Eve Teasing: Using the Fence to Set Social Boundaries

Angry fence to make space (a)28.09.19


My second Saturday lesson was a two-hour overview with my teacher client.  We focused on the material the teacher will be delivering in a two-hour lesson in India for teenage girls (aged 16-18). I was advised on certain cultural norms and how to tailor my self-protection programme to suit.


The programme will be combined with the teacher’s own extensive knowledge and experience. It was decided that in addition to generic information regarding attitude, awareness and legalities on the right self-defence the following areas should be addressed.


Soft Skills


Crowded Areas & Situational Awareness


The girls being trained for this programme will often be occupying crowded streets. They live in a very densely populated area. For this reason, they will need to understand the importance of people, places, hazards and changes that should increase/decrease risk awareness accordingly.  The Jeff Cooper Code with some amendments is a useful teaching device. The students, who often walk in pairs, need to have an astute understanding of negotiating crowds at different times of the day.


Setting Boundaries

I was made aware of the cultural problem of something referred to as “Eve Teasing”. Not peculiar to India but known throughout South Asia, this is a form of misogynistic sexual harassment that has been public knowledge since the 1970s. Aggressive sexual harassment might be motivated by an outmoded view that women should have male escorts or should not be independent, or it might be purely opportunistic targeting. As the name implies, the blame for the teasing is placed on the woman for somehow being the temptress or tease, presumably by simply being a woman is not accompanied by a male. Clearly there is a Long-Term Self-Protection here. It should be stated that the term, “Eve Teasing”, by definition, is inappropriate and not helpful in addressing the issue at hand. Those who are targeted by sexual harassers should never feel that they are to blame or that the person targeted them is not committing an offence.


The Fence concept and its underlying principles are crucial for helping these students set their social and tactical boundaries. Socially they need to start setting their emotional and mental boundaries up early, especially with anyone they do not feel comfortable around. Plans need to be already embedded and set to default when likely antagonistic situations arise. I recommend Gavin De Becker’s “The Gift of Fear” and “Protecting the Gift” as good starting points for identifying the likely deceptive pre-incident indicators.


Personal space needs to be understood and maintained where possible. Some of the biggest tests here are on public transport and the aforementioned crowded streets. It is virtually impossible for an average citizen to get about the normal everyday life without having to surrender the personal space for the majority of their time getting from one place to another, so with this in mind a more aware state needs to be adopted. Students need to keep on balance at all times, be aware of exit points and to not surrender more personal space than required. Early tactile warning signs must never be underestimated in close spaces. The student must draw attention as early as possible and to take proactive action immediately.


Defeating Bystander Effect


The Bystander Effect is the social phenomenon where greater numbers of people are less likely to aid an individual or individuals.  Part of the default plan in place, should a crisis situation occur, is the recruiting of bystanders. This means that early on students need to be identifying likely allies in case of a crisis just as they are looking for escape routes and exits.  Recruiting bystanders involves making eye contact with potential help when a crisis occurs and singling these people out.


Hard Skills


Pre-Emptive Striking


With only two hours to teach this material, a good amount of which will contain soft skills discussions, the techniques need to be short and the emphasis needs to be on pre-emption. This should be mainly trained from head-on threats. Offline training is an option, should time allow, but this can always be adjusted from the head-on approach. Everything must be kept proactive.


Bodyguard Training

The bodyguard drill involves having one student to stand at the shoulder of the other when walking. We also looked at using the person in front as a fence, which prompts the “bodyguard” to act. We also covered crowd-clearing whilst protecting a fellow student.