In South Africa, where I’m writing this, a woman leaving school or university has a greater statistical likelihood of being raped than of finding a job.
Take a moment, and let that sink in.
There is a wave of savagery against women currently being highlighted around the world, and I think that far from being something new, it’s simply becoming more visible - and people are speaking out in greater numbers. From the #MeToo movement in the US and Europe, to the outcry over gender-based atrocities in parts of South America, Africa, and globally, there seems to have been a seismic shift in attitude and action.
In South Africa, particularly, there is a horrifying “normality” about waking up to news of yet another gruesome murder or rape, or both. On an ongoing basis, well-meaning people are seeking solutions to this ghastly epidemic: better ways to protect women, enhanced policing, visible demonstrations, educational programs, cultural questions, social media campaigns, and pretty much everything you’d expect.
And this is good and right. We should be rising up in anger and sorrow, and our outrage should somehow bring about change.
But – and here’s a truth that many will find offensive – it won’t.
You see, wolves do not care one little bit about laws written by sheep, and a rapist or murderer knows that even if he is caught or convicted (a less than 10% likelihood given current conviction stats), he’ll be enjoying three meals a day, a warm bed, and medical care, all at the expense of an already overburdened and largely inept state institution.
In many cases, this is far better than what he had outside of jail… so what is there to be afraid of? In addition, he now has time and likeminded company, to plan more predatory violence for the day he is (usually prematurely) released.
Add to that a tradition of extremely toxic masculinity and misogyny, in a country where a recently serving president was put on trial for rape and yet was still elected to the highest office – as just one example among hundreds – and you have a deeply poisonous culture where male criminals seem to take great pleasure in seeing just how much pain they can inflict on women, in the most horrific ways imaginable.
“SOMEBODY SHOULD DO SOMETHING!”
And as this epidemic of rape and murder and savagery swells, the press is up in arms. The NGOs and social justice organizations are up in arms. Citizens are up in arms. There are marches, chants, candles, prayers, placards. The government must do something, they proclaim. The police must do something. Men must do something about the “other” men.
Somebody should do something, is the mantra.
Now, perhaps (although I wouldn’t hold my breath) the government will somehow “do something”. Perhaps (against all odds) the rapists out there will suddenly develop a conscience, and stop what they’re doing. Perhaps (against all odds) an entire culture of brutality and dismissive arrogance will change overnight.
Nobody would be more delighted than me to see that happen, but based on what I’ve learned about human nature in my half century on this planet… it won’t.
Governmental decrees and legal breast-beating are, as I said, laughable to criminals. They mean absolutely nothing to a predator.
And to change an entire country’s culture around an issue like mutual compassion would take an enormously intricate and expensive kindergarten-level initiative that will take at least two generations to bear fruit. Right now, vested parties in South Africa are so hostile toward each other that they can’t even agree on street names, while government funds are being diverted to pay for luxury cars and blue label whiskey for civil servants who are neither civil nor servants.
Ladies, hear me: None. Of. This. Will. Work.
WHO'S GOING TO SAVE YOU?
If you’re a woman in South Africa right now, I want to respectfully but bluntly say this to you:
The government is not going to save you.
The police are not going to save you. (Because, if you are attacked, they won’t get there until after it’s over… if you’re lucky.)
Your security company is not going to save you.
Neither are petitions, marches, media campaigns, or slogans. And – I say this with one thousand percent certainty – politicians are not going to save you.
In a situation – heaven forbid – where you’re under immediate physical threat, only one person can possibly save you.
And that person is you.
You are your own first responder.
If you’ve had decent basic training, if you know how to fight and hurt your enemy - and even kill him if needs be - and if you know how to defend yourself using even basic weapons, if you know how to become a would-be rapist’s worst nightmare – then that is what will save you.
Will it save every single woman, every single time? No, it won’t. But if a criminal is stopped in his tracks, if he’s neutralized and incapacitated by his supposed victim, then that crime stops right there. And if it happens with increasing frequency – if criminals begin to fear their prey – then a shift begins to take place.
To be clear, I’m not talking about a vigilante mentality here, or a brash descent into public, paranoiac violence. Not at all. I’m talking about you, personally, intelligently transforming yourself into a hard target. Hard to intimidate, and hard to kill.
FOR HEAVEN’S SAKE, JUST DO IT
Am I coming across as a bit harsh here? If I am, I sincerely apologize – but it’s because I’m frustrated. I’m frustrated because in almost two decades of teaching what I teach, more often than I care to remember, I’ve heard statements like these:
“But I don’t have time to learn self defense.” (But you have time to binge-watch that series.)
“But I can’t afford it.” (But you spend more than that on a hairdo or a lunch with friends.)
“But I don’t want to think about it, or I’ll attract that negative energy.” (Not to point out the obvious, but the vast majority of victims also didn’t think about it, which is part of the exact reason they became targets in the first place.)
“But I don’t want to learn self defense, because I don’t like violence.” (With all respect, Ma’am, violence doesn’t care what you like.)
“But It’s not fair that I should have to do this. Men should change.” (Yes, they should. And no, life is not fair. And not to harp on it, but the rapist or murderer doesn’t care about “fair”.)
“But I don’t want to learn self defense because I might get hurt in training.” (If you’re being trained responsibly, you’ll never have to worry about that.)
“But I need to get into shape first.” (No problem – we’ll let the predators know that they should hold off on targeting you until you’re happy with your weight or fitness level.)
I’ve probably heard a hundred more “reasons” like these. And the only thing more staggering than their naivety is the sincerity with which they’re uttered.
Imagine for a minute that you were living in a region that was prone to frequent earthquakes. If you did, then it would make sense to do earthquake drills often and diligently. Test the sirens, practice getting into the safest place in offices and homes, practice evacuation drills, practice reacting quickly and calmly and cleverly in a crisis.
As a reasonable person, you’d understand the necessity of these drills. It would be the obvious thing to do!
(Or, on the other hand, you could instead rather blame the tectonic plates, or shout at the geography of the surrounding countryside, or start a petition for your government to build earthquake-resistant buildings, or blame your ancestors for settling in an unstable area.)
When faced with a crisis, common sense dictates that we do the obvious, most practical thing first. If your boat has sprung a leak in the middle of the ocean, you patch the leak. You radio for assistance in case it gets worse. You check your supplies and resources.
What you don’t do, is write emails to the boat’s designer while the boat is sinking under you. You don’t rant on Facebook, or refuse to do anything yourself because you have a “right” to own a boat that doesn’t leak.
You fix the leak!
Can I repeat that? You fix the leak!
Take a stand. Do it right now. Do it with the understanding that taking the time to learn some practical self defense – even a few important basic techniques – can save your life.
Come to one of our visitor-friendly Krav Maga clubs, if you can. Attend a workshop, or book a private training session. And if you can’t do that, then get some online training, right here.
But whatever you do, don’t make the mistake of believing that your safety is somebody else’s responsibility. It’s yours, and yours alone.
Don’t talk yourself out of the very thing that will liberate you, empower you, and change your life in the most positive and amazing ways possible.
And above all, don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t, or that you don’t have the power.
Because you do.
To turn the tide, to change a culture, to force criminals into retreat, to redefine yourself and inspire those around you… requires only one thing.
And that thing is you.
It’s down to you, Ma’am.
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