Washington Post: Actually, Miss USA is right

My colleague Lauren Taylor of Defend Yourself! and I wrote an editorial that appeared in the online edition of the Washington Post on Monday after critics blasted newly crowned Miss USA for promoting self defense as a method of preventing sexual assault.

We said, 

"Of course we believe that only one person is responsible for any act of violation: the perpetrator. But we also believe in the power and agency of women. In a dangerous world — in the face of what the American Medical Association has called an “epidemic” of sexual violence — there are things all people can do to increase safety for ourselves and for one another.

This is why we believe the White House was wrong to omit self-defense from its prevention recommendations to college campuses. And why we think Miss USA was right to endorse it."

Read the rest of the editorial here


Unleashing the Superhero Within to Co-Create a Culture of Safety

"...what if the forces that undergird our violent society are woven into the fabric of our culture? What if we are not merely bystanders but co-creators of this culture? Would that not mean that any one of us could pluck a thread--change a belief or a behavior--and begin to unravel it?

To become change agents of this magnitude--to unleash our inner superheroes--we need the courage and conviction to commit to new awareness, habits and skills. We need superpowers. And we need not only to think about these new superpowers but to practice and rehearse them in caring community."

I was enormously proud to be part of the 2014 Grad Talks event at Boston College. Inspired by Ted Talks, Grad Talks--"passions worth sharing"--is a graduate student colloquium intended to build community across academic disciplines. I was one of ten grad students--four from the Graduate School of Social Work--to speak on topics of deep personal interest. 

The Self Defense Paradox

I considered writing an editorial about the failure of the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault to include empowerment self defense in their recommendations. Turns out I already wrote most of it in an editorial that appeared in my local paper over a year ago. 

Helping Women Overcome the "Self Defense Paradox" -- Daily Hampshire Gazette, Wednesday December 26, 2012

I want to commend the Gazette on last week’s series addressing gender-based and sexual violence on our local campuses. Kristin Palpini’s piece on consent education (Wednesday) skillfully manages the many complex realities of this issue. Her intelligent writing about the definition of “rape” and “consent,” and inclusion of concrete steps bystanders— male and female — can take to interrupt sexual assault is not only good journalism, it is an educational service to our community.

However, I must take issue with the implication that prevention-education efforts which focus on active steps women can take to increase their own safety are misinformed and ineffective.

For the past 25 years, I have been honored to participate in a grassroots feminist movement of prevention education. Sometimes called “social-justice empowerment-based self-defense,” this movement is firmly grounded in the reality that most gender-based violence is perpetrated by men known to their victims. Instruction is provided in the context of what I call the “self-defense paradox.”