Feminist self-defense classes teach skills for preventing and responding to violence. However, self-defense training has many other positive effects on women's lives--effects that themselves may reduce women's risk of assault. In this article the author offers evidence of these effects drawn from a longitudinal study of self-defense training. In addition to increased confidence in potentially dangerous situations, self-defense students reported more comfortable interactions with strangers, acquaintances, and intimates; more positive feelings about their bodies; increased self-confidence; and transformed beliefs about women, men, and gender. The author suggests that self-defense classes are life transforming because they address three issues central to women's lives: fear of sexual assault, self, and gender.
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Violence Against Women
The author examines how feminist self-defense classes positively impact women's lives not only by providing them with skills for reducing their risk of sexual assault, but also by enhancing their general sense of self confidence as well as their interactions with others. While there is a shortage of empirical evidence that self-defense classes actually do reduce a participant's risk of being sexually assaulted, circumstantial evidence indicates that such classes ought to be effective in reducing women's fear and in improving their responses to violence. The current study was based on the results of surveys given to 36 women (mean age of 21 years) who had enrolled in two feminist self-defense classes taught over a 10-week period at a state university. The participants completed a survey before and after the self-defense class. As was hypothesized, the students felt more confident in their ability to prevent and avoid dangerous situations. Furthermore, they described additional improvements in their everyday lives; namely, the participants reported an improvement in their ability to interact with strangers, acquaintances, friends, employers, teachers, and intimates, as well as improvements in their feelings about their own bodies, their perceived self confidence, and their beliefs about men, women, and gender issues. The author suggests that the feminist self-defense classes transform women's lives regarding the fear of sexual assault, as well as transform their perception of their value in the world and their concept of gender. Hollander proposes that the lessons learned by participants concerning their everyday lives will indirectly reduce their likelihood of victimization by increasing their ability to prevent or respond to violence while positively impacting their overall sense of self and their place in the world as women.
Avoidance/Resistance, Male-Female Relations, Prevention