research on the subject, one in six women will be raped in her lifetime and one in four will be subjected to domestic abuse. In fact, “women ages 15 through 44 worldwide are more likely to die or be injured by male violence than from of cancer, malaria, war and traffic accidents combined.” Evidently, “teaching men not to rape” is as useless as “teaching burglars not to steal”; even though society as a whole regards these crimes as legal and moral violations, some people will commit them anyway. As Charles C.W. Cooke put it in the National Review, telling people to put locks on their doors does not cultivate “theft culture.” Protecting the president with Secret Service does not encourage “assassination culture.” So how does teaching women to defend themselves foster rape culture?
Kenkare asserts that the “threat of physical and sexual abuse faced by young girls [and women]” is extremely real and “deeply concern[ing].” Upon learning that her close friend from summer camp had been raped on the streets of New York City when she was only twelve years old, Pallavi sprung to action by proposing a school-supported self-defense program to Chattahoochee High School officials with the “ultimate goal [of making] self-defense a permanent part of the Fulton County curriculum.” Determined to promote self-defense within schools, Kenkare single-handedly founded the Women’s Self-Defense Club and organized a seminar taught last spring by the Johns Creek Police Department.
Due to Pallavi’s efforts, the seminar was a great success. In addition to “explain[ing] mental awareness…in [various] situations, [a JDPD officer used] a rubber dummy [to] demonstrate [basic] self-defense techniques.” Then, the girls were able to test what they had learned on the police officers. When it comes to self-defense moves, it’s good practice to perform them in a sequence of threes, yelling “No, no, no!” Aside from calling attention to your situation to ward off attackers, yelling “no, no, no” “helps control your breathing so that you won’t be out of breath when you run away.”
For people found in situations where they need to use self-defense, Kenkare stresses to “always keep fighting back and don’t stop trying.” Using basic moves such as elbowing and kneeing can “definitely” protect someone even from a bigger or stronger assailant. “It doesn’t need to knock [the attacker] out,” Kenkare explains, “it just needs to give you enough time to get away and find help.” She emphasizes that while mace and pepper spray “can be useful and conducive to your safety,” knowing self-defense “gives you much more of an air of confidence” when it comes to acting in threatening situations. “The more confident you are, the less likelihood of something like this happening to you,” she says.
Starting in January 2017, the Women’s Self-Defense Club will meet monthly, with a Johns Creek Police Department seminar in March. Although “girls…logistically need to be more prepared [for sexual assault],” Kenkare adds that “boys are welcome, too.” Anyone can benefit from self-defense, so don’t wait until it is too late to learn.