June 23 2014
Sanchez' Good Sense: Miss USA & Self-Defense
Jillian Kay Melchior
Miss USA Nia Sanchez has more pro-women sense than many a PC feminist.
Asked about rape on campus, the beauty queen said, “I think more awareness is very important so women can learn how to protect themselves.”
She went on: “Myself, as a fourth-degree black belt, I learned from a young age that you need to be confident and be able to defend yourself. And I think that’s something that we should start to really implement for a lot of women.”
Cue the outrage.
Feminist Twitterati, bloggers and writers accused Sanchez of “perpetuating rape culture” and “victim-blaming.”
Cosmopolitan’s Elisa Benson tweeted, “I get that the college sexual-assault problem can’t be solved in 30 secs but still icky to pretend like self-defense is the answer” — and was retweeted or favorited more than 400 times.
Nearly 2,000 Facebook users shared a Slate article by Amanda Marcotte claiming “the implication . . . is that women who do suffer rape are not confident and are insufficiently interested in their own safety.”
Such criticisms boil down to the naïve and unhelpful argument that Rape Shouldn’t Happen. Problem is, it does — despite enormous media attention and preventive and punitive efforts from both the government and college officials.
To borrow a phrase from a recent “Game of Thrones” episode: “There is no ‘safe.’?” The Justice Department reported 346,830 rapes in 2012, the latest year on record. The real number is surely higher, as rape is notoriously underreported.
And that’s only one aspect of sexual violence: The #yesallwomen hashtag was used more than 2 million times in its first week; these moving posts offer a glimpse into how frequently women feel subjected to sexual harassment, intimidation, violence and misogyny.
Feminists are right in identifying a rape problem but wrong — dangerously so — to suggest that we encourage “rape culture” when we urge women to learn to protect themselves.
Sexual violence is a problem as old and as intractable as evil itself, and women need as many options as possible against it.
And Miss USA is on to something. Highly reputable studies suggest that self-defense is actually quite effective against sexual violence.
Criminologists Gary Klek of Florida State University and Jongyeon Tark of Hannam recently published one of the most comprehensive studies ever of women resisting sexual assault.
Their findings were remarkable. When women fought back, tried to escape or otherwise defended themselves, the attacker completed the rape only 19.1 percent of the time, compared with 88.1 percent when the victims didn’t resist.
And women who fought back usually did not “provoke” the rapist into becoming more violent and inflicting further injury.
Finally, most of the victims who successfully fought off a rapist didn’t use a weapon, which suggests that the self-defense skills Miss USA endorsed are very effective.
Klek and Tark (and Sanchez) aren’t the only ones saying this, either.
A 2010 study in the journal Crime & Delinquency found that when victims fought back, it cut the odds of a completed rape by up to 92 percent.
A report in Pediatrics this spring found that Nairobi teens with even limited self-defense training later experienced fewer sexual assaults than their peers — and were more likely to report any that had occurred.
Of course, there’s no guarantee that a woman with self-defense skills can stop a rapist. But the fact that some can’t doesn’t mean that self-defense skills are worthless.
Sanchez’s critics also contend that, if some women manage to defend themselves from sexual violence, the culture will somehow assign more guilt to rape victims who responded with ineffective resistance or none.
Huh? It’s widely accepted that the culpability for rape always lies with the rapist and never with the victim. How is it rational to assume that encouraging women to protect themselves will somehow confuse the public about who’s at fault?
The critics also say it’s not the victim’s responsibility to prevent rape. Of course not — but it’s to her great benefit to protect herself from being raped if she can.
There’s no single cure-all for sexual violence. But the “feminists” lambasting Sanchez aren’t helping at all: Their message is that we should rely on the government and other officials to protect us, and to somehow revolutionize morality of bad men.
Sorry, that’s a step backward for women’s empowerment. Miss USA has it right: We can and should do what we can to take our safety into our own capable hands.
Jillian Kay Melchior writes for National Review as a fellow for the Franklin Center and the Independent Women’s Forum.