Instructors of any self-defense/martial art class must responsibly report the true facts of violence and self-defense in the real world to students. By the true facts of violence I do not mean merely teaching students that sport or point sparring holds no meaning on the street. This fact is reported in many books and web pages and by many instructors, but it is unknown or unconsidered by a staggering number of martial artists. Many of these are truly unaware that in real fights no one need play by rules, spare the groin or knee, not throw things at you, and in general mind their manners, keep their distance, and refrain from simply shrugging off an ippon strike, throwing you to the ground and beating your noggin in. Maybe with their friends’ help.
No, I’m talking about the real world, and not the movie world. I’m not even talking about the handful of techniques useful to a victim, scared stiff, not warmed up, surprised in poor fighting attire and perhaps outnumbered and in an inconvenient setting like a slippery floor, rough surface, or tight quarters. I’m talking about what to do to rationally reduce your risks for violent injury in the world, because of the sad fact that injury threats come overwhelmingly from mates and family members not from strangers, with important exceptions for certain risky but often voluntary activities like getting drunk or ending up alone in an unsafe place, or owning a gun, or committing crimes. The hard facts of assault must be confronted:
1. The greatest danger to you is a family member. Murders and beatings by intimate acquaintances are the most common type. Sexual assaults against wives/fiancés/dates, children, and siblings are the most common. About one in five to one in three women will suffer physical violence at the hands of a mate-1.6 to 4 million women every single year. Family violence is the second commonest cause of trauma in women seen at ER’s, with falls, the number one category, concealing more cases.
2. A handgun stored in the home increases your risk of death and injury by a variety of ways. First, by introducing a gun into the house, you increase the likelihood that you will kill your intimate acquaintances, or them you, many more times than the likelihood that you will defend yourself against an attack. Articles published in the Journal of the American Medical Association and in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) repeatedly show that a gun in the home increases the risk of homicide about 3 fold, and that for every killed intruder, there are 1.3 accidental deaths, 4.6 homicides, and a whopping 37 suicides. For every killed stranger, 12 FRIENDS and 18 COHABITANTS are shot down. Simply owning a gun increases your suicide risk 5 TIMES. Potentially suicidal adolescents see their suicide risk expand 75 TIMES when a gun is available. If you ever have a depressed or impulsive (that is, adolescent) kid and a gun, you’re risking violent death. You might not feel suicidal now, so you might think having a gun around isn’t likely to make you shoot yourself. And you’re right. But an attack from a stranger in your home is even less likely.
3. Drug and Alcohol use are among your biggest enemies as far as intentional injuries are concerned (as well as car, motorcycle, boat, pedestrian, and bicycle deaths). From a NEJM study: houses where someone drank were 2.5 times as likely to have a gun murder as dry houses; houses where alcohol caused problems at work were 20 times as likely to have these murders. Over 3/4 of studies show alcohol use in a mate increases your risk of getting beaten. Drinking can up your suicide risk 16 times, drugs 10 times. Most cases of stranger violence involve drugs and alcohol, and alcohol is used with shocking frequency as a date rape tool, as well as a vehicle for other drugs like rohypnol. Alcohol is a major factor in injuries/deaths caused from everything from falls, bike accidents, fire, and car crashes to suicides to homicides.
4. Common sense rules are your best protection against dating violence. This means: DON’T USE DRUGS OR ALCOHOL, DON’T TRAVEL ALONE, DON’T GO ANYWHERE WITHOUT PLANNING YOUR RETURN/KNOWING YOUR ROUTE, DON’T IGNORE YOUR INSTINCTS, DON’T IGNORE YOUR ENVIRONMENT, DON’T GO ANYWHERE WITH JUST A DATE, DON’T EXPECT ANYONE BESIDES YOURSELF TO ENSURE YOUR SAFETY (Not a new boyfriend, and sadly, not many long-time boyfriends) but KNOW WHO CAN HELP. The risk of sexual assault in college is roughly ONE IN FOUR. Try to be/look like a person who knows where they’re going and isn’t afraid. Many attackers size up a potential victim for posture, disorientation, fear, etc, and even verbally test the person, before attacking. ASSERTIVE AND CONFIDENT APPEARANCES, ACTIONS, AND SPEECH MAY DETER ASSAULT. But be ready to RUN.
5. Other methods of injury prevention far outweigh self-defense--and I’m not talking about conflict avoidance. Bike helmets, seatbelts, fire alarms and the like are much more important.
To assess your risk of violent injury, start at home. Locks, alarms and window bars may reduce your risk by a measly 20-40%, but that’s nothing compared to the risk from a gun-roughly 500% increases in risk, larger ones if the gun is unlocked or loaded. And the number of gun injuries is tiny relative to the number of partner beatings. So your first priority is assessing your past/present relationships, if any. The following things don’t seem to affect your risk very much, as far as YOUR characteristics are concerned (as a spouse only): your alcohol use, race, prior marriage, housewife status, or income, or many other things. What’s more important about YOU is
1. If you witnessed or experienced violence in your family as a child or adolescent.
2. If you use drugs.
3. Other factors: 60% of studies say a healthy self-esteem can protect you; the rest say it doesn’t matter. Half the studies on the victim’s sex role beliefs suggested that having traditional sex role beliefs increased their risk of assault, and half say educational level affects violence-but half say they don’t matter.
Remember that though your drinking doesn’t make your spouse more likely to abuse you, it does make any boyfriend or date more likely to assault you. And more important than you is your mate, particularly your male mate. There isn’t enough known about violence between lesbians. Your mate represents an increased physical violence risk to you if
1. He is sexually aggressive toward you
2. He is violent toward any children
3. He witnessed or experienced violence as a child or adolescent
4. He is unemployed or has an arrest record.
5. Other: a higher income, education, or assertiveness MAY protect you. Only a third of studies said his need for power/dominance was a risk factor.
Your relationship tells you more about risk than your characteristics. Risk factors include:
1. Frequent arguments
2. Higher female religious involvement/education/occupational level
Marital dissatisfaction is not a risk factor. While all this may help to define your risk, the big point is WOMEN WHO KNOW MEN ARE AT RISK. Ending a relationship doesn’t end the risk. It’s essential that everyone know about domestic violence, and constantly watch for it. So keep in mind that domestic violence:
1. Is never the victim’s fault, is never legal, and is never “right.” No one deserves violence (excepting self defense) whether they drink, gain weight, become pregnant, (though about 15/100 pregnant women are abused) wear certain clothes, walk certain places, or anything.
2. Often goes in cycles of anger, abuse, apology, calm, and more anger and worsening abuse. Don’t take excuses. Don’t give him another “chance” to behave. The large majority or seriously injured or killed women have histories of ongoing abuse.
3. Can consist of physical, sexual, or psychological abuse. (Anyone can refuse any sexual activity at any time, regardless of marriage, long relationship, starting sex, or any dating. And everyone deserves respect, dignity, privacy, and autonomy--the right to control their own lives, including their activities, relationships and finances and BODIES.)
4. Often begins before marriage
5. Sex with intoxicated persons, may be rape, because they cannot consent.
6. Is often tolerated because of serious threats to the victim or children
7. Leaves serious and often permanent psychological scars in victims
There are many things you can do if you’re a victim of abuse.
1. Make an escape plan and hiding escape supplies, such as money, clothes, spare car keys, documents, and so on. Don’t over pack--it may tip him off. If you can’t pack a bag at home try leaving one with a neighbor or organizing a drawer of a dresser.
2. If fighting is unavoidable, stay out of bathrooms (closed space, hard surfaces) and kitchens (knives).
3. Try to keep a list of emergency numbers and resources. Consider arranging an emergency signal with a neighbor. If you call the police, DO NOT SAY YOUR MATE IS ATTACKING YOU. They may arrive hours too late. Tell them a stranger is attacking you in your house.
4. Get help. Find the numbers of local sexual assault agencies and class them.
5. Primary COLLEGE defenses are preventive: sobriety, caution, awareness, public places, groups, and careful mate selection. University judicial panels can substitute for police involvement after the fact.
A lot of this applies more to women than men. That’s because more men abuse women than the other way around. And it’s also because women don’t do stupid things as often-like defend their macho reputation, pick fights, hang out with dangerous people, commit crimes, get rowdy at bars, and so on. But I don’t need to tell you how to reduce those risks, do I?
The following information was gathered from a variety of sources including the FBI and the Bureau of Justice Statistics. It is intended to provide an overview of the subject of violent crime and self-defense. We train to be able to defend ourselves in the event that we are attacked. We should know who among us is in the greatest danger and how effective self-defense efforts can be expected to be.
If you are young, if you are black, if you are male, you are at the greatest risk for becoming a victim of violent crime, according to 1996 statistics from the Bureau of Justice Statistics. The reports Victim Characteristics dated November 15, 1997 and Criminal Victimization 1996 dated November 1997 indicate that the rate of victimization in 1996 was:
For murder victims,
- 1 in 11 persons age 12 to 15 versus 1 in 200 persons age 65 or more
- 1 in 19 blacks versus 1 in 25 whites.
- 1 in 20 males versus 1 in 29 females.
- 77% were male
- 64% were under age 35
- about 12% were under age 18
- about 48% were black, 48% were white and 3% were Asians, Pacific Islanders and Native Americans.
In 1996, about a third of all victims of violent crime were ages 12 to 19. Almost half of all victims of violence were under age 25. For the crime of aggravated assault, individuals between ages 16 and 19 had a higher rate of victimization than any other age group.
Males experienced higher rates of victimization than females in every category of violent crime except rape/sexual assault. Men were twice as likely as women to experience aggravated assault and robbery. Women were 10 times more likely than men to be a victim of rape or sexual assault.
Persons from households with incomes of less than $15,000 had significantly higher violent crime rates for all categories of violent crime (except simple assault) than those from households with incomes over $15,000.
Individuals who had never married or who had separated or divorced experienced higher rates of violent crime than those who were married or widowed. Those who had never married were 4 times more likely than married persons to be victimized.
Persons living in cities were significantly more likely to experience all types of violent crime than were suburbanites or rural residents.
Half of the victims of nonfatal violent crime knew the offender. If the victim knew the offender, a violent crime was more likely to be completed rather than left as a threat or attempt. The greatest likelihood of the victim’s knowing the offender occurred with rape - 68% of the rape victims. The least likelihood was with robbery - 23% of robbery victims knew the offender.
The violent crime rate for 1996, as measured by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, was down compared to previous years. The violent crime rate for 1996 decreased by 10% compared to 1995. The rate of property crime went down 8%. Overall, these rates have been declining for the past three years.
The decision to use self-defense techniques during an attack is a purely personal one. It is based upon the physical and mental characteristics of the victim, his or her knowledge and expertise as well as the type of attack experienced. Some people will choose to defend themselves. Some will not.
Statistics regarding the effectiveness of self-defense techniques in real violent crime situations are available. They may help you to make that decision.
In the study Highlights from 20 Years of Surveying Crime Victims published by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, it was reported that:
“Victims take some type of measure to protect themselves in nearly:
- 71% of all violent victimizations
- 82% of rapes
- 58% of robberies
- 73% of assaults.”
This study found that the types of self protective measures taken by victims of violent crime ranged from running and hiding to persuading or appeasing the attacker, screaming, scaring the offender, threatening the attacker, and physically resisting or attacking the offender. The study also found that men and women both used self-protective measures equally. However, men were more likely to attack an offender or to resist physically while women were more likely to get help by giving an alarm such as screaming.
Victims who used self-protective measures reported that the measures:
Victims indicated that the most common reason the self-protective actions helped was that “the actions allowed the victim to avoid injury altogether or to prevent greater injury.” When the victims felt that the actions hurt, they reported most often that “the action made the offender angrier or more aggressive”.
- helped in 60% of the victimizations
- hurt in 7%
- both helped and hurt in 6%
- neither helped nor hurt in 11%.
With regard to specific crimes of violence, this study reported that when the crime was simple assault, the victims used self-defense in 75% of all assaults. Seventy-two percent of victims felt that defending themselves helped the situation while 7% thought it hurt the situation. When rape was the crime being reported, “of female rape victims who took some type of self-protective action such as fighting back and yelling and screaming, most reported that it helped the situation rather than made it worse”.
Again, the decision to defend yourself when attacked is a personal one. However, as the above-reported data demonstrates, even such simple defensive techniques as screaming and running away can be highly effective when it comes to defending yourself.
“Risk factors for fatal residential fires” NEJM 327(12) 859-63 1992
“Alcohol as a risk factor for injuries or death due to fires or burns” Pub Health Reports 102:475-83 1987
“Violent deaths among alcoholics” J Stud Alc 44:938-49 1983
“Causes of death among alcoholics” Q. J Stud Alc 33:171-85 1972
“Effects of alcohol abuse on Readmission for Trauma” JAMA 270(16) 1962-4 1993
“Alcohol and Fatal Injuries among US adults” JAMA 260(17) 2529-32 1988
“Alcohol, Social factors, and mortality among young men” Br J Addic 86:877-87 1991
“Fatal Injuries and alcohol” Am J Prev Med 1:21-8 1985
“Drinking habits and death” Int J Epidem 12:145-50 1983
“Role of alcohol in mortality and morbidity from interpersonal violence” Alc and Alcoholism 24: 565 1989
“Suicide in the home in relation to gun ownership” NEJM 3327: 476-72 1992
“Gun ownership as a risk factor for homicide in the home” NEJM 329:1084-91 1993
“Guns and adolescent suicides” JAMA 266: 3030
“Assoc between the purchase of a handgun and homicide or suicide” Am J Pub Health 87: 974 1997
“Analysis of risk markers in husband and wife violence” Violence Victims 1:101-24 1986 SHE information packet
Criminal Victimization 1996: Changes 1995-1996 with Trends 1993-1996, Cheryl Ringel, Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. Department of Justice, November 1997.
Victim Characteristics: Summary Findings, Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. Department of Justice, November 15, 1997.
Highlights from 20 Years of Surveying Crime Victims: The National Crime Victimization Survey, 1973-92, Marianne W. Zawitz, et al., Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. Department of Justice, 1993.
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