Assault can happen at any time. For the women in this program, it is essential that they are able to defend themselves because they are at risk for domestic violence. Even though they may be evaluated as low- to medium-risk, risk can change very quickly and at any moment. Instead of living in fear, self-defence empowers women by making them feel more confident and giving them the ability to fight back. Self-defence classes prevent victimisation, provide social support, and can help with trauma recovery.
Self-defence is particularly important for these women because their low- to medium-risk status means that most other services available to those affected by domestic violence are not available to them. This prevents women from reaching out for help because they know their situations are less likely to be taken seriously. Should their risk for domestic violence abruptly increase, their self-defence training will be useful and can prevent additional trauma or injury. Self-defence also provides them with confidence to reach out for additional support, as well as social support to make them feel safer.
These classes are effective for preventing domestic violence and assault. A trial self-defence and empowerment class given in Kenya caused a drop of 38% in rapes among adolescents in high-crime areas within the 10 months after the classes began. Nearly 2,000 girls were enrolled in the class, and about half of them reported using skills from the classes to prevent 817 sexual assaults (Cohen). Although Kenya has a rape epidemic that is much worse than the rate of domestic violence in the UK, these classes are clearly beneficial for preventing assault. This class was estimated to make participants less than half as likely to experience assault after completion. The class also was shown to cost about £1.30 per rape prevented, compared to the minimum of £64.50 for post-rape Nairobi hospital visits.
Another thing to keep in mind is that these women are often mothers. The children in these families are also at risk, and are much less able to defend themselves or act when they witness violence. About 1 in 5 children have been exposed to domestic abuse (National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children). Women who go through self-defence training are not only more capable of protecting themselves, but also their children. This will help at-risk mothers and children feel safer. As a result, children may feel less helpless and more able to rely on their mothers for safety and emotional support.
Even if the women in this program do not experience domestic violence in the future, self-defence classes provide them with the ability to rely on themselves for safety. This sense of trust in themselves and their own abilities will further develop their confidence and recover from past trauma. This sense of confidence is at the core of what is necessary to get them out of unsafe living situations and back into the workforce. If more at-risk women feel safe and are able to protect themselves, it sets them up for future success and allows them to begin the process of rebuilding their lives.