Imagine a situation where a college woman- let’s call her “Jane” – is being targeted for sexual violence. Jane, like most women targeted, knows her perpetrator, a fellow student – let’s call him “Dick”. Dick wants to have sex with Jane. Maybe they are on a date, maybe they are at a party. Maybe he’s been drinking – maybe she has.
Dick wants to have sex with Jane.
Jane does not want to have sex with Dick.
Maybe Dick is trying to get Jane alone. Maybe Dick and Jane are already alone. Dick knows what consent is, and he knows the definition of sexual assault. He doesn’t think of himself as a rapist. But Dick has decided he’s going to have sex with Jane tonight.
Now, imagine that someone intervenes. What would that mean? It could mean that someone tells Dick that Jane is not interested, and suggests something different to do. It could mean that someone tells Dick, clearly and directly, that Jane is not going to have sex with him, and that he does not have the right to coerce or force her into having sex.
It could be that Dick listens. It could be that he doesn’t.
Someone now takes intervention to the next level. What would that mean? It could mean that someone creates a scene, making a private assault an opportunity for public help. It could mean that someone yells at Dick to stop what he’s doing. It could mean that someone strikes Dick or kicks Dick or knees Dick to create some pain that will allow Jane to get away.
Now, imagine that someone is Jane.
Self-defense training is training to be your own bystander. It’s not a guarantee of an outcome, it’s not a requirement to respond in a particular way, and it doesn’t tell women what they have to do or should do. But it absolutely expands the choices women have in the face of assault. We have a responsibility to offer that training to women.