There is a new and terrible craze in self-defence and martial arts.
And it has come about with the rise in CCTV footage of attacks shared online.
It is ‘victim shaming’, and this post addresses what is wrong with this approach and why it must stop.
The Online Attack Video Scene
Yes, there are colossal facebook pages and YouTube channels with one purpose.
To show people being attacked.
Often the guise behind this is learning ‘which is quite a positive thing’.
However what it turns into is a fest of critique.
‘They had no awareness.’
‘They were switched off.’
‘They should have seen it coming’.
This is attitude is increasing, and it is a worrying trend that needs addressing.
It Is Never The Victims Fault
‘She got raped because of what she was wearing, she was asking for it.’
Believe it or not, this was once the attitude people had towards rape victims.
Thankfully, this has massively reduced.
But within the self-defence industry, we have now something similar, ‘the lack of training shaming’.
Let me say this loud and clear.
IT IS NEVER THE VICTIMS FAULT IF THEY ARE ATTACKED.
That is worth repeating…
IT IS NEVER THE VICTIMS FAULT IF THEY ARE ATTACKED.
To say otherwise is to actually blame the victim.
So let’s actually look at how an attack happens.
There are 3 component to every physical attack.
There needs to be a Victim.
There needs to be an offender.
And they need to be at a location where the offence can be committed.
If you remove any of these elements, the attack cannot happen.
The place where awareness sets in is actually in avoiding a place a location where an attacker might be.
So you ‘don’t walk down the alleyway’, or you don’t go running late at night.
That is common sense.
But…we all know that we cannot avoid going to certain places at certain times.
Life dictates that we have to do certain things.
Sometimes we HAVE to catch the train at the weird and spooky train station that no one in their right mind would catch.
Why…because unless we do, we can’t go to work to pay for rent and food.
Sometimes we have to walk down the road that leads us into the roughest estate in the area…because that is where we live.
We have no control over the offender, where they are going to be or what their intentions actually are.
And usually, circumstances dictate where we have to be at a specific time!
So, we cannot ‘shame victims because it is never their fault, it is always the fault of the attacker.
They control their actions!
But Awareness Could Have Prevented The Attack
Awareness is something that can be useful but tends to be massively overrated with regards to its ability to prevent an attack.
Why? Because being aware rarely stops the attack.
Don’t believe me, let’s check out a case study.
Lisa is a nurse; she works nights.
This means she has to go to work in the evening and come home in the dark.
Lisa doesn’t drive, and she can’t afford taxis every night as she is a single mum to 2 kids aged 5 and 7.
The kids stay with her mum when she works.
One night as she is walking to work, she is on her route where it goes past a local graveyard.
She isn’t in the graveyard, but the path walks along the side of it.
As she is walking, she sees a man also walking in her direction.
It is dark, and he has a hood up, but then so do most people these days.
As they get closer to each other, he says ‘excuse me do you have the time’.
Lisa takes her phone out, and as she is about to check it she is punched seriously hard in the face, and her phone is grabbed, and the offender runs away.
Just how ‘might have awareness helped Lisa?
She could have said no, and he would have grabbed the phone.
She could have kept the phone in her pocket, but let’s face it most people have smartphones these days so it would be a good guess that she had one, and besides people walk around with their phones out, that is normal life!
What about if she ‘crossed the road?’, well if he wanted to attack her, he would have just crossed and done it.
In those circumstances, she could not have done anything more than she did.
And the number one reason is that ‘not everyone is an attacker’!
Lisa has no way of knowing if he is a great bloke or not.
So….if she was to be ‘super aware’ every time she walked past someone and took evasive action what do you think would happen?
She would discover that 97% of people are not a threat, they are merely travelling from one place to another.
So, as a result of this, she would soon ‘cease’ to be aware because she will have noticed that she doesn’t need to be.
Awareness is a double-edged sword because if you are always trying to be ‘swtiched on, you will see that most threats are not there, which will cause you to ‘swtich off’.
Being in a true state of heightened awareness is draining!
Awareness Is Common Sense
I wouldn’t go swimming in the sea at night because of the risk of being bitten by a shark.
It might be a super low risk, but that’s my choice.
I wouldn’t cross a dual carriageway unless there was a crossing.
And I personally would go out to the roughest bars in my town.
Awareness is at its most simple level common sense.
At a higher level, it is an advanced warning.
It is spotting the guy staring at you.
It is realising a partner could be violent and controlling when they accuse you of having an affair because you spoke to a ‘man at work’ on messenger.
It is looking at a potential attacker and seeing an object in his pocket that could be a knife.
It is looking at the T-shirt of the attacker and seeing it is an MMA T-shirt, so you know he could have skills.
It is looking at the potential attacker to see what hand he is holding his drink or phone in to establish which hand he is most likely to attack you with.
On the odd occasion, awareness might allow to take some diverting action, such as leave the bar, go to security staff, call the police on your phone etc.
And yes this might stop the attacker.
And it might not.
It might give you some information that you can use to help your defence…..it might not, and I argue if you are that level of skill then you really have nothing to worry about.
The point is this….it is never the victim’s fault.
Life Is For Living And Not Paranoia
Things happen, people get attacked and life goes on.
The moving on after a violent crime is tough.
Telling them; ‘they could have avoided it’ is plain wrong.
As we have seen having a reasonable level of awareness is fine and touch more ‘switched on’ could help you.
But it might not.
And being paranoid will not help you either.
Sadly crime happens because the victim is in the wrong place at the same time as the offender.
As an industry, we need to cease ‘over-crediting awareness’ and start showing more empathy for victims.
We should never blame the lack of skill of the victim as a reason for the success of the attack.
I have known black belts and boxers being attacked.
I have known seasoned self-defence instructors to be hurt by an attacker.
It Is Still Never The Victim’s Fault.
Attacks are hard to prevent if the attacker is determined.
In closing, I want to share a motto I have.
In any self-defence situation, my goal has never been to win or lose.
My goal has been to make sure they ‘know’ they have been in a fight.
I cannot control the outcome; there are too many variables.
And so, if a person or group want to attack me, I will make sure they have something back.
Live a sensible life, make common sense decisions about your safety, avoid a dangerous situation if you can and fight hard if you can’t.