I took self-defense classes for three semesters during my Ph.D., in Chicago. The instructor was a middle-aged person with salt and pepper hair and a good build. Every semester, he used to teach us one technique in self-defense and we used to practice it on him. Yes, on him. He got punched and kicked around mercilessly by about 10-12 women, so that we could get trained to use the self defense techniques. We also had discussions on common scenarios of violence against women, rapes, domestic violence and mugging and what we can do if we were in such situations.
The class used to sit around him in a circle and the discussion started something like this
‘Two women were attacked by a baseball bat and mugged in one of the Chicago’s neighborhoods. The women were going towards their car after staying in the bar until 3 AM. Both of them could be drunk. A man approached them with a baseball bat and started attacking them. He hit one lady first. The other woman wanted to save her friend so she tried to stop the attacker. In that process both of them were injured. Did you read that in the news?’
‘What could the women have done to avert the attack?’
All of us were silent.
‘Well, what is unusual here? A man with a baseball bat approaching towards them at 3 AM in the morning. Does it seem natural?’
‘They could be more aware of their surroundings. They could have got into their car faster. What did the second lady do when he was attacking the first lady?’
‘She tried to help her friend by going on to the attacker’
‘Did that help them to get out of the situation?’
‘The other lady could have escaped when the man was concentrating on her friend and called the police. That would have helped. Now, both of them are in a dangerous situation without help’
We also used to discuss about what we can do if we were about to be raped.
‘What if you are in a situation where a guy wants to rape you and you are all alone?’
‘We can hit him with our elbow and use the technique.’
One of the girls asked, ‘What if he has a gun?’
‘Stay calm and oblige him until he keeps his gun aside. He cannot rape with a gun in his hand so he will keep it aside. That is your chance to escape’
I asked, ‘What if he has a partner to help?’
The instructor was a bit surprised. He replied, ‘No man will go to another guy and say, “Hey dude, I want to rape that woman. Can you help me?”, of course it hurts his ego. Even if there is a situation like that, you can use the technique on one person at a time.’
In our country, men with anti-social/misogynistic attitudes are shameless enough to take the help of their friends to rape other women and share the sadistic pleasure and the guilt. Averting one persons’ rape attempt is much easier than facing a gang of rapists. The mob psychology is also very complex. Each person can display his demonic side since the repercussions will be shared and he will not be the sole person who is accountable for the crime.
Attackers always choose a weak victim. One woman is an easy target but a group of women are an intimidating and powerful force. Red Brigade is a woman support group from Lucknow, formed by the victims of sexual abuse. The group fights with anybody who misbehaves with a girl/woman in public and prevent sexual violence. They are also trained in martial arts and they conduct self defense workshops and street plays which highlight women specific issues. They are dressed in red and black .The red signifies danger and struggle whereas the black denotes protest. Red Brigade was awarded the 2013 Godfrey Philips National Bravery Award and was nominated for the 2013 HT Women Award. If we have such brigades in every city & every neighborhood, may be that will bring down the gang rapes.
Images from google images
More information about Red Brigade can be found at http://red-brigades.blogspot.in/2013/02/one-billion-rising-in-lucknow-with.html