Sent: Sunday, October 2, 2011 ******
Subject: Re: ********** Self Defense Day
I am not sure if this class is the same one my daughter took last year but
if it was,it was VERY inappropriate for my daughter's troop. We felt the
class was designed for older girls as there was talk of mugging, raping and
harming (a bit too much detail). Also, some of the drills were too rough
for the girls leaving them crying afterwards. I am not sure if you are the
person to be contacting about this. If not, could you please forward this
to whomever should receive it?
Sent: Sunday, October 2, 2011 *********
Subject: Re: ************* Self Defense Day
Just wanting to clarify that I am speaking for my family, not the entire
I appreciate your response and I too feel it is important to teach girls
about safety and that it is never too early to start. However, I think
there are ways to do this with six and seven year old girls without such a
negative impact (or injuries).
Perhaps a full disclosure of what will be covered in class (and how it is
covered) would help prepare the girls and parents better for the class and
allow parents to make a more informed decision on whether or not to send
The purpose of my letter was to hopefully help make this class a more
positive and age appropriate experience for these young, impressionable
Thank you for your time,
Sent: Wednesday, October 5, 2011 9:25 AM
Subject: Follow-up on self-defense class
My name is ******** ******** and I am ****** ******'s husband. My daughter took part in your self-defense class last year and I'm understanding that you would like to hold this course again for the GirlScouts and that is why I'm being asked to write to you. I was in attendance for the class that you held last year and some concerns were raised not only by me, but some of the other moms that I spoke too at the conclusion of the class. Since the class was a while ago I can't recall all the explicit details, but I will try to convey my thoughts. As I recall, the class started about 20 minutes late and then once the class began you started the class by introducing yourself and your son and then proceeding to tell the girls that the reason why you are holding this course was because you were in fact a victim. Don't know how appropriate this is to share with 6-7 year old girls? Then once the course started you paired up the girls and then you proceeded to run through a variety of escape techniques. Some of the girls got hurt in this process because hair was being pulled too tightly and students were being kicked harder than expected. Two of the girls were actually in tears. My main concern was with your choice of words as you described scenarios to the girls and what could happen to them once the were abducted. I value your dedication to supporting young women by educating them about abuse and safety, I just feel that the language used needs to be appropriate to your audience. I also think that further explanation needs to take place when instruction is occuring so that people don't get hurt.
I want to again thank you offering your time to assist young women with being more aware of their surroundings and providing them with some useful techniques to dealing with predators and I hope my feedback is useful.
Should you have any other concern or questions please feel free to write me back.
Sent: Wednesday, October 5, 2011 9:46:23 AM
Subject: Re: Follow-up on self-defense class
Thank you for writing me directly. I'm sorry you were displeased with your and your daughter's experiences. If it's all right with you, I'd like to get some more details and hopefully we can both achieve some clarity - or at least some understanding - of what happened and I can improve the experience for girls in the future.
I would like for us both to be as clear as possible as I try very hard to make exchanges appropriate for young girls, so please forgive me if my questions become tedious. This is very important to me and I seek to improve everything I do all the time, especially this kind of experience for girls.
Your wife wrote: "there was talk of mugging, raping and harming (a little too much detail)." You wrote "proceeding to tell the girls that the reason why you are holding this course was because you were in fact a victim." I'm sure I may have introduced the class in such a fashion as you typed - this can get the attention of girls who seem uninterested or don't really understand what they're doing there. This usually yields positive results, but I'm curious about your wife's statement. I can tell you I remember having a *very* young girl at the Camas event (she said she was six years old) ask me what rape was. Does this sound like the group your daughter belongs to?
I'm also curious about the hair pulling and kicking - I normally don't teach a lot of kicking at a self-defense seminar but have a few times. Can you recall if the girls were pulling each other's hair, kicking each other, or was this a different scenario?
I've had a couple of seminars where very young girls attended at an older girl time for convenience ... was this the case here?
Your answers will help me recall more details here.
Thank you so much!
Thank you for writing me back. I will try to answer all of your questions. The class that I'm referring too was held in the Fort Vancouver area, the class was in a basement of one of the buildings. I think providing a very elementary explanation to the girls as to why they are there is appropriate enough to get their attention. That this is a class developed to assist them with making themselves aware of their environment and that you will be teaching them steps to protect themselves if their environment becomes unsafe or someone within their environment posses a threat or they feel uncomfortable about someone being in their "personal bubble." I know it's not that simple, but some middle ground might be appropriate. In the case of one of the girls you were actually demonstrating with the girl and I think more caught her by surprise then actually harming her. In the other situation two of the girls were practicing blocking techniques, with their legs, and one of the girls kicked the other a little bit too hard. A lot of girls were present at the class and maybe limiting the course would be helpful. This would help with management of the course and would assist with you being able to monitor the class more effectively.
Again, I want to reiterate that I value your desire and interest in working with young women and I thank you for your time on this.
I guess what I'm not getting from you is the exact wording, to the best of your recollection of how I opened the class. If I may address your suggestion: "I think providing a very elementary explanation to the girls as to why they are there is appropriate enough to get their attention. That this is a class developed to assist them with making themselves aware of their environment and that you will be teaching them steps to protect themselves if their environment becomes unsafe or someone within their environment posses a threat or they feel uncomfortable about someone being in their "personal bubble." I know it's not that simple, but some middle ground might be appropriate. "
Again, not certain of the exact wording I used, I still understand your concern here and without being argumentative, please allow me to point out some disturbing facts about physical assault. Most first-time victims of violent crime or sex crime (regardless of age or gender) begin their account to police with these words: "Something happened." They usually don't say "I was raped" or "I've been assaulted" because they don't connect those labels with any reality at all. Even if they've heard the words, understand their meaning, the stigma of such victimization and the reluctance to educate about them can actually prohibit the apprehension and/or successful prosecution of predators let alone the opportunity for healing in victims. Most people who have been victimized in youth don't put the puzzle pieces together until they are in therapy later for something else. So my goal here is to encourage girls to start asking questions and their support system to start giving progressive and appropriate answers. We don't want to expose them at such an early age but sometimes it's necessary. It truly breaks my heart that the age on this keeps dropping.
What I *try* to do is ask questions myself - I *try* to ask the girls what they would see as an unsafe situation or how someone would act if they wanted to hurt them. But you and I both know that the darker reality is that young girls are *groomed* to trust the worst predators of all.
Yours is probably an excellent argument for pre-education disclosure and parental consultation.
Still - if you are able to recall more precisely what I said, I can make adjustments accordingly.
Pain & injury:
"In the case of one of the girls you were actually demonstrating with the girl and I think more caught her by surprise then actually harming her."
Yes, this can happen. I can't always tell when it will and it is very unfortunate that she was so surprised. We work very hard at being as gentle as possible, and even so, some youngsters just react with fear. It is important for all of us to help the girls understand the difference between a little discomfort, a little pain and actual injury. Some teachers have the adults the girls trust involved in the exercise and I may do this in the future.
"In the other situation two of the girls were practicing blocking techniques, with their legs, and one of the girls kicked the other a little bit too hard."
I don't recall teaching leg blocking as I know it to be. Are you referring to a technique where they rake the shin with their feet?
"A lot of girls were present at the class and maybe limiting the course would be helpful. This would help with management of the course and would assist with you being able to monitor the class more effectively."
Sometimes, regardless of my insistence that girls be careful with one another, some just don't listen or perhaps have no understanding. In those situations, even one-on-one supervision is not enough, leaving every student somewhat vulnerable. And this is the nature of any physical activity including a self-defense class. I rely on leaders and parents to know their girls well and if they require some close supervision, to either communicate this to me or join us on the mat.
Again, this furthers the case for disclosure and discussion.
Thank you, by the way, for understanding the importance of this work, for your patience with me here, and for all the feedback.
Since the course was such a long-time ago I can't recall the exact wording that you used, I should have addressed my concerns in a more timely fashion and that was my mistake. I have worked in the residential sector for at-risk and high-risk children for over 10 years and for the past 6 years I have been a high school counselor so I'm familiar with abuse cycles, especially in working with the victims. I think encouraging pre-education and allowing parents an opportunity to receive information about the course ahead of time and about the content of the course would be helpful. Letting parents know that words such as "raped", "sexually assaulted", "abused" are a part of the content of the course and the reasons why they are a part of the course. Also that parental involvement might be a part of the course so dress accordingly as parents may be asked to be participants, i.e. the attacker. Just a thought. Also that it is important for parents to follow-up with their child after the course to answer any questions they may have regarding the content of the course. Maybe having sometime at the end of the course for the children and their parents to ask questions? I know time is limited, but I feel that the education piece is critical. In addition, possibly providing a hand-out at the end of the course providing the child-abuse hotline # and just some general information on abuse.
I wanted to sit for a few days on our discussion.
I truly don't recall using the words "rape," "sexually assaulted" or "abused" with such young girls unless it has been brought up. If I introduced those words into the discussion inappropriately, then that is inexcusable and I apologize. I do think their questions should be answered with as much *appropriate* truth as possible - again, I truly don't seek to damage these girls AT ALL.
I think your suggestions of bringing the adults onto the floor is a very good one and I'll be implementing this as well as an introduction to the course for the adults and parents.
I do *try* to have a questions session at the end of each class - things can get hectic during class sessions and sometimes a lesson might go long - usually due to a serious discussion or task.
I promise to review the handouts given at the seminars for accuracy on the crisis number(s) I try to provide.
Thank you again for the feedback.
Theyre completely Ignoring the Threat, arent they? They know that Molestation and Pedophilia exist. And more. They just choose to completely Ignore it.I totally agree, but I think a better word than "ignorant" when pretending it doesn't exist would be "negligent". Parents who pretend that these harms do not exist or fail to face these realities and prepare their children for them are neglecting their childs safety. Just my humble opinion, but I think kids need to know about the wolves that are out there and what they are capable of.
Georgia, I applaud you for dealing with issues that many parents are either uncomfortable with or just flat out ignore. God bless you and the occassioal negative feedback that allows you to improve your program and motivate you to keep doing what you are doing because so many think that it is inappropriate or just don't care. Thank you.
this is a terrific thread.. thanks so much and much respect to you for starting and continuing to share this with us all.
Your explanations have been clear and valuable.
Regarding the father you quoted in #32, how old is the daughter?
How old are the girls of the other parents who had some concerns?
what are the maturity/age groupings you generally use?
What books/web-sites do you recommend/share with parents?
I'm not sure I understand: "I really don't think there was any other way to appease this man and his family".
Theyre completely Ignoring the Threat, arent they? They know that Molestation and Pedophilia exist. And more. They just choose to completely Ignore it.
Negligent is also Accurate. Both Terms are pretty interchangeable here.
Today I received some of the first negative feedback I've ever gotten on my pro bono self-defense seminars for Girl Scouts.
I break the sessions up into age groups so I can address questions and talk about things appropriate for just this age. The coordinator for the event is mom to a female martial arts student (not mine) and prefaces these events by telling the troop leaders about the content and format of my seminars in advance. We count on the leaders to communicate with the parents about concerns and limitations and to pass these things on. Parental attendance is encouraged.
Of course, no one can please everyone and I don't seek to do this - I do, however seek to continuously stay abreast of family concerns and safety concerns. I've never been made aware as to any injury whatsoever in my seminars so some of the feedback was surprising to read. Nevertheless, here it is for others to read. I would like some feedback, please.
I'm posting the entire exchange with names, email addresses and dates filtered for safety solely for the purpose of transparency:
First feedback email to coordinator:
Re: ******** Self Defense Day
*******, our girls participated in this a couple of years ago, as 1st year
Juniors. I know EXACTLY what you are talking about when it come to age
appropriateness. When rape was mentioned it kind of threw me off. I don't
know about every other family, but I did not have to explain sex to my
oldest (now 11 years old) until she was in 4th grade and they were about to
watch "the video" in school. So when we were at the class and rape was
mentioned, I wondered to myself how many younger girls were going to ask
their leaders/moms what rape was. As a parent, I would not want to be forced
to explain sex to my daughter before she needs to know about it (or before
myself, as her mother, decide it is the right time to talk to her about it).
I had been planning on bringing my now 8 year old to the self defense class,
but am waiting until I have had the birds and bees talk with her.
I think a full explanation of the class is a great idea!
mommy to ********, ********, ********, ********, ********