Sunday Reflections: Black Belts and False Senses of Security, the dangers of this is how you don’t get raped (a #SVYALit Post)
On August 29, 2015 The Teen got her black belt in Tae Kwon Do. She spent 3 plus years working hard to reach this milestone that only somewhere around 3% of the population that ever starts martial arts training will reach. I watched her kick, punch, and sweat her way to this incredible achievement. I’m not gonna lie, I am a proud mom.
The day that she tested she had to write and read out loud an essay about her martial arts training journey. It began with why she started martial arts, “to protect myself and others if the need should arise” she stated. That’s a lot of responsibility I thought as I heard her proclaim this, to protect herself and others. She is only 13 and she’s worried about protecting herself and others.
Then I worried about what would happen if she did indeed one day find herself in the position of having to protect herself, especially in a situation of sexual violence. You see, we already blame most rape victims when they get raped. We talk about what they wear. We talk about where they were and what they were doing. We ask them how much they drank. We ask them about their sexual history. We ask them if they fought back. We look for what are called defensive wounds to prove that a rape occurred. When a victim of a crime sits before us we make them a victim over and over and over again.
Part of the reason we do this is that we have been taught our entire lives that these are the things you can do to prevent rape: dress modestly, don’t drink, don’t go out at dark, don’t go out alone, carry your keys in your fist like a weapon . . .
We’ve also been taught that a person in peril has two automatic responses: fight or flight. But this is incorrect information, because there is another possible response: freeze. There is a reason we talk about a deer in the headlights. In the face of imminent peril sometimes we freeze.
Even with a black belt in Tae Kwon Do, it is completely possible that when the moment comes where she needs to defend herself, and statistically it is a matter of if and not so much when, she will freeze. She may forget every moment of training, every drip of sweat and ever precisely placed kick and just completely freeze. And if that happens, it is not her fault that she was raped. We don’t, at least we shouldn’t, blame victims for the crimes committed against them. Ever.
Throughout the past few years of hosting the #SVYALit Project I have read a lot of stories written by men and women discussing their sexual assaults. One that has always stood out to me is the story of a young woman who was a black belt in some form of martial arts who did, in fact, completely freeze when she was raped. And for years she was haunted by shame and guilt because she thought she should have been able to fight back, to protect herself. But when the moment came, she didn’t. She couldn’t. She, like so many others, completely shut down and withdrew into themselves while they were being attacked.
So yes, I am proud of The Teen’s accomplishments. I hope that if she ever needs to she can defend herself, but I will understand if for some reason she doesn’t. And I will never blame her for what someone else chooses to do to her. Because that is the truth about rape and other forms of sexual violence, it doesn’t matter where you are, what you wear, or what you had to drink. Rape is a choice made by a rapist and if you happen to be in the area when they choose to rape, there is often nothing you can do to protect or defend yourself.
It’s time we stop blaming victims and start blaming rapists. Because I would like to live in a world where my daughter can take martial arts and when she stands up there to say why she takes it it isn’t because she wants to be able to protect herself, but because she wants to improve her body and spirit to be the best her that she can be. That’s the world I want to live in.
Filed under: #SVYALit
About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
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