Our program relies on science. Not fight science - we’ve got the physical part of training covered. We rely on social science to help us understand why people do things. Specifically, we want to use social science to figure out how to reduce risk of assault. We have three areas that we focus on in the scientific literature.
First, we want to understand the statistics. Numbers can tell us about when, where, how, and to whom things happen. We review studies that help us understand who is assaulted, how often, what kinds of assaults are perpetrated, under what circumstances are assaults perpetrated, who perpetrates, etc. These numbers help us focus on what we should train for. For instance, most people have the impression that assaults are perpetrated by strangers. But, that’s not what the statistics say, not even close. The vast majority of assaults are perpetrated by someone known to the woman. That really changes what kind of training we do because we may be willing to punch a stranger in the nose if he is attacking us but we may not be willing to punch our boss or friend or cousin, etc. So, these statistics are vital in helping us identify what we should train for.
Second, to reduce our risk of assault, we need to know about the characteristics of perpetrators. They are not all the same and they use a wide array of methods to hurt women. We need to know how to spot the behavioral cues that these men exhibit. So, we look at the literature to help us “profile” these men.
Third, we want to use social science to figure out the emotional experiences women go through that might prevent them from defending themselves. For instance, in the above example in which a boss treats an employee inappropriately, she may feel simultaneously scared to report the behavior because she fears retaliation as well as upset or angry at the bad behavior. By understanding our emotions and our reactions to very difficult situations, we can begin to build practical, realistic methods of handling these horrible situations.
We know not everyone wants to read research (it can be a little… tedious), but if you’re nerdy like us, check out some of the resources we use. Also, when we were able, we included a link to the article so you could read it without having to search much. While many have links, those that don’t can be searched for and found behind a paywall (Boo! We like free science!). These references are organized alphabetically by the first author's last name. If you want to share an article you like, please email it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Empowerment Self-Defense” Programs Make Women Safer. Why Don’t More Colleges Use Them?
Demographic Characteristics and
Victimization Risk: Testing the Mediating Effects of Routine Activities.
The Context of Sexual Violence: Situational Predictors of Self-Protective Actions.
Drug-Facilitated Sexual Assault:
College Women’s Risk Perception and Behavioral Choices.
Pathways to Adult Sexual Revictimization: Direct and Indirect Behavioral Risk Factors Across the Lifespan.
Feminist Self-Defense and Resistance Training for College Students: A Critical Review and Recommendations for the Future.
Prediction of Women’s Utilization of Resistance Strategies in a Sexual Assault Situation: A Prospective Study.
Tonic Immobility and Childhood Sexual Abuse: A Preliminary Report Evaluating the Sequela of Rape-Induced Paralysis.
Tonic Immobility in Childhood Sexual Abuse Survivors and Its Relationship to Posttraumatic Stress Symptomatology.
Empowerment, Social Justice, and Feminist Self-Defense: The Benefits of Incorporating Embodied Empowerment Skills in Social Work Practice.
“Don’t Ever Give Up!” Resisting Victimhood Through Self-Defense.
A 10-Year Update of “Review and Critique of Empirical Studies of Rape Avoidance.”
Avoiding Rape: The Effects of Protective Actions and
Situational Factors on Rape Outcome.