How One Woman's Story Changed My Life and the Way I Teach - Forever
How can the life of one man who teaches rape defense be changed by one woman - a woman he didn't know - one he had accidently encountered in a fast food restaurant nearly two decades ago? How can meeting and listening to her speak for less than an hour, forever change the way he thought about and taught women's self protection and rape defense? Let me tell you.
I, like most men, had grown up in an era, much like those of the decades before, that collectively believed that women who were raped:
1) Were never really raped at all. Instead they were mad at their boyfriend or "some-guy" for whatever reason and were using this as a weapon to "get him in trouble." Or, worse yet,
2) Were "asking for it" because of they way they dressed, talked, or presented themselves.
To this generation and many that preceded it, the thought of rape defense was unnecessary because the women were either liars or "they deserved it."
As for the first belief, I believe that this may happen occasionally. However, one would have to be living in a cultural vaccuum to believe that this is the reason that a six year old tells someone that she was "touched and now it hurts," or the nun who is found battered and bruised who reports that a she was sexually assaulted by a seventeen year old. And the second belief? Can you imagine the burglar sitting in court and saying, "Your honor, honestly, I mean the way that TV was placed in that display window, all sleak and shiny and with such a fine picture tube and all - I mean, c'mon your honor, it was just asking to be stolen." Can you?
One of the 'things' that put me on the road that I eventually followed in becoming a police officer, bodyguard and self protection teacher, is my own inherent 'distrust' and rebellion against what we'll call conventional wisdom. I can't tell you how painful it has been for me to listen to law enforcement officials, lawyers, judges and even so-called self-defense experts expressing either or both of these same beliefs. Especially in light of all of the evidence that's available.
Anyway, one day, several years ago, minding my own business, I find myself in a McDonald's restaurant. While enjoying lunch with my wife and two children, I pick up on, what sounded like a evangelical presentation at some table across from where we were sitting. This, coupled with the obvious discomfort displayed by the faces and bodies of the man and woman that were the recipients of the message. At the time, I was a federal police officer with about six years of street experience under my belt so disturbances like these were something that I naturally and instinctly tuned in on.
What I found when I looked was a small woman, roughly in her late twenties but no more than thirty, talking to a couple at the next table. The look on the woman's face was no less than passionate and her tone was very direct - almost panicked. But, not for herself, for the man's female companion. What I heard next, forever changed the way that I would talk about the subjects of rape defense and women's self-protection.
You see, this woman, we'll call her Susan, had been the victim of rape. By the time I met her, Susan had recovered significantly from what would be described today as post traumatic stress disorder - the traumatic mental and emotional aftermath of what began as a physical attack on her body. Unlike most victims of rape though, Susan had taken it upon herself to tell every woman - and man or men connected to her - her story, the lessons she had learned, most of all, to learn how to protect herself - to get rape defense training!
In fact Susan was on a crusade. She gave talks to schools, groups, and yes, even the impromptu presentations like the one I was witnessing, in a McDonald's restaurant. And, she was very good at it. Because for Susan, it was personal.
I think that part of the reason for the discomfort in Susan's listeners was that Susan was talking about a subject that is taboo, and especially with strangers. I mean, really, rape? That's sex, right? Yeah, sure, it's a crime, but it's a "sex" crime - "sex" - you don't talk about that, right? But Susan did, and she was passionate about it.
Susan was passionate about it because this one incident, this one type of assault that's routinely trivialized and ignored in our homes, in our schools, and, yes, in our courts, had shattered almost every belief that she had about the crime, who it happens to and her own ability to cope with it.
She was looking at and talking to the man when I came into the conversation. "Do you love her?," she was asking him. "How much?"
"Of course," he said. "But it's my job to protect her." All the while his companion snuggled close to him, nodding in agreement, but abviously avoiding the committed look in Susan's determined eyes.
"But, you can't protect her," was Susan's reply. "She needs to take a martial arts course or at least a basic rape defense class," she continued.
"Can't protect her?" The very words stab into a man's ego and the look on her target's face told me that this was a sensitive issue and one that was not open for discussion. Because for him, and most men in general, protecting one's loved-ones is not a possibility, it's a given.
But, Susan was unstoppable. "How much time are you with her in an average day?" was Susan's next question. "Do you work? Does she? Because," continued this little woman with fire in her heart, "unless you're with her every day, all the time, you can't even begin to say that."
Then, came Susan's personal story of trajedy in the face of what she had held to be true for her entire life. Everything she had been taught: good girls don't have to worry about rape, only the pretty or promiscuous girls get raped, if it does happen just give him what he wants and you'll be fine; every belief she could think of that supported her self-assurance that 'she' was not and never would be a target, was shattered and crushed by the reality she had never been taught and for many women, never accepted.
She told the couple that, prior to her attacker's brutal assault, she too held the beliefs that she was hearing from them. She, like the women she was now so adamantly trying to convince, never took a rape defense class or even thought about rape defense.
She told them that their answers were not unique. She heard them from just about everyone, everywhere she went. But, as Susan found out, these answers where only providing a false sense of security - security that had at it's foundation, not stone and mortar, but toothpicks and glue. And, if her listener's did nothing to correct those beliefs, they would find themselves in the same condition she was left in by her attacker - used, confused, and feeling empty and lost, with nowhere to hide.
As Susan's story went on, we find that the physical wounds from rape heal very quickly compared to the invisible scarring that, like seeds waiting for Springtime, lies dormant under the surface - hidden from the world - until the right time. Because, as Susan pointed out, what she didn't know about rape combined with what she didn't know about how her body would respond to it, caused her more hurt and suffering in the long term than the actual physical act itself.
Susan told her listeners that, she did not resist her attacker. After all, he just wanted sex, right? It's just about the sex. She did not resist, consciously. Well, not until he started beating her.
Susan's story shows the truth that rape is not a crime of sex, it's a crime of violence. I know you've heard this before. It's the cornerstone of the whole rape-prevention and rape-defense educational system today and is at the forefront of programs given by rape crisis centers in most places in the world. And, while this is not the truth in every case, especially in date rape and rape involving college girls where the man really does want the sex and is willing to get it by force, in Susan's case, her assailant didn't want sex for the pleasure of sex. No, to him, sex was a weapon to dominate, humiliate, and control a woman because it attacks her at her very core. To a rapist, sex is a tool that, when used in this way, violates that one part of a woman's body and her inner-self that she believes she has complete control of.
In part 2,
you'll get a glimpse of the aftermath of Susan's experience, her discoveries about the need for effective rape defense and eventual realization that both allowed her to recover and re-introduce the family members and other male friends she had alienated back into her life. I hope you've been able to learn something from this story up to this point.