In the wake of rise in crimes against women in recent times, deep concern has been expressed across the country for women’s safety. Nirbhaya has become a household name, and memories of her are triggered whenever a young woman from our homes is out on the road unescorted.
“Women of all ages are targets for assault,” said Joe Rodrigues, founder and former director, Breakthrough Communication Services Pvt. Ltd. Joe was on a short visit to Chennai with his wife. “Every one of us should be mentally and physically equipped to respond to attack,” he said in an interview.
The Mumbai-based Rodrigues has developed a module on self-defence for women, which consists of a three-and-a-half-hour programme with demonstrations followed by on-the-spot practices that can be easily mastered. It is a complimentary package offered by Rodrigues who has conducted many such programmes in colleges and schools, even in far off Shillong and Guwahati.
Thousands of participants from diverse backgrounds such as public sector undertakings, transnational corporations and voluntary organisations have benefited from Rodrigues’ 30 years of training experience. His lectures cover areas such as stress management, assertiveness, creativity, leadership, motivation, communication and negotiation skills.
Why did a man who specialised in copywriting, client servicing, public relations, who was head of publicity in Roussel Pharmaceuticals and later in CIPLA, turn to this unusual vocation? “My love of teaching,” he said, simply. When your communication skills are strong, your messages have an impact. And for people like Joe, his skills are channelled towards a receptive audience, providing them with the tools to cope with the aggressive, deviant behaviour of perverts in today’s society.
He gave graphic examples — body language, to begin with. “If you hold yourself erect, and your head high, and swing your arms as you walk on the road, the message you convey is ‘here is a woman who cannot be trifled with.’ People actually move out of your path.”
According to Rodrigues, there are two kinds of predators — Force Predators and Friendly Predators. Force Predators generally believe in a sudden attack where the victim is totally unprepared, and fear leads to surrender. The foremost myth to be challenged is the one that labels woman as the weaker sex. Like animal predators, the human predator can also recognise the weak that are easy prey. They believe in isolation, and drag the girl to a lonely spot. The Friendly Predator preys on the gullible nature of the woman and traps her into trusting him and then makes his move.
There is no standard formula for self-defence, and every scenario is different. A woman’s instinct and gut feeling is not to be ignored. “Fear could paralyse her, but with mental preparedness, fear could be transformed into rage which galvanises her into action.”
The four ‘stays’
Four “stays” are mantras for protection. Staying fit with physical exercise. Staying away which means avoiding places and situations that could be dangerous and not wearing provocative clothes. Staying alert in public places. A predator who finds you distracted, say with your mobile, finds you easy prey. Glen Levy, Rodrigues’ guru, recommends that you don’t stay while being attacked. Flight is a sure way of escape.
Distract the attacker. Rodrigues quotes the instance of a man, a regular walker on Marine Drive, Mumbai, who spied three men surrounding another walker and one of them had a knife open. He just walked up to the group, as if he noticed nothing amiss and touched the victim on the shoulder, and said, “The others are waiting at the usual place for breakfast, let’s go.” Saying so he pulled the man and they moved quickly out of range of the attackers who were surprised at this unexpected intrusion.
Rodrigues demonstrated a few “measures”. In self-defence you could pinch the attacker. He asked me to pinch the flesh on the inside of my upper arm, and twist it sharply. Ouch! It did hurt. Another vulnerable spot is the inside of the thighs, of course, not so easily accessible. He demonstrated certain grips on the wrists that are hard to break.
These are but few of the “tools” Rodrigues teaches, but the entire gamut is best learned in the Self Defence for Women workshops, part of his Women Empowerment Series. He is willing to conduct workshops for groups of women, especially at women’s colleges and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org