Three months into my karate training I noticed a profound change in my life: I was no longer being whistled at by construction workers, followed by strange men and harassed while waiting for the bus. The fear of being assaulted had left me. I looked different, walked differently and thought different thoughts.
Before, if I thought a man was following me I’d panic. What should I do? Where can I seek safety? Now I thought, “Make my day.”
Okay, that movie hadn’t come out yet. My thoughts were along the lines of, “Get any closer and I’ll ram my fist down your throat.” Men sensed this and they stayed clear of me.
One day two women came into the dojo and introduced themselves as students of Py Bateman from the West Coast. They were touring the USA, visiting karate schools in each city. My sensei, for some reason, was rude to them. I apologized.
“You’re not responsible for his behavior,” they told me. I found that statement interesting.
They gave me a large packet of women’s self-defense materials – statistics, myths vs. realities, safety tips and strategies. It was my introduction into the world of feminist self-defense theory. I don’t remember their names, but I’ve never forgotten the gift I received from them that day.
When I read the packet my theory about why I was no longer being harassed by men was confirmed. Women who are fearful, particularly if they are survivors of sexual assault or an abusive home, radiate fear via their body language. Rapists and abusers are experts at reading body language and choose these women for their victims. The tougher you look, the less you are picked on. It was many years before I would be the target of an attempted assault again.