This afternoon I answered a frightening call to my dojo... a distraught woman began by asking how she could learn some self-defense techniques to use against a violent family member! I immediately went on red-alert and asked her if she was in immediate danger - she started to sob and said that she was behind a locked door and thought he had left the house - I was about to call 911 on the other line when she continued that he had not hurt her physically yet - just threw things and had broken things around the house - she said that she did not feel like she was in immediate danger but could be. I asked if she had called the police and she said that she has been dealing with his problem for many years - and the police have never done anything to help - only caused more compliations and hardship in her life! When they finally even arrived after the worst was over! She said she was new to the area but knew that the story would be the same here - she wanted to learn some way of defending herself because no law enforcement agency would ever help her! When I told her that the police needed to be called she got hysterical on me! What a sad and desperate plea for help this was!!! I told her that NO ONE had a right to hurt her - and that she needed help - and we would find someone to help her - she only had to ask - she agreed to my connecting her with the domestic violence hotline - so I got them together and disconnected.
Why did she call my dojo? We are listed in the yellow pages as offering classes in women's self-defense - surely this woman had reached a breaking point - let down by the system - and wanted to get back some of the power she has surrendered to her assailant. Of course, we do not know the whole story - but this was clearly a call for help. What a sad state of society - this happens many many times an hour - and this one call reminded me of how many desperate situations are going on in this country, right now, as you read these lines - domestic violence is occurring - and sooner or later someone dies.
We know that most murders are committed by people KNOWN to the victim - and domestic violence accounts for a large percentage of these. I could quote you many statistics - but you've probably heard them before. There is an excellent article on the home page of the Uechi-Ryu.com site in the articles section that talks of this very subject
. And public awareness still needs to be raised.
As martial artists/instructors, we never know when someone is going to come to us for help. In fact we may already have someone in our classes that needs more help than the study of karate can give. For this reason I make the following suggestions, and welcome more from all of you...
Get in touch with the local domestic violence shelter/hotline and get cards/brochures that you can keep in the dojo. Keep one with you so that you have the phone number at all times. Don't push it on someone that you think might need it if you are not sure. Rather leave the material where they may find it - by chance.
Post the number of the domestic violence hotline near the phone at the dojo for referrals.
Recommend the Gift of Fear
to every student, and EVERY inquiry for self defense lessons!
Do not forget the all important mental aspects of training for your students! Technique won't count for s___ when the emotionally charged domestic situation escalates into violence! Abused need more than a forumula for the "karate chop o doom" they need something to get through the haze of self-defeat and hoplessness to tell them that they must take a step to break the cycle of abuse - a step that is not easy - but will find people supportive and helpful along the way...offer your hand if you can. Sometimes that's all that it takes.
[This message has been edited by Anthony (edited 11-23-98).]