Friday, January 16, 2015

When your student/teammate is assaulted by another in your school/team... how will you react?

 I'd like to share someone's experience, which was sent to me on the condition that I post it anonymously.  She hopes this will prompt some thought and reflection.  Without further ado:

"This story is not about poor me, I got assaulted by my abusive boyfriend. This story is about the misbelief, the “so what” and the “why didn’t you go to the police?” attitude I was given by our common jiu jitsu friends and colleagues.

The bjj world is no exception to the rest of the world’s motto “she is a woman, she deserved it”; Misogyny.

It is true, my friends had warned me about his guy. They said he was a narcissist, a bigot, a psychopath. They said I should keep away but I wouldn’t listen. As the months passed by and his behavior escalated from being controlling, coercing, paranoid and verbally abusive to physically abusive, and one day he attacked me and left me with bruises on the face and ribs, then I should have known better. It was all my fault. I let it happen.

This was the response of my first bjj instructor when I confided in him what happened to me. That bjj instructor said he knew us both and he couldn’t take sides. He reminded me that he had warned me to break up with him but I wouldn’t listen. He also added that he thought my injuries were not that serious.

That was my first bjj instructor who I considered a friend until that day, and his school was in a different city (My “boyfriend” and I had met in that school a few years back.  Then moved to a new school, in another city).

The new bjj school, where we were training the time of the assault, had two instructors. I didn’t say anything to them for a month or two. I didn’t train until all the bruises were gone.

One of the two bjj instructors asked me why I didn’t go to the police. I stood there, in front of him, trying to explain that I was embarrassed and scared and in denial. I had believed that this man loved me and I could not accommodate that he had assaulted me.  I couldn’t go to the police because I was afraid of him. I can say it now. The bjj instructor replied I should have gone to the police and that he didn’t wish to interfere with my personal affairs.

I thought of changing schools to avoid the “boyfriend” but I felt it wasn’t fair that I would have to leave, since it was he who assaulted me. I sucked it up and started training again, with the plan to avoid and ignore the “boyfriend,” if met in class. My close teammates thought it was a good plan.

I avoided him by declining the social invitations he was accepting. But then he came to my corner during a competition and tried to blend in coaching me, and went back to his other subtle attempts which I would no longer fall for.  And then he started being disrespectful to me during class.  At that time, he sent me a threatening text on my phone.  I felt panic and told the other bjj instructor everything. He was more empathetic. He talked to the other instructor and they mutually decided to expel “the boyfriend.” I was grateful and relieved.

Only a few people knew about him assaulting me. One of them was a friend in a nearby bjj school. My friend warned her instructor about the “boyfriend” but this instructor thought he deserved another chance so he allowed him to train there. After all, I hadn’t gone to the police, which meant I was probably either lying or exaggerating about the assault. I also heard it said that he was much stronger than me, and he could have killed me if he wanted, therefore, when he assaulted me, he was just trying to put me in my place, you know, male nature and all; I must have misunderstood.

A few days ago I found out that the “boyfriend” was recently promoted to black belt and is now an instructor at a bjj school.


Society is so accustomed to men physically abusing and assaulting their partners that the weird thing is to object it and make a fuss about it.

(Perhaps if I had seriously fought back, he would have gotten even madder and hurt me further; of course it is my fault I just walked away and didn't help provide better evidence. I apologize.)"


Rachel Green said...

That poor woman. I wish she'd name and shame.

Stephanie Wright said...

Disappointed in the BJJ instructors to be honest. Proud of the woman for knowing she was being shamed and victim blamed and not falling for it. Awful situation.

REA said...

It's just so easy to tell someone to call the police. It's rarely that easy or clear cut. It's alarming how people choose to stand idly by and not intervene. It's a cultural immorality. I hope she finds the courage to be more public so that this person doesn't hurt more people.

Anonymous said...

It's pretty weird somebody tells you a guy is not bad for you, and you shouldn't be around him, and you should break up with him while keeping him at the academy. Like saying "this food is not good" while eating it...

JiuJiu said...

This reminds me of Captain Awkward's post "The stinking pile of wordpoop that is “I’m not going to choose a side."

Here is the relevent bit:

Let me translate what “I’m really sorry that happened but I’m not going to choose sides” means.

“I’m really sorry that happened, I am going to keep hanging out with your abuser, and I feel bad and weird about it, so, could you, like, absolve me of that in the name of fairness? I’d really like to keep seeing myself as a good person.”
“I know your life is in ruins, but why should that change anything about my life? How is that fair?”
“I know I’m supposed to say something supportive, but I don’t actually believe you about what happened.”
“I believe you about what happened, but I liked my ignorance about what happened so much that I’d like your collusion in pretending that my friendship with your abuser can continue normally even though I now know that they abuse people.”
“I feel guilty about not helping you enough before, and I feel guilty about not really wanting to make changes now, so here is this tired and generic phrase that allows us to pretend that this is about fairness.”

It drives me crazy, and I'm so sorry she had to deal with this.