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Violence Prevention Education is a Both/And Conversation

One of the misconceptions around violence prevention and self-defense education is the idea that it's an Either/Or scenario ie: "instead of doing/teaching X, we should be doing/teaching Y". The impetus is that we have to choose or prioritize one strategy, methodology, resource or approach over the other. It is a false dichotomy that does more harm than good.

Violence prevention and safety are NOT Either/Or conversations.

They're Both/And conversations!

We can implement two or more strategies at once! And in fact, a multi-disciplinary approach that addresses the problem from multiple angles to create a range of solutions (ie: the public health model) is considered best practices.

I can't tell you how many times I've heard someone say, "instead of teaching women how to protect themselves, we should be teaching men not to rape." But it's not Either/Or. We don't have to choose to do one thing over the other. We need BOTH strategies AND more! We hurt women when we deny them the opportunity or access to learn life-saving self-protection skills that the research shows is effective at preventing or healing from sexual assault and/or violence. (4, 5) We also can't stop at teaching people how to respond to violence because it is imperative to do the work to change society's attitudes around sexual assault, women, and gender. All of those issues intersect as many of the underlying causes of violence. Both. And.

  • We can work on wider societal & cultural changes to eliminate violence at it's root sources AND empower people with the skills and tools to respond to violence in the present and manage their safety.

  • We can acknowledge that violence is not the fault of the survivor, AND understand that we are worth fighting for.

  • We can equip ourselves with strategies for effectively defending ourselves AND know that it is not our responsibility to prevent violence from happening to us.

  • We can take steps to reduce our risk AND continue to do the activities we love without having to restrict our lives.

It's important to examine and implement all of the existing solutions (and those being developed) to address and end violence, not just one of them. It is going to take all of us in a coordinated effort across organizations and disciplines to end all the ways that violence presents itself and affects our lives. Evidence-based and research supported strategies that have been shown to be effective and yield results, such as empowerment based self-defense, should be implemented and prioritized alongside other diverse prevention efforts.

Both. And.

We deserve to live in a world where we can move through our lives freely, safely and confidently. We deserve to exist without the threat of harm, harassment, abuse, violence, or discrimination. We deserve to be happy, healthy, and safe where we are free from racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, classism, ageism, ableism, and all they ways that people are targeted unfairly due to their identity.

Until there are zero perpetrators and until we live in an ideal world where violence no longer exists, it is essential to have the skills available to recognize, interrupt, respond to, and heal from violence. We can't avoid preparing for the possibility of violence by pretending that it doesn't exist. Self-defense, self-protection and resistance education builds self-efficacy and confidence (1, 2, 3). It increases and supports our agency; the capacity of individuals to have the power and resources to fulfill their potential (ref: wikipedia). It preserves our autonomy and puts us in control our options and decisions. It helps us advocate for ourselves in all areas of our lives and it helps us to feel better equipped to step in to support others in need.

Taking active steps to educate and empower ourselves can combat the cultural issues that enable violence. We can create change in our own lives and beyond!

Did this post help to dispel some common myths for you?

  • Absolutely

  • I'd still like to learn more



  1. Runyan CW, Casteel C, Moracco KE, Coyne-Beasley T. US women's choices of strategies to protect themselves from violence. Inj Prev. 2007 Aug;13(4):270-5. doi: 10.1136/ip.2006.014415. PMID: 17686939; PMCID: PMC2598334.

  2. David, W. S., Simpson, T. L., & Cotton, A. J. (2006). Taking charge: A pilot curriculum of self-defense and personal safety training for female veterans with PTSD because of military sexual trauma. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 21, 555–565. doi:10.1177/ 0886260505285723

  3. Ozer, E. M., & Bandura, A. (1990). Mechanisms governing empowerment effects: A self-efficacy analysis. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 58(3), 472–486.

  4. Orchowski LM, Oesterle DW, Haikalis M. What Stops Unwanted Sexual and Social Advances Made by Heavy Drinking College Men? J Interpers Violence. 2022 Apr 1:8862605211072157. doi: 10.1177/08862605211072157. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 35363590.

  5. Feminist Self-Defense and Resistance Training for College Students: A Critical Review and Recommendations for the Future by: Christine A. Gidycz1 and Christina M. Dardis1 - TRAUMA, VIOLENCE, & ABUSE 2014, Vol. 15(4) 322-333 a The Author(s) 2014


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