Warning Signs of Sexual Coercion and Harassment in Martial Arts Schools

Martial arts are not immune to social ills. We would hope martial artists would honor a person’s boundaries and autonomy, as those are the basis of any self defense philosophy, but martial arts instructors and students can be perpetrators themselves.

Are you being harassed or stalked?
These resources from RAINN can help:
How to Respond if Someone Is Pressuring You and Stalking.

You will see common patterns in these coercive behaviors: working to get you alone, testing your boundaries, disregarding your lack of consent, breaking down your barriers, gaining your trust (or at least compliance), and establishing control over you.

Warning signs of sexual coercion and harassment from instructors and students:

  • Corners you to speak alone
  • Pressures you to go on a date or spend time alone together
  • Will not take no for an answer and persists despite your disinterest
  • Offers you free after hours private lessons or one-on-one training
  • Offers to drive you home alone
  • Persists in asking for your phone number or to add them on social media
  • Asks others about you or gets your contact info from someone else
  • Uses the contact info you provided to the school for personal reasons
  • Adds you on social media to send personal messages
  • Does not respect that you are already in a relationship
  • Sends you unsolicited sexual messages or pictures/videos
  • Shows up uninvited where you live or work
  • Does not respect or ask for your consent to touch or kiss you
  • Initiates unwanted or inappropriate physical contact
  • Touches you inappropriately under the guise of “coaching” or “sports massage”
  • Makes inappropriate comments about your body or appearance
  • Surprises you with favors and gifts to ingratiate themselves to you
  • Flatters and compliments you excessively
  • Promises to make you successful or a “star” competitor
  • Claims they feel a special connection to you
  • Offers you alcohol or drugs to lower your inhibitions
  • Flirts when you cannot easily turn them down or get away
  • Blocks you from entering or leaving the bathroom or changing room
  • Makes sexual jokes or innuendos at inappropriate times
  • Shares unsolicited personal problems to gain sympathy
  • Asks prying questions about your personal or sex life
  • Tells you inappropriate details about their sex life
  • Confides in you to tell you secrets and force a “bond” between you
  • Uses guilt or threats to coerce you into giving them what they want
  • Acts like you’re making a big deal out of nothing when confronted
  • Pretends nothing bad happened when you see them later
  • Blames you for making them hurt or abuse you
  • Lies about what they did or said when called out on it
  • Exhibits volatile emotions like anger and jealousy to control you
  • Insults and harasses you to undermine your confidence
  • Treats you poorly after you turn them down
  • Spreads rumors and lies about you especially if you reject their advances

While you may not be on the receiving end of these behaviors, you can spot a toxic school culture that has instructors or students who.

Signs of a toxic school culture:

  • Instructors or students engage in the red flag behaviors listed above
  • Instructors makes excuses for people who are guilty of these behaviors
  • Instructors are unwilling to seriously look into complaints and take action
  • Instructors and senior members use student body as their dating pool
  • People know a member is a problem and blame their victims for not knowing better
  • Instructors make sexist or homophobic jokes or are OK with others making them
  • Use of sexist or homophobic insults and slurs
  • Jokes about sexual assault, abuse, molestation, rape, and domestic violence
  • Female students are not taken seriously or given the same respect as men
  • Instructors and students make sexual comments about female students
  • An instructor or student has a history of sexual harassment/assault or a criminal record for it

[This article was adapted from Confronting the Problem of Sexual Harassment and Coercion in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. The full article includes actions to take as a student who is being sexual coerced or an instructor dealing with sexual harassment within your school.]

The post Warning Signs of Sexual Coercion and Harassment in Martial Arts Schools appeared first on Aesopian BJJ.

Andrew Raynor

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