Wonder where I stand on where I stand on violence against women and men? Well how about we start with these statistics you read and hear about all the time. BUT then please look at my response after in regards to these statistics. You know what...instead of listing a whole bunch of statistics that you will not read or likely just dismiss, let me list just these 2. Are they accurate? How do I know they are accurate? Are they actually worse or not as bad (any are bad) as this? Please do not just read the statistics and stop there because what is underneath the statistics...HUMAN LIVES! Please read on...
For every statistic I post, you could find an article showing I may be wrong, off by a bit or off by a substantial amount or vice versa so we end up going back on forth on numbers when we should be focusing on the fact these are human lives. We should focus on solutions, not numbers. I think there are enough statistics now that we do not need to put so much focus on them, but rather the problem!
Let me share this story with you. It is a story I have shared personally with people who ask me how I got into teaching self defense and why I am so passionate about it.
Okay, I will try to be brief....I started SAFE International Self Defense back in 1994. I had previously been a part owner of a fast food restaurant. I had always worked in the food industry since I was 14 and expected my life to take that route. Interestingly, working in the food industry is what got me into the martial arts (another story for another day) with me training in Shotokan Karate which also got me interested in self defense. Lol I thought that karate was self defense at the time. After receiving my Black Belt I became more invested in expanding my knowledge on the self defense side of things so I began researching, learning more and more where I could. I began teaching self defense occasionally what I thought was self defense at the time (much of what I taught I make fun of now). I still respect Martial Arts greatly cause without it I would never have begun that journey. Anyways, I had a decision to make which was continue in the food industry with a pretty secure future or make the leap into starting my own full time self defense business with no guarantees, two babies at home and very few examples of success in self defense as a model. Well I made that leap into the world of self defense. I will not bore you with the early challenges I faced running a "business", and still face as that is not what this blog is about.
I want to take you about 8 years into my teaching and where my head was at. It occurred to me that I had an obsession with self defense and could not figure out why. Yes, I always worked hard, but this was different. I thought I had begun this business with "earning a living" or "making money" as my primary motivation which is important, but I knew there was something much deeper.
So time to time I would sit and ponder over why I worked at this almost 24/7, but never really got the answers I was looking for. THEN ONE NIGHT I woke up in a bit of a panic, balling my eyes like a baby which is not a normal night's sleep for me lolol, well not too often! I remembered with pretty vivid recollection something that happened when I was in grade 6 or 7. I would have been a 12 or 13 year old boy at the time who was outgoing with close I friends, but normally pretty quiet and shy with others keeping to myself in fear of drawing attention or embarassing myself. We were in class one day and it was lunch time. I remember that for some reason the teacher had left the room while we were all eating. In entered the room an older student because he had been held back a year or two by the name of Mike or Michael (I do not recall his last name). I do remember his face very well and that he was much larger in stature than most kids his own age. He locked the door and proceeded to approach a girl in our class with bad intention which was evident from his body language now that I understand body language. The girl's name was Diane and I remember her appearance quite well. The way he walked towards her was very aggressive when he began to grab and attack her in the classroom. I do not remember any words that were exchanged, but with the panic, all of us other kids hid behind or under desks as he proceeded to sexually assault her by ripping her pants down which I remember quite clearly.
Kids were yelling in fear as was Diane which I can still recall. Much of the rest is a blur and I have still not remembered much more that happened after he got her pants off, but I do recall at one point someone unlocking the door and teachers rushing in and stopping him.
So this night of recall all these memories flooded back to me bringing a few questions to the forefront, like why did I block out this memory as I thought it did not happen to me, why did I not do anything, how must Diane have felt, how has it affected her life, is she still thinking about it everyday? Now, as I dissected all these questions, my early question about why I was obsessed with self defense was starting to make sense and answer a lot of questions.
SO how does this relate to my very first question about where I stand on violence against both women and men?
Quite simply, screw the statistics, violence against anyone whether they are female or male is disgusting and destroys lives. I was a 12 year old boy who blocked out something that did not happen physically to me so I CAN ONLY IMAGINE WHAT DIANE WENT THROUGH. I did not know at the time that it would have such a huge impact on my life. To this day, about 40 years later a few times a week I still imagine how she must have felt at the time and feel fear, anger and empathy. I mean if I was blocking that out for years and years and I maybe suffered 1% of what she went through it made me realize that violence affects everyone. It does not just affect the person who was victimized physically, but also families, friends, strangers, even just reading a story of violence against someone you do not know affects you.
Without giving any "statistic" of certainty I know that women suffer much more sexual violence, rape, domestic violence than men, but I also know men suffer as well and it is no less serious. Our focus with SAFE International has been on teaching women, but we will, and do teach, any woman, man, child, senior who needs what we can offer because VIOLENCE does not discriminate. As a 12 year old boy who did nothing to help Diane, I know I can't change that but I sure as HELL can now, so rather than getting too involved in discussions on if it is more serious an issue for women or men, how about we help anyone who needs our help. Effective results will only come from educating both genders on why it happens, how it happens, how to prevent it, and not by dividing the genders on who it is more serious for. It is serious for all of us.
Rather than getting bogged down on statistics I now choose to focus on teaching and doing any small part we can in affecting lives for the positive. If that reduces any statistic you have, then great!
I have tried to a couple times to find where Diane is as I feel a need to tell her that what she went through has helped thousands and thousands of others, but I have had no luck doing that to date. Maybe she has dealt with her past well or maybe not, I do not know, but I do know that what she went through has affected change. If that might give her any small comfort I would love for her to know that.
You see I grew up in a very loving, caring, laughter filled family with virtually no violence which is also unusual for most who get into the business of self defense, but over the past 25 years I begun to wonder if that is the norm or is that unusual? I also now realize that it only takes one moment in time like the story of Diane I have shared with you to impact your whole life. I hear horrific stories of violence all the time and see the strength of so many who survive it and even come out stronger. But I also see lives wrecked and over because some people have no support system or knowledge where to go to get help. The awareness is already there with statistics whether people deny them or not so let's put the focus on the work to be done.
I wish also that the self defense community could also work as one tackling these serious issues rather than arguing over who is the best, who has the most bad ass system, the most devastating techniques. Am I guilty of some of this? Of course, but I will do my best to keep my focus where it should be in the future. I will keep my direction on the purpose and remembering Diane, what she went through and how it affected me as a young boy.
As Always! Keep SAFE!