Trauma-aware self-defence instruction. 7

Why are we persevering with excerpts from the book? Well, this may come as a shock, but there may be a couple of people who haven’t bought it yet. I know, it’s disheartening. To be missing out on such wisdom, at such a paltry cost! However, not everyone in the whole wide world reads this blog. They might not in fact know that the book exists. You could help those poor, neglected people by caring, but sharing is even betterer.


5.      ‘If I become an innocent victim of violence my social net (police, doctors, employer, school, whatever) will unquestionably be there to support me and bring my attacker to justice.’

It is not uncommon for innocent people to think that their innocence is not only obvious to all onlookers, but a guarantee that their social infrastructure will either protect them against bad people or avenge them after an incident. It can come as a shock to them to discover that innocence without evidence just isn’t enough. They will have to learn:

  • that their statements have to be investigated;
  • that evidence has to be gathered;
  • that until an investigation has been completed they may be treated as actual suspects;
  • and that if this process does not yield certain results they may not only not receive any help whatsoever, but may have their whole experience being denied by the authorities. They may even be deemed the guilty parties and punished accordingly.

People may also be unaware that:

  • until a crime has been committed the police have very little power to act;
  • that if they can’t provide sufficient evidence of a crime having taken place, the courts will not prosecute;
  • and that the level of help available following different events can be heavily affected by fads and biases.

The need for a thorough investigation and evidence gathering can be particularly disturbing to victims of sexual crimes, especially in light of the type of physical evidence required. However, it can badly affect victims of all kinds of violence and crimes. This loss of faith in the social net can result in feelings of abandonment, betrayal, powerlessness, and injustice.

Part of this is an institutional issue that can’t be overcome without resorting to kangaroo courts and vigilante justice. Self-defense instructors can do a lot to inoculate their students against this problem, though, by teaching them how the system actually works. Explaining that those imperfections are systematic, rather than deliberately aimed at the students, can help insulate them from their impact.

There is another issue with our social net, though, which can cause problems just as serious. Our institutions are composed and run by people. Those people who come into contact with victims ought to treat them with consideration and respect; to provide them with the support they are entitled to. This is not always the case – and I am not referring to the cliché of the callous police officer who victim-blames a poor rape victim. There are people working at all levels of our emergency and support services who routinely mess up, hurting victims in the process, not necessarily out of malice but because of a lack of awareness, preparation, aptitude, or resources.[1]

There is every reason to accept investigations and trials as necessary processes. They ensure that our civilization is, well, civilized. There is no reason whatsoever to tolerate continued incompetence or callousness on the part of those in a position to support victims. Better screening, training, and monitoring of support staff could ensure that this kind of situation becomes a thing of the past. In the meantime, however, we have to accept that our institutions are far from perfect.

[1] For a real-life example of a series of failures on the part of medical experts to adequately support a rape survivor:



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