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Gracie News

Empowered Against Domestic Violence

October 31, 2012

By Eve Torres

In observance of domestic violence awareness month, Eve Torres wrote an insightful article on how the principles and techniques featured in the Women Empowered program apply in domestic violence situations. Check it out and let us know what you think.

Every woman fears the prospect of an unknown assailant lurking in the darkness of an isolated parking lot, or a predator in waiting for a victim on an early morning run. For these nightmarish scenarios, everyone agrees that women should learn to defend themselves. While attack by a stranger is the best known and most feared crime, it is far from being the most common type of violence on women. In three out of every four cases, the perpetrator will be someone known to the victim - an acquaintance, a friend, even a family member. It happens all too often with 1 of 4 women reporting domestic violence at some time in their lives.

Domestic violence is a crime of power and control. In many cases, it is the abuse of the only power men feel they have over a woman - physical power. But, unlike assault by a stranger, some women have difficulty responding to domestic violence. This may be due to societal influences that suggest that we remain compliant, not cause a scene, and quietly cope with the situation. We are led to believe that, because most of us are physically weaker than men, fighting back will only escalate the violence and increase our chances of injury. Indeed, our physical inequalities are powerful influences on our perceptions of our ability to defend ourselves. If women could prevent physical abuse, would they remain victims?

Some domestic violence support organizations reinforce the myth that self-defense is a poor option. There is some truth to this because they define self-defense as an aggressive response consisting of eye-gouges, groin strikes, pressure points, slaps, and strikes to vital points on the body. It's understandable that a woman might hesitate to employ these tactics against someone in their own home, even someone they love, and potentially with children present. More important, if these tactics are not effective, they can potentially intensify the struggle. This limited understanding of self-defense only contributes to the myth that women who physically "fight back" are more likely to endure a physical injury. This is why it is important that we begin to redefine self-defense and understand that we are not limited to aggressive strikes or dangerous maneuvers. Women can neutralize violence without escalating violence.

The Gracie Women Empowered program seeks to correct the myth that women should not fight back and unleash an untapped physical power that will translate into all areas of our lives.

First, we teach that self-defense begins long before the fight gets physical. With awareness principles and verbal, emotional, and physical boundary setting, we establish a self-defense mindset that applies at all times. We should be as mindful of our safety in our personal life as we would be at a potentially dangerous gas station. The principles of assertiveness and boundary setting should remain the same regardless of the specifics of the threat.

When physically attacked, the Women Empowered program offers non-violent options to neutralize attacks, and focuses on strategy and technique that will allow a smaller person to defeat a larger opponent while avoiding exhaustion during the encounter. While aggressive strikes and tactics do have a place in women's self-defense, the Women Empowered curriculum is the only program that specifies the right techniques and behaviors for each phase of the fight. The Women Empowered program teaches women to:

- Defend against strikes

- Escape physical control (wrist grabs, choke holds, being pinned to the ground) with non-violent techniques

- Cope with fear while avoiding panic and exhaustion during an attack

- Know how and when to fight back.

If the domestic violence becomes life-threatening, the program teaches women how to neutralize weapons and addresses options if there is no escape.

Graduates of the program have affirmed that learning the techniques and the mindset is an integral step in the healing process for victims of violence and coping with the fear that instilled by domestic violence. Above all, the Women Empowered program teaches a woman that self-defense is a mindset grounded in the belief that she is worth defending. Accordingly, the most important part of this program is the confidence that it instills in the participants, and how this new found sense of empowerment frees them from self-imposed limitations.