Chimera Self-Defense: Empowering Women to Live Fully and Without Fear
Fear of sexual assault and harassment prevents women from fully participating in society. The Rape Crisis Center is committed to providing self-defense training for women because it is a practical means for a woman to gain confidence and control of her life and prevent sexual assault. Women do not have true equality unless they are able to live, work, attend school, travel, and conduct their lives as they choose.
We offer Chimera Self-Defense because it teaches more than physical self-defense techniques. Chimera offers a comprehensive approach to self-defense for women by focusing as much on psychological and verbal assertiveness skills as on physical skills.
Research shows that avoidance and resistance can be the most effective tools in stopping harassment or assault. Using fast thinking and behaving in an unexpected way can be more effective than learning complicated physical moves. What sets Chimera apart from other self-defense programs is that any participant, regardless of ability, age, or physical strength, can learn a range of self-defense skills that give her confidence and can save her life.
The Importance of Teaching Psychological Skills along with Physical Skills
We start each class with the belief that all women are capable of defending themselves and are worth defending. Women are traditionally socialized to put other's needs first and may have learned to ignore the instinct to protect themselves. Before teaching physical skills, we start with a discussion about the myths of sexual assault, the socialization of men and women, racism, and research on the effectiveness of resistance. By examining these issues we help women believe they are worth defending and that they are capable of defending themselves.
If a woman is uncomfortable saying, "I don't want you to talk to me like that," or "I don't want to leave with you," she will probably have difficulty doing a snap kick to the knee or a palm strike to the nose, especially if that person is a family member, neighbor, classmate, date, or "friend."
Real Skills for "Real Life" Situations
Since Chimera is taught by women, the course has been designed to deal with real situations that women encounter. From the harasser on the street ("hey baby!"), to unwanted "accidental" touching on public transportation, to the sexually and/or physically abusive partner or family member, the course emphasizes avoidance and trusting your "gut."
Chimera teaches self-defense as a range of skills on a continuum. When avoidance doesn't work, verbal skills become necessary. As a situation escalates, physical skills may be employed. The appropriateness of when to use these skills is covered in class.
Aggressive vs. Assertive Communication
In many cultures, women are socialized to be passive but in other cultures or segments of our society, women are socialized to be aggressive. Chimera offers something for everyone because we teach assertiveness: respecting yourself by standing up for yourself in a way that also respects others.
For example, yelling, "Leave me alone, you creep!" when you are touched in a bar is an aggressive response. Aggressive responses are not always the safest response because they can escalate the situation. However, assertively saying "I want you to leave me alone," sends the message without diminishing the other person and engaging in a verbal confrontation.
Isn't Focusing on Women's Self-Defense "Blaming the Victim?"
Far from being "victim blaming," Chimera puts the blame where it belongs: on the attacker. If a woman or girl did not resist in the past, or if a woman decides in the future not to resist, the assault WAS NOT AND IS NOT HER FAULT.
While Chimera teaches that women have the right and ability to defend themselves, we do not teach that they have the obligation, nor shame women for not making that choice in past assaults. This choice is one each woman must make based on her assessment of the situation. Women must have valid alternatives to submission when confronted with assault. Women who do choose resistance deserve to have defenses that are as sound and effective as possible.
Self-Defense Designed For Women, By Women
While some other self-defense courses tell students what to do in particular situations, Chimera is unique in that it offers a range of tools and emphasizes using what works for you. Many self defense courses are designed for men, or designed by men from a male point of view and, therefore, are not as effective for most women. Chimera chooses the most practical and appropriate techniques based on a realistic understanding of women's strength and capability. All techniques are uncomplicated, easy to learn and use, and have the goal of enabling the defender to stop the attack and escape. The course is practical and short term; it does not require lengthy training to be effective. While the course encourages women to overcome an unhealthy fear of pain, pain is not inflicted as a method of teaching.
Taking a self-defense course is another way to prepare yourself to respond in an emergency (like taking driver's education and first aid courses). Teaching women self-defense does not teach them paranoia. There is nothing paranoid about it; there is real danger in the world--psychological and physical--and you can do something about it.