Friday, 30 November 2007

Thursday, 6 September 2007

We are not powerless

“ Yesterday, several women from London Feminist network spent the day practicing self-defence with four instructors from The London Centre for Personal Safety. We had the invaluable opportunity to take part in their one-day ‘IMPACT” self-defence and it was absolutely awesome. I’m so grateful to the LCPS for allowing us this opportunity.

IMPACT is a unique form of self-defence. Students practice verbal and full-force physical skills in realistic “adrenalised” scenarios, on specially trained male instructors wearing protective suites. Women instructors lead all training, demonstrating and teaching the techniques.

The thing that will always stay with me is watching other women fight with so much strength and determination. I didn’t realise, until yesterday, that I experienced being a woman as always being part of the loosing team. But what I saw and experienced yesterday has left me feeling very differently. It was so inspiring to see women shouting ‘no’ and confidently ordering the men to back off and then delivering disbling blows to eyes, head, stomach and groin; kicking, elbowing and kneeing full force while being cheered on by all the other women in the room.

Men may, on average, be physically stronger than women, but that is not the whole story. We are disempowered by a barrage of propaganda telling us and making us believe we are powerless against men, that we are not worth defending and that fighting back is the wrong choice as it will make men more violent. In one situation where I was attacked by a boyfriend he’d put his hands around my throat and was throttling me. I remember just lying there and doing nothing. Even thought I could not breath and my head felt as I the pressure was going to make it explode I was not going to do anything because I might hurt him. He had the advantage of feeling so strong and powerful that he could do anything. I did not defend myself because I didn’t think I could and because his life felt more important than mine and because I was afraid that he’d get more angry and violent. If that were today, I would strike at his eyes with my fingers as hard as I can, knee him in the head as hard as I can and run out of the flat. I would fight with all my strength and determination; aiming at the most vulnerable place and hitting with the intent of hurting!

To all the women there yesterday: thank you so much! You were awesome!”

On the train London-Sheffield

The last thing I did in London, last night, before coming home on the Midland train, was to read your new blog ReSisters. On the train, I was relieved to get a seat in the quiet coach. I sat in a four-seat set, and started to eat a nice sandwich. A couple of young guys asked me: “Is this first class?” I answered: “No, but it is a quiet coach”. They moved on to the next coach and I thought about the British politeness and acceptance of rules… After I finished my sandwich, two well-dressed men came in the carriage, and asked me if the remaining seats were reserved. I took my paper bag from the table and I said: “It is free”. One of the men sat in front of me and asked: “What is a quiet coach? It means we cannot talk?”. I replied: “It means you cannot make unnecessary noise” (quoting the words in the train notice). He said: “This is a problem, because I have an unnecessary flatulence”. I was very annoyed, but remained silent, looking out through the window, avoiding looking at him, and thinking about what to do next. He said: “Anyway, where are you going to?”, I said: “I am not interested in telling you where I am going”. He said: “Look, I am just bored, tired”. I stood up and walked away to look for another coach. On my way, the train manager (a woman) asked me: “Are you ok?”, (she had witnessed the incident) and I said: “No” and I told her what had happened. She invited me to sit on First Class, and I felt protected and safe after the annoying incident. I had never thought how important train managers are, for our safety, and I really feel grateful to that woman. I also thought, what if the manager was a man, would he have reacted in the same manner, or would he have thought the situation was funny? I hope not.

My conclusion with this incident is that violence against women can be subtle. I have been influenced by LCPS’s talks and thanks to that I understood that this situation was aggressive. A time ago, I would probably play the game, and try to use humour, and that indecent man, would have taken advantage of it to speak disrespectfully to me, because he “is tired” and would like “to have fun”. That kind of ‘humour’ and ‘fun’ amounts to disrespect and we need to resist abusive language, and understand the value of our individual space in a public space.

Thursday, 30 August 2007

Domestic Violence

Photo from

"I am a sixty one year old Indian lady and have been married thirty-nine years. Like most Asian societies (Indian society), it is very male dominated. In the past through alcohol abuse, my husband would get very violent. He had beaten me up severely enough to cut my face open (which warranted stitches), kicked me and punched me many a time with a closed fist. Life for me would be to just get out his way and often spend evening after evening locked in my room. Through the Woman's Centre, I heard of the Personal Safety course, my intention being, to be safe on the street against racial abuse, I decided to have a go. Since taking the course, I have generally felt more capable in myself. One evening, my husband having had a few drinks, thought he would do the norm. I used my personal safety skills and defended myself by thrusting my fingers in his eyes and kicked him away. Next morning he awoke (sober), with one black eye and the other completely blood shot. Since then, he is well aware of my capabilities and dare not strike me, in fear of getting hurt himself. I don't lock myself in my room anymore, and now have confidence and freedom back. "

He didn't get what he wanted.

"I am a resident of the Kings cross area and often travel alone at night. I sometimes travel by public transport, but usually I travell by bike. Recently I was dragged from my bicycle in Hoxton. It was late evening, I had dismounted my bike and was pushing it near the pavement, when I was approached by a man. He asked me for a light. I thought he looked a bit rough, but I diddn't had an imediate sense of danger coming from him. I said I didn't had a light and was moving on, when he suddenly grabed me and pushed me down on the pavement. The street was empty, it was only me and him and I started to struggle and shout, and when he did not let go I made a grab for his crotch. He let go of me and backed of, with a look of susprise on his face. As he went, he said " "Well I got what I wanted, didn't I?", which I think he said to save face. At that point several people came running, alerted by my shouts. They were asking "What happened?" and, "Are you ok?" .

This happened before I attended LCPS self defence course. Although I acquited myself fairly honourably and got away fairly unscatered, I would have been infinitelly more efficient about it. I would also have been better prepared and would have reported the attack to the police more efficiently. I might even not have been attacked at all, since your course provide excellent advice and practical steps to take as safeguard against attack."

On the Street

Photo from

"At around 9:30 at night I was coming home from the Gym on foot, a walk that takes no longer than 15 minutes. That evening I had managed to pull a muscle in my leg, so I was not walking as swiftly or confidently as usual, which I think it made me appear a perfect target. As I approached the block I live in, I heard steps behind me. I turned quickly to see, shaken by the noise. It was late and few people were around. He came up close behind me but passed and continued on the pavement; we looked at each other briefly as he passed. We were alongside my block. The flats are approached from the central courtyard, accessible from either side through large arches. As I turned I saw him further up the street walking away from me. I was about 10 metres inside the courtyard when he reappeared beside me, there was no one else around. I sped up but he caught up with me, pushing into me from the side. "What?" I said to him. "I just want to talk" he replied, but by then he had propelled into the wall, fencing me in with his torso and arms, with his tongue on my face and a hand on my chest. He was taller that I so all I could think to do was to swear loudly and punch him in the direction of his groin, though I think I was pummelling his stomach. The poorly aimed punches had an effect though, for he was gone in seconds. With hindsight I can see how I should have appeared less scared, and I wish I had made more effective use of the moves I was learning at the LCPS course. On the other hand, I know the course has made me see the importance of making noise and showing I was not going to be an easy target. I reported the attack to the police, through I wondered what good it could do, and feeling silly as I was obviously unhurt. I was glad to find soon after, that someone fitting his description had attacked at least four women in the vicinity in the two past weeks. Thankfully he has been arrested and is in custody and full statements are being taken from all involved. Some of the women attacked have been severely traumatised, and I can see the experience has had more effect on me than I first thought. Even in the most crowded areas I can jump at the sound of footsteps behind me, but this is only a small thing. "

Wednesday, 29 August 2007

A Telling Incident -

"Had a tiny, but telling incident.

A pavement, half of which was cut off with work paraphernalia where the road was being dug up so the pavement was too narrow for more than one person a time. A man was approaching from one end and I was approaching from my end in the opposite direction. It was broad daylight and a busy area. It was a situation where you know that at one stage one or other of you will have to wait and let the other pass, distances were such that I knew I would get there first so logically I should go first and he wait.
I was in two minds, as previously I would probably just let him go first in order to avoid any possible embarrassing squeeze or confrontation or too close proximity in a narrow space.

On this day I thought logically I should go first - and so I did. He had not expected it and was bearing down rapidly (swaggeringly?) on where the narrow bit started and had to stop abruptly to let me pass. As I emerged, I was just about to give him a thank you nod when he swung into the narrow bit, just avoiding pushing me, and under his breath loud enough for me to hear F.... Bitch...

I ignored it and smiled to myself..."