Posts tagged rape
Posts tagged rape
Have you ever heard of Muslims and Jews in the Middle East joining hands to battle violence against women? Stay tuned. You’re about to get an earful.
I volunteer as an assistant in a self-defense program for women called IMPACT. The course we finished yesterday was for a group of Muslim women in East Jerusalem. Since none of the team spoke fluent Arabic, we used a translator most of the time, but we communicated pretty well even without a common language.
After the third session, one of the women shared this story.
It’s no secret that there is a lot of tension between Arabs and Jews in the Middle East. However, stories about peaceful encounters and coexistence rarely make the headlines.
This month, El HaLev instructors taught a self-defense course to a group of Arab women from East Jerusalem. Since most of the staff does not speak Arabic, they used a translator….
(Sigh. I’ll never stop blogging about IMPACT.)
Yesterday I started a new course as an assistant. The course is for young teens, ages 12-15. This is my first teen course, and it is different from the women’s course.
*For those who are unfamiliar with IMPACT - it is a self-defense course for women, specially designed for rape prevention.
The girls amaze me, one by one, with the amount of courage they demosntrate on the mats. We present them with inconceivable challenges. We ask them to willingly turn their backs and allow an armored mugger to grab them from behind. Furthermore, we ask them to fight back when he does. And they do. Every one of them. They whine and they screech as teenage girls should, but they keep fighting until their attacker is out cold. And they don’t give up. It is inspiring and empowering to know that we have girls like that among us.
I gave up a lot to be in this course - mainly my sanity, because it means doing four thirteen-hour days in a row this week. I have considered dropping out of the course several times, but now that we’re half way done, I feel a responsibility to finish what I’ve started. In the spirit of these incredible girls, to abandon them on the path to strength would be to spit in their faces. I want to be there for them, to be there with them when they reach that moment when they feel their own power.
Many dilemmas arise when teaching self defense to teenage girls. The main question, especially when dealing with 12-year-olds fresh out of childhood, is how much material to give over this early on. On the one hand, we have a responsibility to prepare them for what’s out there. On the other hand, we have to tread carefully so we do not blur the line between sexuality - which is a stranger to many of them - and rape. Girls at age twelve are mainly trying to understand what’s going on with their own body parts. We can not discuss the details of a rape scene with someone who is not even faimiliar with the anatomy, and it is not fair to try. So in a way, teen courses are more challenging that adult courses. Although the material is less disturbing, the questions of the students are much more difficult to answer. During today’s class, I was asked, “But who would rape a twelve-year-old?”
Naturally, my association was a Harry Potter reference.
Harry Potter: And how is theory supposed to prepare us for what’s out there?
Dolores Umbridge: There is nothing out there, dear! Who do you imagine would want to attack children like yourself?
Harry Potter: I don’t know, maybe, Lord Voldemort!
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Because the answer to the girls’ question is, in fact, Lord Voldemort. He is the symbol of evil in the world - the reminder that there are terrible things out there which we must not ignore. It is easier to see the good in everyone than to confront the hatred in people’s hearts. It is our responsibility to give our children the knowledge that they may encounter evil, and in turn, the ability to protect themselves against it. Denying Lord Voldemort’s existence might make them happier for a year or two, but in the long run, we would be better off announcing to the world that he is back, that he has power, and to remind ourselves that we are a worthy match for him.
“In April protest marches called “Slut Walks” were sparked when a Toronto police officer said that to reduce rape “women should avoid dressing like sluts”.
“Victims are often stigmatised about their own behaviour, attire, sexual life and mental health,” said Sharpe. “These questions directly impose the blame on the victim.” The attorney stressed that in no other class of crime—from robbery to murder—is there a kneejerk reaction to blame the aggrieved party.
“We get the same attitudes from the public no matter how much we try to educate. People still say ‘it’s the way these young girls are dressing now’. My answer is that it might be easier to take off a mini skirt than a pair of jeans but at the end of the day nothing excuses someone from violating another person in that way,” Murray noted.”
(Excerpted from T&T’s Top Ten Rape Myths By By Cedriann J Martin. To view the full article, click here: http://www.trinidadexpress.com/woman-magazine/T_T_s_Top_Ten_Rape_Myths-124899069.html)
This is not only a problem in the legal system. It is a problem in Religious Judaism as well. I walk down the streets of Jerusalem and find signs which say, “Modesty prevents Catastrophe” and similar notions. It makes me want to puke. We are taught from a young age - and I know this because I went through the religious school system - that sex, thinking about sex, talking about sex, masturbation, reading, studying, and learning about sex are wrong. Only very specific kinds of sex - and only between a husband and wife - are legitimate. My mother made a good point over the weekend when she said, “Is it fair to ask our children not to think about, try, or want to have sex from the time they hit puberty until a good 10-15 years later, when it is socially acceptable to marry, and to tell them that if they do it is a sin?” Is that fair? But here we are, I see I’ve strayed from the topic of discussion. Rape is not about sex, and men do not have an unstoppable drive for it. It is not about how the women dress - because the fact is, the statistics are the same in all sectors of Israeli society - from the secular to the ultra-religious - and those girls don’t show an inch of skin.
First, I’m going to name some big problems we have in the human race.
You with me? Good. These are big problems. Huge problems. Problems which can not be fought with protests and organizations. Worldwide problems originating in our own human survival instincts. These issues are going to exist for as long as humans exist, because it’s who we are, and how we survive. So let’s call them Giant problems. They’re our giants. Things so huge we can’t even see past their knees.
And here’s another one: Rape.
Why is rape set aside from the others? Rape is a giant, universal problem, claiming more and more victims every day. One in THREE women - those are the statistics! ONE IN THREE! So why am I mentioning it down here, and not up there with the rest of its giant friends?
Because rape can be fought.
With hits, kicks and screams. With an aggressive look in the eye. With a single word.
When I was in high school I swore to myself that I would be one of the two who did not experience sexual harassment of any kind. Now I can confidently say that I never will - as an IMPACT graduate, I’m insured for life. I know how to fight. I know what to do. And it’s not something I’ll ever forget.
Most - if not all - of the giant problems I stated above have some sort of idea at their basis. For instance, the idea that someone who is different is a threat (racism), or the idea that being fat is unhealthy (sizeism). In both of these cases the problem originates from a survival instinct but is fueled by a concept which has been so deeply implemented in our subconscious that we believe it to be pure, solid fact. In the case of rape, this idea is that men are stronger than women.
IMPACT battles this concept at its roots, shaking up humanity at its most basic, existential levels. Beyond proving without a doubt that women are equally strong in their bodies as men, Impact takes a step further to say: women do not have to tolerate sexual harassment. Women do not have to tolerate verbal abuse. A woman does not have to stand there quietly while someone hisses and whistles at her. She’s allowed to fight back. She’s allowed to stop him the instant she feels slightly uncomfortable. You don’t have to wait for him to hit you in order to tell him to go away and leave you the hell alone. All of these things seem so trivial - so blatantly obvious, we shouldn’t even have to think about them. And yet, the opposite is so deep within us, it has become our nature to tolerate harassment, abuse and disrespectful behavior.
So many women go through years unable to say the word “no” without feeling pangs of guilt. But Impact teaches us that it’s never too early to say no to something you do not want. You’re allowed to say no to the way someone looks at you. You’re allowed to say no to people you love. You’re allowed to say no in random, everyday situations. Heck, you’re allowed to say no in the middle of sex, and you don’t have to feel bad or apologize for it. No one has the right to force you to do anything, and no one has the right to cross your own personal boundaries. And if you don’t think you can stop them, you should learn how.
In IMPACT, you’ll learn the unbelievable strength of your own body. You’ll achieve what you and the rest of the world believe is totally impossible. You’ll meet guys who prove to you that not all men are the same, because those muggers are the sweetest guys ever. You’ll learn how to stand strong and defend what is yours, and feel good about it. In IMPACT, you’ll never shout alone.