Every now and then, when I’m working with a student, usually with a physical technique, a “ghost” will pop up. The memory of some past trauma will hit her eyes, and tears will fall. I experienced the same when I started training in Karate.
When we are victimized by someone else, society, our church, our school, our friends, our family all ask the typical questions: “Where were you?” “What were you wearing?” “Oh were you drinking?” “Couldn’t you have…” This is one way people blame the victim. These questions all ask “What did YOU do wrong to get attacked?”
Worse, we do this to ourselves. And no matter how much time and counseling goes by, the “Shoulda-woulda-coulda’s creep back in. “If only I had done this, or not done that, or not been there…”
I want to make a big point here: Listen to this and let it soak into your very soul:
IT IS NEVER THE VICTIM’S FAULT THAT SOMEONE ATTACKED HER. NEVER!!!
No one asks to get attacked. It is the fault of the attacker, plain and simple. It was the attacker’s decision to choose and hurt a victim. It was the attacker’s efforts that made it happen, NOT THE ONE WHO GOT ATTACKED.
The victim, no matter what she did, did her best in the situation at hand, with the tools she had available- whether she fought tooth and nail, whether she passively resisted, and even if she went along as her only available defense. She is no less traumatized by the attack, and it’s not helpful, nor does it do any good for anyone to blame her.
Learning self-defense sometimes causes these experiences to pop back up into the front of the mind (and we all do our best to stuff them down and forget, don’t we?): we learn the defenses we “could have used if only we had known at the time…”
The good that comes out of this is that we get to knock those ghosts back down for good, which can be very healing. Learning self-defense means that we can say “Yeah that happened. I did my best in that situation. It will NEVER HAPPEN AGAIN like that, because I have more tools to use against such dangers now.”
If you’ve been a victim, get some counseling. Learn to believe that you did your best in the situation, and learn to stop beating yourself up about it so you can heal.
If you encounter or hear about a victim, stop asking the blaming questions. They don’t help. Tell her it’s not her fault. She likely needs to hear this.
If you are commenting on someone getting attacked, stop focusing on what the victim could have done differently and think about the attacker. “Why did he do that? What is his history? There’s no excuse for that. Hope he gets caught,” etc. it’s THE ATTACKER’S fault, blame him instead of blaming the victim.
Thoughts on Self-Defense and Prevention of Attacks on would-be victims:
Most self-defense programs are 90% physical- “here’s what to do when you get attacked” and only 10% preventative- “Here’s how to avoid getting attacked”.
Empowered Self-Defense is 70% Preventative (recognizing danger and potential predators, and mitigating risks through awareness, assertiveness, and body language), and 30% Physical Self-Defense (Techniques utilizing balance and the most effective targets to “hurt ‘em bad enough to get away”).
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