Yesterday I read Leaahh's post on the DC rape of a BJJ teammate. (Then I read Georgette's and Megan's and Jenn's.)
I’m not naïve. I know that some men who train martial arts have power issues. This is not the first time, sadly, that I have heard of martial artists raping defenseless teammates. But it is the first time since I myself have been a teammate, since I’ve practiced jiu jitsu, since I’ve started writing about my experiences.
There’s nothing I can say that will take back the events that happened, to be sure. There’s nothing I can say to rebuild the devastation that those men certainly exploded like a bomb in that parking garage—terrorists as they were, if the result of terrorism is fear. Terrorists, not only to women, but also to men, for what man is not afraid that something like this could happen to their mother, sister, daughter? How many men want their daughters to learn self-defense (so they will not become victims) but are now changing their minds, unsure how to advise their daughters to be safe?
Many women derive strength from learning martial arts. It helps them conquer fear from usually being weaker, smaller, more likely to be the victim. Do some of the men I now train with resent that my practice gives me strength? We hope our teammates will help us reach our goal and support us. A woman’s place in most jiu jitsu schools is hard-won. We have to train twice as hard and be more dedicated to earn the same respect for our practice. Apparently that is not enough. I think of all the guys in my school who are my teammates. Would one of them do this to me if they had the opportunity?
Our BJJ relationship is about trust—about “tapping,” about saying “Stop” and having the other person listen, about not hurting each other but helping each other grow and learn. Today I have been reminded that there is not a safe place, that I shouldn’t stay after class to train, that I can’t count on my teammates to help me out if I’m in trouble. My heart goes out to the victim, and my hope, as well, that she has other teammates that will come to her side and help her heal after this trauma. And I am very sad.