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  • Writer's pictureKia Haumaru

Self Defence courses help victims to live without fear

Self Defence courses help victims of violence to live without fear

A self protection programme for female victims of domestic violence has shown impressive results in helping to increase their awareness of danger and how to prevent future rape or assaults.

The Violence Prevention Programme was a new pilot study funded by the Vodafone Foundation as a collaboration between Women’s Refuge and the Women’s Self Defence Network Wahine Toa (WSDN). The programme reached 54 young women aged 17 to 24 years over four courses in February - April and researchers Dr Elaine Mossman and Associate Professor Jan Jordan found the results positive.

“Young women who completed the courses recorded a significant increase in their feelings of confidence to stop an assault and to use strategies to stay safe and make good choices around staying safe,” says Dr Jordan. “The increase in the young women’s self-esteem was clearly observable and with the combination of the recognition and safety strategies, these women are less likely to be re-victimised in future.”

“There is no doubt about it, the young women who attended these courses have directly or indirectly experienced a lot of abuse,” says Chief Executive of Women’s Refuge Heather Henare. “With the experienced WSDN teachers and our own advocates supporting these young women in specialised courses, we have shown that this training is good value and can work to prevent a high risk group of women narrowing their chances of becoming a future statistic.”

One of the aims of the joint programme was to strengthen the collaborative links between refuge and the self defence network, including learning from the different specialist skills and experience each brought to the initiative.

“The WSDN women who taught these courses were dealing with women who had particular fears arising from their personal experience of violence and abuse” said WSDN spokesperson Alison Broad. “It was important for our teachers to provide advice and strategies that addressed these individual experiences. They became impressed by the strength and resilience these women showed to work towards a violence-free future for themselves and their children.”

“This knowledge and this course has helped to dissipate the fear that if I was attacked I wouldn’t know what to do,” was a quote from one course participant.

“The next steps are to make politicians and funders aware that these courses are successful in stopping future violence and thus the negative impact of abuse, physical violence and rape,” says Ms Henare. “Given the publicity around predatory males in the Auckland region, an annual increase in sexual assaults and the ongoing prevalence of domestic violence in this country, there has never been a better time to get proactive with courses such as this.”

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