Martial Analysis: The Knife

Knives are brutally effective at killing people and terribly ineffective for self-defence. To understand this conundrum, we need to understand the properties of a knife.

First, the pros. Knives puncture and sever. With a properly sharpened knife, it doesn’t take a lot of force to penetrate flesh and open veins. Smaller knives can be easily concealed on your person, under a thin layer of clothing. The blade of a knife adds a few inches to your reach when held in a forward grip; held in the reverse grip, the blade can be used to hook and clear the opponent’s limbs. As a short and light weapon, it can be used freely in the clinch and at grappling range, allowing for multiple rapid strikes. Many commercial knife designs are adequately sharp, cheap and utterly disposable — which lend themselves to specific applications by certain professions.

Now the cons. Knives do not usually impart kinetic energy into a target. They cannot break bones or shock the nervous system; when the adrenaline is going, the opponent won’t know he’s been cut. Most modern knives have little mass behind them, so unlike their larger classical cousins they cannot cut off limbs. Cutting a threat will spray blood all over you. A blade offers only a few inches of extra reach — against a longer weapon like a stick or a chair, a knife wielder is at a clear disadvantage. Folding knives require greater fine motor manipulation — and training — to properly deploy, and there’s a not insignificant risk of messing up the deployment under pressure. Fixed knives, while easier to draw, are harder to conceal. And in the First World, it can be a tad inconvenient if the police ask you why you’re carrying a blade — especially if you do not live in a blade culture.

Forget what you see in Hollywood and most pop fiction: a single lethal strike is not enough. There is no such thing as an immediate kill with a knife. It takes between one to two minutes (usually on the longer side) for someone to bleed to death from a single severed major blood vessel. Up to an hour if you’re unlucky.

In combat every minute is an eternity. If you can’t intimidate the threat after pulling the knife, things will get very ugly, very quick. On the other hand, knives are ubiquitous, cheap, disposable, easy to handle and easy to conceal. Sneaking up on someone and stabbing him to death is depressingly easy. It’s not a clean death: it’s hard and messy and noisy — and that’s if everything goes your way.

This is the reality of the knife. It is an excellent offensive weapon. If you have the initiative, you can overcome its drawbacks through stealth and violence of action, filleting your target without ever giving him a chance to retaliate. And when you’re done if you have a cheap blade, you can simply toss it and get a new one. On the other hand, knives are poor defensiveweapons: they’re not going to quickly stop a threat — at least, not without proper training.

Before You Take Up the Blade

I am not a self-defence instructor. I’ve studied martial arts for a mere three years. Do not count on my words as gospel; if you want to dive deeper, seek out the knowledge of qualified teachers, many of whom I will link to at the end of this post. All I will do here is summarise what I have learned over the years.

In a court of law, a knife is a deadly force implement. It is illegal to use one if your life is not at risk. In many places, it is illegal to use one, period. In my own country, it is illegal for civilians to carry weapons for self-defence. If you choose to carry a knife as a weapon, you must understand your local law and the penalties for breaking it.

If you do carry a knife for the express purpose of combat, you must be psychologically prepared.

Extend your arm to the fullest. This plus the length of the blade is the maximum range of knife combat. More often than not, it will take place closer than that, so close you can smell the threat’s breath. You will be pumped full of adrenaline, your senses will be simultaneously sharper and duller than usual. Through the blade you will feel flesh parting and blood gushing. You will hear the grunts and screams and cries of a dying man. The stench of his fear and blood and waste will fill your nostrils. He will thrash and buck and flail and fight and you have to hold on. You must stitch the threat over and over and over and over again, working the target until the moments a viciously violent living being becomes an inanimate lump of meat and bone.

When it’s over, you will be covered in blood and filth. If the threat had a bloodborne disease, you’ve just exposed yourself. If you’re lucky, you will merely suffer long, agonizing weeks of pain, fever and vomiting. If not, you will suffer long, agonizing months of pain, fever, vomiting, intensive medical treatment — and then you will die. HIV and Hepatitis B and C are the primary pathogens of concern; using a knife on a threat with one is a fine way to catch it.

And even if you manage to walk away clean, you will never, ever, forget. All you can do is make peace with what you’ve done. Be ready.

Targets and Tactics

Different knife arts have different targeting methodology. In Pekiti Tirsia Kali, there are three primary targets: the guts (or groin), the underarm and the throat. There are five secondary targets: the eyes, the hands, the inner forearm, the biceps and the thigh. The primary targets are for killing, the secondary targets are for degrading the threat’s ability to fight.

To defeat a threat with a knife, you must achieve at least one of the following:

  • Psychological stop: Intimidate the threat into running away, or to give you enough space to deploy another option
  • Exsanguination: Puncture so many holes in the threat he bleeds out
  • Structural stop: Sever the muscles, nerves and/or tendons that allow him to move

A psychological stop is simple. When a threat accosts you, pull out a great big knife with a great big smile. If the threat persists, cut at his hands, eyes or face. Humans are hardwired to instinctively protect the head. The flickering blade, the spray of blood and (hopefully) a sudden pain combine to terrify the threat. The idea is to give him something else to think about and to convince him that you aren’t an easy mark.

But this only works against an uncommitted attacker. This is for the mugger, the woofer, the punk with more mouth than brains. Against someone whose blood is up and hell-bent on killing you, you can’t count on it. He may not even register the blade’s existence. Also, in many jurisdictions, this is a crime. You clearly didn’t feel threatened enough to carve up the threat, so it clearly wasn’t a life or death situation, so clearly the use of a lethal weapon is not justified. Use this tactic at your own risk.

Exsanguination is easy. Puncture the major blood bearing organs, sever the arteries and wait for him to bleed out. It doesn’t take a lot of training to do this; you just need to will to do the ugly, dirty job of manslaughter.

In PTK, the throat is the ideal target. Here are the carotid arteries and the trachea. Slice these and blood will gush free and flow into the airways. The threat bleeds and chokes out simultaneously.

After the throat is the underarm. The rib cage protects the chest, but the armpit is undefended. A stab here will puncture the lung and, with a long enough blade, the heart. When you retract the blade, the muscle and tissue collapses. The target suffers a sharp shock to the chest. With every breath, his lung deflates.

The groin region should properly include the guts as well. Here is a wealth of blood vessels and organs: the intestines, liver, spleen, stomach, pancreas. Rapid, upward thrusts and swift horizontal cuts to the region leads to massive internal damage.

Pulling off an exsanguination stop is depressingly easy. Just watch this:

There is no dancing around, no fancy footwork, no posturing. Just four easy steps.

Get as close as you dare. Jam his primary arm. Crash him into a wall or floor. Stab until you or he blacks out.

What if the bad guy attacks you with a blade or stick ? Simple. Cut or stab the hand, clear it out of the way, then bum-rush the target and stitch him up until you or he blacks out. If you have a knife in the reverse grip, it is easier to hook and shear the enemy’s weapon away.

What if the threat is already grappling you? Draw knife, cut him until he lets go, then escape or use the above tactic.

This is the essence of knife ‘fighting’. It is less a two-way exchange of blows, more a sudden furious desperate blitz of steel and spit. Advanced knife tactics are all about creating an opportunity to close in so you can do this.

As discussed earlier, an exsanguination stop will take time. Long minutes of stabbing and slashing and cutting and piercing until the threat ceases to be one. And if he is in knife range, you are also in knife range. The threat may access hidden weapons and fight back even as you stab him. You won’t feel it until you grow weak and black out and die. Even as you work him over, you must deny him the ability to kill you. You need to move as he moves, keeping his arms tied up and jammed against obstacles, and if you sense him drawing a weapon you must respond. Similarly, if the threat has friends, you cannot let yourself be tied up taking one guy out. Otherwise, they will pull you off him and do unto you what you were doing unto him.

The structural stop is based on the concept of defanging the snake. If a threat cannot hold a weapon or cannot stand he is no longer a threat. This plays into the main strength of a blade, allowing you to rapidly incapacitate a threat without the inconvenience of waiting for him to bleed out. As a bonus, you are less likely to take a spray of blood to the face.

The weapon arm is the primary target. The inner forearm is rich with nerves that control the hand. The largest muscles that power the arm are on the upper arm. To attack the former, you need to perform what is known as a gunting or crossada: a scissoring motion that deflects the weapon hand with your secondary hand while simultaneously slashing with your primary. This requires a great deal of training: it is very easy to miss or, worse, catch the blade with your naked hand. Alternatively, you move to the inside of an incoming attack, blocking the weapon arm with your secondary arm and slashing the forearm. To take the biceps or triceps, go for a deep gunting or inside slash, or slip out and jam the opponent’s arm against his body and slash the exposed muscle.

The eye is a valuable target. If the threat can’t see he can’t fight. The goal is to thrust and run. After you stick the eye, the threat will be blind in that eye. Run past his blind spot. This should buy you enough time to flee the area.

The thigh is the other main target. Here, you target the quadriceps. If the threat can’t stand, he can’t slash or strike you. However, if the threat has a firearm, you must also disable the hand (or stomp him in the face) or risk being shot in the back.

While a structural stop may be quicker than bleeding out a threat, it requires training. You need to meet an incoming attack with your naked hand and a tiny blade without getting cut. This requires exquisite timing and bravery, developed only in the training ground. If your cuts don’t go deep enough, the threat will still be active, allowing him to harm you. Further, most FMAs were born in a time and place without heavy jackets or jeans — blades may simply slide off clothing or won’t go deep enough. You need to train the comma cut, and to stab andslash a target muscle. Michael Janich has more below.

Structural stops rest on the assumption that you have someplace to escape to and the threat will obligingly go down and stay down. If you’re attacked at home, or if you’re in a confined space like an elevator or stairwell, you have to fight until the threat stops. If the threat runs away or gives up after you cut his arm, great. But if your cuts are too shallow, if the threat simply picks up his weapon with his other arm or draws a backup, and is still able to harm you, the fight is still on.

Sayoc Kali teaches the concept of timers and switches. Timers are lethal attacks that will permanently end a target, but take time to bleed out. Switches are structural strikes that will permanently disable a target’s limb, but will not kill him. Learn to mix and match targets as the situation dictates. Against a single threat, flipping a switch or two may be enough to end the fight. Against a pack of enemies, you need to keep moving while defending against the possibility of hidden ranged weapons; you may have to employ a timer and a switch on every threat to stop them. A berserker or highly dedicated attacker may only stop when he runs out of blood and air.

With a knife, there is no clean distinction between lethal and less-lethal force. A quadriceps cut may non-lethally put down a target, but it can also sever the femoral artery and cause him to bleed to death. A cut throat is presumably lethal, but a shallow cut might not dissuade the threat. But to the courts, a knife is always a lethal weapon: even if you use a knife non-lethally you are only allowed to do so if your life is at risk.

Reading is no substitute for training and experience. If you dare to take up the blade, find a trainer and prepare for the worst. Study the human anatomy and psychology, understand the strengths and weaknesses of the blade, and be ready for a whirling maelstorm of steel and blood.

Further Reading

This is only a basic overview. There is much not covered here: psychology, anatomy, tactics, critical skills. For more information, please see below.

Other noteworthy instructors include Doug Mercaida, Terry Trahan, James A. Keating, Ed Calderon and Raymond Floro.

The Appeal of the Islamic State

Yesterday The Middle Ground published an opinion piece titled A Young Muslim on ISIS. While it approaches the Islamic State (henceforth called Daesh here) from the perspective of a Muslim, the writer makes a few generalities that don’t hold up. Crucially, he says:

“My sense is, if you add a dash of ignorance and a sprinkle of mis-education to a person with violent traits, you get a self-radicalised individual. And if you add the zest of youth and thrill to the mixture, you get the most dangerous kind of self-radicalised individuals.”


ISIS’ version of Islam offends my senses, just based on the fundamental principles of ethics and morality. It just feels wrong, and I am certain that for many people, that feeling outweighs any other feeling of isolation or marginalisation they may face in their current communities. Religious differences aside, there is something inherently wrong about killing and torture. There is something inherently wrong about raping women and children. There is something inherently wrong about slavery. There is something inherently wrong about stripping someone of their dignity and worth on the account that they don’t share your religious beliefs. Everything about the tenets ISIS preaches goes against the natural order. Contrary to their mission, I don’t think ISIS is more concerned about ‘saving Islam’ than it is about its own political and personal agendas.

I am aware though, that there are many who genuinely believe they are ‘saving Islam’ and to that I would ask “from what exactly?” Islam does not need any more saving than Christianity or Judaism or Hinduism or Buddhism does. If there is anything or anyone that Islam needs saving from, it is ISIS, because I don’t think any group has been more successful at tarnishing the image of the religion in this 21st century.

While the writer’s sentiments are understandable, they are sentiments. They are feelings and they do not necessarily offer any greater insight into Daesh, its appeal, and the phenomenon it embodies. Women have joined Daesh for the express purpose of being wives — not combatants. Yet they are self-radicalised individuals who learned about Daesh over the Internet. Further, while Daesh may feel wrong to the writer and offends his sense of morality, its ideas certainly do not feel wrong to its adherents.

Daesh cannot and must not be seen in isolation. It must be seen in the context of transitional violent non-state actors and civilisations.

Violent Non-State Actors in Transition

This is an invented term I will use to describe violent non-state actors that are in transition to becoming a state or something in between, by taking on the functions of a state in part or in whole. In modern times, there are multiple examples we can look at.

Mexico’s long and bitter drug war have left the federal government weakened and local government nonexistent. Drug cartels have moved in to occupy these territories. Some rule with an iron fist, bribing authority figures and assassinating the incorruptible. Others are more benevolent, establishing welfare programmes and donating regularly to charity. As John Robb argues in Brave New War, the cartels intend to hollow out the government but not to replace it. They are seeking a space where they can conduct their business in peace, using Mexican sovereignty as a shield against foreign (read: American) military intervention.

Since 1996, the Palestinian territories have held elections for the Palestinian Legislative Council. The first election went to Fatah, which was riddled with corruption and caught in a conflict with its archrival Hamas. This led to widespread poverty and chronic underdevelopment. Hamas took on the functions of state, building schools and organising drought relief missions, in the place of Fatah. Hamas won the 2006 elections, transforming from a guerilla organisation into a legitimate political authority.

Even in the West, non-state actors are undermining the authority of the state. The Shariah Project deployed Shariah patrols to East London in 2013, confronting passers-by and demanding that they conform to Shariah law. Swedish police have ceded control of 55 zones to Muslim criminal gangs. Violence from Mexico’s cartel wars are spreading to the American border regions, moving illegal immigrants into America and embedding among these immigrants a network of spies, lieutenants and other facilitators.

Seen in this context, Daesh is no different. During the Syrian civil war, the secular nationalist forces battled the remnants of the loyalist military, while radical Islamic fighters shored up their power. The Americans destroyed the central governments of Iraq and Afghanistan during their invasions, and they have not created adequate replacements, leading to a void filled with insurgent groups. The Islamic radical groups banded together, forming Daesh and its allies. Now Daesh is seeking to expand into Iraq and Saudi Arabia, and are developing the infrastructure of a state: they are minting their own currency, enforcing laws, and building schools. Daesh is becoming a true Islamic State.

As Daesh expands into Kurdish lands, they have triggered a backlash. The Kurds are a people without a nation, but in modern history they have been pushing for a state of their own. Daesh’s invasion of Kurdish lands prompted many people of Kurdish descent to travel to Kurd territory to fight Daesh. Other non-Kurdish volunteers have also volunteered to join the fight. While there is no Kurdistan per se, one outgrowth of the war in Iraq was the creation of Iraqi Kurdistan, an autonomous region of Iraq. Iraqi Kurdistan is pressing for independence from Iraq, but is endangered by Daesh, and the Iraqi military seems powerless to stop Daesh. A successful defence of Iraqi Kurdistan could be the impetus for a Kurdish nationalist movement — one that encompasses Kurdish lands in Turkey and Iran.

Common to these phenomenon is the failure or nonexistence of states. By failing to provide core services to the people — security, food and water, infrastructure — they lose the loyalty of their citizens. Disenfranchised, these people turn to different identity circles that would provide a sense of community and necessities.

Civilisation, the State and the Islamic State

Using Samuel Huntington’s definitions, a civilisation is the broadest possible grouping of people along linguistic, cultural, historical, genetic or other markers. A state, by contrast, is a political entity that exercises control over a given geographical region. Therefore, a civilisation can contain multiple states, a civilisation can be a single state, and large states (as in the case of empires) may encompass different civilisations. Daesh is that strange animal of a single-state civilisation, a distinction usually held only by Japan, India and China.

Daesh is based on ultra-fundamentalist views of the Qu’ran, effectively transposing the worldview of Qu’ranic times into the 21st century. Being in the Middle East, it has a heavy Arabic cultural influence, and as it happens many Muslims are either of Arabic descent or else are familiar with Arabic. The last great Islamic civilisation, the Ottoman Empire, dissolved in 1922. Through propaganda and deed, Daesh promises a return of a golden age of Islam and the formation of a new Islamic civilisation. Its numerous military successes give sympathisers and believers hope that this dream would come true, and Daesh’s efforts to build a statea long Qu’ranic lines signal that it is serious about building both a state and a civilisation.

Contrast this promise and hope with modern society. The lynchpins of the modern economy are under fire everywhere: the Euro faces the possibility of Greece exiting the monetary union, capitalism is seen to have led to ever-expanding wealth inequalities, jobs are perceived to go to foreigners who demand lower wages than locals. Police and military personnel face heavy scrutiny, and even the slightest hint of impropriety leads to accusations of racism/sexism/prejudice, which are inevitably followed by outrage, media circuses, apologies and resignations. Identity and gender politics threaten to divide people along arbitrary identity markers, taking states with them.

To impressionable minds, Daesh promises hope and society promises victimisation. China has long suppressed Islam in Xinjiang province, and consequently many Muslims are travelling to support Daesh. Malaysia and Indonesia are nominally Muslim states, but despite their racial and religious politicking they do not promise victory and a golden age like Daesh, leading idealists who seek a ‘true’ Islamic state to the Middle East. In the West, where immigration policies are liberal and integration is optional, entire communities see themselves as Muslims but not necessarily citizens of the state they live in. When they hear of Daesh’s victories, they feel more obliged to support their fellow Muslims than the state they do not feel loyalty to.

Daesh’s appeal lies in portraying themselves as Good People. And Good People can justify any number of atrocities to themselves because they believe they are in the right. This is further compounded by Daesh’s Arabic roots and cultural influence. Being tribal based, Arab societies are sometimes described as amoral familist in nature. In effect, morality is defined by the impact on the tribe: if something supports the tribe it is good, and if it harms the tribe it is evil. Amoral familism treats everybody outside the tribe as strangers at best and enemies at worst, and since terrifying the world will increase the standing of the tribe, atrocities like beheading captives and raping slaves are not only permissible but a moral imperative.

Now the question is: what can we do about Daesh?

Daesh brands itself as an Islamic state and the inheritor of Islamic civilisation. It is therefore incumbent on the Muslims of the world to reject the brand of Islam Daesh represents, and to actively participate in civic affairs. It is not enough to shout down distasteful ideologies; people need also to build societies along their preferred ones. In the First World, this means adopting the norms of racial and religious harmony and tolerance, rejecting prejudice and working in tandem with all peoples to build a society based on common values.

For everybody else, this is a call to unity. Violent non-state actors emerge where the state is weak or nonexistent. Daesh is merely the most high-profile VNSA at this time. As states crumble, other VNSAs and transitional NSAs will emerge. To prevent this, states and civilisations have to remain strong. This means rejecting the politics of division and identity, of isolating the extremists and working together with the reasonable people along the rest of the political spectrum. It means cohering as a nation, a people, a civilisation, and to build a better world.

For people in Singapore, this means rejecting the Chinese-Malay-Indian-Other model. We cannot define ourselves primarily as Buddhist, Indian, Malay-Muslim, Christian, whatever. We must define ourselves as Singaporeans. In effect, to be one people, one Singapore. Most of all, it means participating in the community of nations, rejecting the extremists and the rogue states, and to be ready to defend ourselves against those who would do us violence with as much violence as we can muster.

Banning Julien Blanc: NIMBYism on a global scale

I feel Julien Blanc is a loathsome, repulsive person. I feel that the tactics he employs are designed to subtly dominate people by invading their personal boundaries and psychologically overwhelming them to prevent a decisive rejection, treating people as commodities instead of humans. I feel the world would be better off without men like him who interact with women primarily to obtain sexual favours.

My feelings are also utterly irrelevant, because banning Julien Blanc undermines freedom of speech and movement.

Activists and social justice warriors are accusing Blanc of promoting violence against women. Assuming this is true, why ban him from travelling to different countries? A person of his dubious stature would still be able to travel to countries whose governments care more about tourist dollars than women’s rights, and the prevalence of information communications technology means that Blanc and his fellow travellers can still continue to propagate their doctrine. The techniques and technology available to Blanc and his ilk are no different from those employed by international lecturers and thinkers, SJWs, local celebrities breaking out into the world stage, and terrorists.

Banning Blanc does not only send the message that he is not welcome in a country, it also signals that the people of that country do not want to have to deal with him — they want someone else to do it. This is Not In My Backyard syndrome.

The court of public opinion has charged Blanc with misogyny, and produced as evidence his infamous choke opener. The photograph shows Blanc placing his hand on a woman’s throat, which he calls ‘choking’.

I have seen Blanc’s lectures and I have heard him speak. I noticed he used techniques commonly employed by public speakers and debaters. He promotes repeating memorised phrases at high speed, deluging the listener in a barrage of words to shut off rational thought and resistance while promising fun and pleasure. The choke opener is an extension of this: he begins a conversation with a woman, then places his hand on her throat to physically dominate her and force her to pay attention to what he is saying. The use of hand gestures, like a finger over his lips or a hand covering her mouth, is an extension of this.

Blanc calls it a choke opener, and activists call it choking. I am a martial artist, and I study combatives. I train in Pekiti Tirsia Kali, I have undergone some training in Krav Maga, and I am in contact with karateka, boxers, judoka, grapplers, and force professionals. Going by that picture alone, I sense Blanc isn’t actually choking her.

Let’s break it down, starting with Blanc’s motivations. I think it’s safe to say the following: Blanc wants interaction. He wants to elicit consent from the woman. He wants her to feel she can’t say no. He does not want her to start screaming for help or to attract unwanted attention. He does not want to be arrested and sent to jail. He does not want to be branded a sex offender, both for professional and personal reasons. The choke opener lies in that murky ground between assertiveness and violence, creating psychological dominance without actually harming the target.

A real choke, on the other hand, does two things: it closes off the airway and it defends the choker from a counterattack. The choke opener superficially resembles a front choke — only, it likely doesn’t actually do damage.

Place one hand on your throat and squeeze. It should feel uncomfortable. Sink into the moment, and imagine that a complete stranger was doing that to you. Feel the pulse in your neck, the pressure against your veins and windpipe. This produces a heightened state of awareness, and enhances a feeling of vulnerability. Now, maintaining that pressure, talk. Say something, anything, just talk.

If you can talk, you can breathe, and if you can breathe, you are not being choked.

Blanc wants the woman to be able to say ‘Yes’. This is domination, not violence. Violence harms the mark, dominance simply attempts to manipulate the target into surrender. Dominance can be countered with assertiveness or violence; the only answer to imminent violence is escape or even greater violence.

real front choke is completely different. Both arms and hands would be locked up straight and tight to provide maximum stability and biomechanical strength. The choker would be pressing the intended victim up against a wall or hard surface, arching the back to break the balance and prevent a counterattack. The choker would be leaning into the victim, applying his body weight and borrowing gravity. A real front choke will close off the airway, induce a panic response, and can leave bruises on the throat. The last can be used against Blanc in court, which he probably does not want, so it is not likely he is actually choking the woman.

Blanc calls this technique a ‘choke opener’ because he needs a dramatic, memorable name for that particular technique. It is linked to the idea of a can opener, comparing the act of opening up a can to opening up a woman. In this sense he is no different from a salesman-entrepeneur naming a product by metaphorically linking it to a commonplace item. Activists have seized on the very unfortunate name to turn it against him, using it to springboard their narrative of violence and generate outrage. Blanc’s propensity for aggrandisation got him into trouble — not actual or intended violence.

But assuming Blanc actually escalated to violence, front chokes are also very easy to break out of. Going back to the picture, Blanc only has one hand on the victim. Assuming some aggressor tries something similar, the defender need merely grab his thumb with both hands and peel back. Normally the technique requires bending the aggressor’s arm for leverage, but he has very thoughtfully done so already. This technique would break the choke and expose him to follow-up strikes.

Against a true double-handed choke, the defender should step back to stabilise herself, then circle her arms under the aggressor’s and shoot her palms through the empty space between his arms, going for his face. This has a high chance of breaking the choke. Even if it doesn’t, the attacker is likely to step back, weakening the choke, or release his hands to defend his face. If he does neither, the palms will strike, causing damage. If the attack rakes the eyes, this induces pain and blindness, encouraging him to let go. If the attack misses or he still insists on holding on, the defender can bring her hands back to his thumbs and peel them off. Or grab the back of his skull and introduce his face to a sharply rising knee.

For armed defenders, the counter is even simpler. Draw a knife and cut the biceps and inner forearms. If he holds on, back cut at the eye to force him to step back, bring his hands back and diminish his vision; stab through the armpits and ribs to collapse the lungs; and/or cut his throat to force blood down the windpipe and air into his heart. Or just draw a gun and shoot him until he drops. This is a lethal force situation, and crippling or killing an attacker is justifiable here.

If Blanc were promoting violence against women, he’s pretty inept about it, relying on his targets to be untrained and unarmed, and unwilling to defend themselves. On the other hand, I don’t see very many SJWs and feminists teaching women how to protect themselves against monsters in human skin. It seems to me that modern-day activists aren’t interested in actually dealing with threats or empowering people to handle them; they just want someone else to do it.

Even if I’m wrong and Blanc actually advocated physically harming women and has sexually assaulted them, banning him from various countries still won’t do any good. He is still free and still able to hurt people in his home country and wherever else would have him. To protect society from such a menace, the best approach is to arrest him and try him in a court of law, and if found guilty, punish him to the fullest extent of the law. This removes a threat from society and sends a message to other would-be predators that society does not tolerate such villainy.

Conversely, if he were found innocent, it means that he is guilty of nothing more than hurting feelings.

I know people who have lived in places where there is no law and no police presence. For people like them, a sexual assault is met with violence: either the woman will kill the attacker during the act (see what I wrote above?), or her friends and family will find and lynch the attacker after the assault. This serves the same purpose of destroying a threat and sending a message to other monsters. The main difference is that they step up and take responsibility of the problem, instead of delegating it to someone else like most civilised people.

The people who want to ban Blanc are not interested in actually dealing with the problem. They just do not want him in their backyard. This is NIMBYism on a global scale, sparked by little more than hurt feelings.

Blanc’s speech may be offensive, but the solution to offensive speech is more speech. His ideas have roundly criticised by people around the world, which means people are less likely to believe him. Or else just ignore him, denying him the fame he needs to continue his lifestyle. To curtail his ability to travel on the basis of offensive speech is to seize the tools of oppression on the basis of hurt feelings, punishing someone for saying the wrong things as opposed to actually harming someone. This sets a powerful precedent: if an international network of people can degrade someone’s freedoms for nothing more than saying politically incorrect words and hurting their feelings, who will they target next?

The answer: anybody else who disagrees with them and hurts their feelings.

People who use their freedom of speech to accuse someone of oppressing a designated victim group and take away his rights are not interested in freedom or protecting people. They just want to be the ones holding the whip.

SlutWalk: Noble but misguided

SlutWalk is coming to Singapore. And I’m not pleased.

My problem with SlutWalk is NOT about its goal to redefine the word ‘slut’, encouraging women to express their sexuality, or even its stance that rape is a crime. Had SlutWalk defined its goals as such, I wouldn’t have slammed it. I might have encouraged it. But SlutWalk perpetuates myths and fallacies about rape and victim-blaming, and I can’t tolerate that.

Things that matter

SlutWalk Singapore x Kuala Lumpur’s Facebook page says that one of its goals is ‘to stop victim-blaming in sexual assault, which is a crime that has nothing to do with what we wear or even sex.’ This reveals a dangerous misunderstanding of sexual assault.

Clothing matters. Rapists prefer women who wear clothes that are easy to remove. Rapists want to do the deed as quickly as possible, to minimise risk to themselves. The more time they spend removing clothes, the more time the victim has to defend herself and call attention to the rape-in-progress. Rapists aren’t necessarily turned on by scantily clad targets – but they will prefer targets who are easier to attack.

Sex matters. Most rapists are men who target women. Therefore, women are more at risk than men.

Such a statement betrays a shallow understanding of rape, and it shows again and again in SlutWalk’s statements and activities.

Rapists don’t care

SlutWalk says ‘We need to teach “DO NOT RAPE” instead of “do not get raped”.’ This is admirable. But SlutWalk is going the wrong way. SlutWalk’s main vehicle is a protest march, largely by young women. Members also conduct workshops, fora and meetings. This approach will not work.

A protest march is a public expression of group opinion – but rapists don’t care. They don’t see themselves as part of society. (More on that below.) Protests can’t pressure someone who won’t feel it.

Workshops, fora and meetings attract people who have a stake in the topic. Rapists do not. They won’t show up. They may know someone who attended such a workshop – so they’ll just take her and her friends off their target list, if they care. Or put them on the list, if they care that much. (Again, more below.)

Profile of Rape

SlutWalk’s fundamental problem is its ignorance of rape and rapists.

A complete dissertation on sexual assault is beyond the scope of this blog. I recommend reading this page, all the links on the main article, AND all the links on each sub-page for an overview on rape. Especially this. At the risk of oversimplification, though, there are two kinds of rapists: predatory and social.

A predatory rapist is the stereotype of a rapist. He’s portrayed jumping out of a dark corner and ambushing helpless young women. Such a person is probably antisocial – he doesn’t care about, and violates, the rights of others. There are differing estimates on the rapes caused by predatory rapists. Marc MacYoung suggests multiple figures, none of them exceeding 15%. Statistically speaking, a woman is less likely to be attacked by a predatory rapist.

Which means she is more likely to be attacked by a social rapist. A social rapist is someone known to the victim. He’s an abusive, self-centred, angry, and violent bully known to the victim. He’s an acquaintance, a friend, a lover, a husband, or a relative. The degree of probability decreases with each level of intimacy. But the amount of effort needed to recognise the threat increases. So is the effort needed to deal with them. It’s easy to close an eye or justify the same behaviour we would condemn in a complete stranger in order to keep the peace and maintain the relationship. Modern women are socially trained to smooth things over in times of interpersonal conflict. It’s not wrong, but social rapists abuse that mechanism to get away with their behaviour.

A predatory rapist isn’t moved by popular outrage. He doesn’t even see himself as part of society. A social rapist doesn’t care…and may turn on ‘his’ woman if he learns she took part in something like SlutWalk. It’s not rape to him; he’s just putting her in his place.

Victim blaming?

The heart of SlutWalk’s stance on rape is its attack on ‘victim-blaming’. SlutWalk believes that society pins all the ‘blame’ of a rape on the victim instead of the rapist. On the surface, this is only logical. A rapist committed a rape, therefore the rapist is to blame. But this is a shallow way of looking at rape – the rape probably occurred because the victim didn’t look after herself.

Predatory rapists like to ambush their targets. The key word is ambush. They wait in dark, secluded areas, and assess everybody who walk by. As soon as they see a target, they strike. Predators can be avoided by going where they can’t hide and not provoking an attack. Personal safety is beyond the scope of this blog, but for more information, there are plenty of books and websites available. I favour Marc MacYoung, Gavin De Becker, and Rory Miller. While geared towards an American audience, much of what they say applies across cultures and borders. More importantly, they make sense, and their tactics work.

Social rapists are people you interact with. To avoid being raped by them, cut them out of your life, and spread the word about them. The closer they are to you, the more difficult it is to do it. It is more difficult to ditch an acquaintance than a boss, coworker, or spouse. But cutting off potential threats in your innermost social circles is always preferable to the trauma of sexual violence, or having to inflict violence to prevent it. Preserving your health, mental, emotional and physical, outweighs the costs of removing threats. Further, potential rapists tend to fit a profile: if you know what to look for, you can take appropriate measures. They’re not that difficult to spot; they tend to be misogynistic bullies or slick charmers.

Most rapes occur because a woman took a risk, and got burned. She took a risk by walking down a dark alley, by ignoring the three young men lined up against a wall, by leaving a charming handsome stranger alone with her drink, by continuing to live with her abusive husband, and she paid the price. But these are avoidable risks. Most crimes occur this way. It’s controllable, even eliminated in some cases.

I advocate personal responsibility. It is NOT mutually exclusive with putting an end to victim blaming. But SlutWalk’s strident call to end victim blaming is fundamentally flawed: victim-blaming, or lack of it, occurs AFTER the rape has occurred. It’s a Band-aid on an open wound. I’d rather prevent the rape from happening, and that means looking after yourself.

By learning how to stay safe, and putting these theories into practice, anybody can avoid most, if not all, kinds of crime. Including and especially rape. SlutWalk doesn’t recognise that personal safety is a personal responsibility. The victim didn’t encourage someone to attack her, but she brought herself into the circumstances that allowed someone to attack her.

Sense, not just passion

SlutWalk’s focus on rape has more passion than reason. It repeats the tired slogans of ending victim-blaming without understanding criminal behaviour and personal safety. Instead of teaching women to take care of themselves, SlutWalk chose to send a message that rapists will not acknowledge. Instead of understanding rape, SlutWalk perpetuated anti-victim-blaming. Instead of standing for personal safety, it stands against rape.

SlutWalk is clearly founded on passion. But passion is not enough. Its mission statement is a collection of feel-good statements, not an attempt to address reality. Its activities call for solidarity among fellow believers instead of addressing potential and actual rapists.  As an anti-rape platform, SlutWalk is doomed.

Clarity and Responsibility

My previous post has generated a lot of ire. While I don’t mind criticism, virtually all of my detractors have misrepresented me. Apparently, my last post was a lot easier to misinterpret than I thought. I reckon part of it was my fault – I did, after all, write it the way I did, and how a person writes something influences how it is seen. This is pretty much the same way how a person acts influences how the person is seen, which I will write about later. This post is dedicated to clarifying all the points I have made – and maybe, just maybe, it will shed some more light on the situation.

1. Prevention, not damage control.

No amount of damage control can match crime prevention. I wrote the article from this perspective with a view towards answering this question: How could the crime have been prevented? The answer: the victim should have kept well away. She could choose to stay home instead of going out late at night to a strange place filled with strange men and drinking before she was of age. Crimes occur in places – to avoid crime, just don’t go where bad things happen and don’t attract the attention of criminals.

2. The criminal is responsible for the crime. The victim is responsible for pre-crime behaviour.

People can choose how to act. Before a crime happens, a victim is almost always doing, or not doing, something. Crimes always take place in some kind of context defined by time and place, possibly cultures or subcultures, and the actions that led up to the crime.

The victim in this gang assault was responsible for her behaviour. She did not explicitly invite the accused to attack her, but she did choose how she acted. She chose to meet the stranger who called her late at night. She chose to go alone to meet him, even though she had a boyfriend. She chose to go to a stranger’s flat late at night. She chose to stay on even though she did not know most of the occupants. She chose to play drinking games with them, even though it is illegal. She did not choose to invite an attack. But her choices put her in the time and place when the attacks happened.

She could have chosen to rebuff the caller. She could have chosen to stay home. She could have chosen to not go into the flat. She could have chosen to leave the flat. She could have chosen to not play the drinking game. Her choices placed her in the context in which the assault occurred, while the alternatives available to her took her out of that context. The accused could have chosen to leave her alone instead of attacking her – but they did attack her, and that attack in that context was made possible because her choices had placed her in that context. In effect, her choices set up the circumstances that made the attack possible.

Granted, there are crimes that are a lot harder to avoid. The courts also do not usually penalise pre-victim behaviour, or harp on the victim’s choices before the attack. In this case though, the victim went out of her way to meet her attackers and stayed with them for a while before the attack. This may be gregariously stupid, but it also made the attack possible, and that is why the courts need to consider her actions before the assault.

The court cannot ignore her choices. The judge must contemplate her actions, because in this case her choices placed her in the context the crime took place, and she committed a crime while doing so. The prosecution cannot afford to gloss over what she did, because the defence will definitely use her behaviour as part of the defence strategy. They all know the choices the victim could have made that would have taken her out of the context in which the crime occurred, and they also know that she freely chose to act differently. Arguably, her high risk behaviour hindered the prosecution and helped the defence. Because of that, the victim’s pre-crime behaviour becomes a factor here.

3. Criminals select targets by behaviour and perceived payoff.

Criminals do not target random people. They screen their targets before acting. Those who don’t tend to get caught very quickly. Criminals look for targets that present a high risk-reward ratio.

Let’s take a hypothetical scenario. John Tan walks into a coffeeshop and orders a cup of coffee. He loudly announces that he was just won the top prize at 4D (a popular form of lottery in Singapore). He takes out his wallet, puts the winning ticket on the table and counts his winnings. Later, he goes home. After a half hour, he’s struck in the back of the head and faints. When he wakes up, he discovers his wallet is gone.

What happened? While he was busy boasting to his friends, he failed to notice a group of young men in a corner eyeing his money and whispering amongst themselves. When he left, he didn’t realise the young men followed him, too. They hit him from the back when he wasn’t looking, grabbed his money, and got away before he could recover.

The fictional John Tan did not invite someone to rob him. But by acting the way he did, he is signalling that he is worth robbing. By flashing money around, he is telling everyone around him that he has plenty of money on him, and therefore presents a high payoff for robbers. When he left alone, he shows that he doesn’t have any friends who can interrupt a robbery. By not noticing the young men, he is showing them that he won’t see them coming. John Tan has shown that he is rich and can be attacked by surprise – and that is exactly what happens.

Most victims of crime do not normally invite people to attack them. But most criminals do not care about invitations. They care about behaviours, and if a potential target behaves in a way that meets their internal criteria, they are more likely to act against the target. Yes, the criminal can always choose not to act – but expecting a criminal to choose to not act if you meet his criteria is wishful thinking. Crimes happen every day. That means many criminals choose to act, instead of choosing to not act.

The victim in the case I’m discussing sent a lot of signals which said she was an easy target, was easy, and maybe even both. Common sense says that a young woman should not meet a strange man late at night for supper. Common sense says that a young woman should not enter a flat late at night when she doesn’t know most of the occupants and when she has a boyfriend. Common sense and the law say that an underage young woman should not play drinking games, especially when in a group of strange young men. By ‘common sense’ I mean what most women would do to protect themselves from harm or unwanted sexual attention, by not acting in ways that signal target availability. The way she acted sent signals to criminals, especially rapists and would-be rapists, that she is sexually available and is an easy target. That makes her more vulnerable to unwanted attention. People who act in ways that make them vulnerable tend to get attacked more often, and their pre-crime behaviour could muddle the case their attackers.

4. The accused is as guilty as the courts can prove.

Courts administer justice. Retribution may be a part of justice, but is not the overriding principle of justice – even and especially in the field of criminal justice. To prevent abuses of power, wrongful convictions, and disproportionate punishment, the prosecution needs to prove that the defendant is guilty, what he is guilty of, and how liable is he for the crime. Sometimes, this may mean that the defendant is punished for a lesser crime. This may be undesirable, but the alternative could very well be punishing a criminal for a crime more serious than what he has really done, or punishing an innocent person.

In the previous article, I showed how difficult it could have been for the prosecution to definitively prove rape. In rape cases, one of the criteria is that the prosecution must show where the line between consent and non-consent is crossed. The prosecutor could not do that very easily. All he (I’m assuming the prosecutor was a man) had to go on was the testimonies of the victim and the defendants. The victim was drunk at the time, making her testimony suspect. Two of the defendants (Firdaus and Shafie) said she did not give consent, but two more (Sadruddin and Rishi) said that she showed no sign of being unwilling. They were probably under the influence of alcohol too at that time; this combination of contradiction and alcohol has compromised their testimonies. The gynaecologist said she had found no ‘obvious clinical signs’ of injury, so the prosecutor has no definitive proof that there was a sexual assault. The victim herself engaged in high risk behaviour, including underage drinking (which is punishable by law) and meeting men she did not know to play drinking games, which prevents the prosecution from portraying her as an innocent victim before the court. The courts care about consistency and proof, of which there was precious little available for the prosecutor.

The victim’s behaviour harmed the prosecution’s case. Most young women do not go out alone late at night after receiving a phone call from a stranger who lied to her, enter a flat full of strange men, stay on even though the stranger who called her admitted that he had called her, and play drinking games with these strange men. Most young women don’t consent to have sex with a complete stranger – and the victim did. This sort of behaviour is usually associated with women of looser inhibitions. The prosecutor would find it very difficult to show that she is indeed an innocent victim in court, especially since she claimed to have drank when she was underage. The defence lawyers can also say that their clients, who were inebriated at the time, thought that she was willing to have sex with all of them because of her behaviour and the connotations associated with her behaviour. The defendants agreed to have sex with any girl who showed up – but there is no evidence that they agreed to rape any girl who showed up. They could have agreed to pressure her into giving consent to have sex, but not taking her by force. The defendants did not attack her immediately and did withdraw after they noticed (or thought?) that she was bleeding, which tends to support this argument. It may not be a perfect argument or an impenetrable defence, but in light of the victim’s behaviour the judge has to take this into consideration.

This does not mean that the defendants are any less liable for what they have done. But it does mean that it is harder for the prosecution to prove what they are liable for, and the courts can only punish a criminal to the extent of what the prosecution can prove. If a man is found guilty of manslaughter, he cannot be punished for the more serious crime of murder if the prosecution can prove manslaughter but not murder – even if the man really did commit murder. In this case, the defendants have been found guilty of aggravated outrage of modesty, but as the prosecution did not prove that they had raped the victim, the courts can only punish them for outrage of modesty and not rape.

5. Victim blaming versus responsibility

I have been accused of victim blaming. But what is that, anyway?

The English language is very fluid. Part of this fluidity is that different words have different meanings depending on the context. ‘reading’ can mean what you’re doing now, a personal interpretation of a text, the precise form of a particular passage of a text, or even a formal presentation of a bill in a parliament. According to the dictionary I’m using, the Reader’s Digest Universal Dictionary, ‘blame’ and ‘responsibility’ have a lot of meanings. In this context, though, to blame someone is to declare that that person was responsible for something. Responsibility, in turn, is being the cause of something.

If represented on a Venn diagram, ‘blame’ intersects with ‘responsibility’, but is not the same as responsibility. A person can blame someone else when that person is not responsible for an act, and the person who may be responsible for something may not be the one who is blamed for it. The trouble is sorting out the two. Further complicating things is that the blame attached to someone does not necessarily reflect how responsible that person really is for something.

In this article, and in the previous one, I have sought to determine responsibility. The criminals were responsible for their deeds. That, I think, goes without saying – the biggest problem here is what the courts can prove.

The court was responsible for trying the case. The prosecution was responsible for proving the case against the accused, hindered by compromised and contradictory testimonies, lack of evidence, and the victim’s high risk behaviour. The defence was responsible for providing a legal defence for the accused, helped by the same factors mentioned above. The judge was responsible for interpreting the law to the case, by considering the arguments of the prosecution and the defence, and the factors explained above. The judge laid down a conviction of aggravated outrage of modesty, and this may be because the prosecution could not easily prove rape. The accused might have raped the victim – but if the prosecution cannot prove it, judge cannot sentence them for rape. To do otherwise would set up dangerous legal precedents and undermine the principles of justice.

The victim was responsible for the choices she had made prior to the attack. She chose to act in a way that is termed ‘high risk behaviour’, as her actions can be interpreted as sexual promiscuity and crime vulnerability. Her choices put her in contact with the attackers for a period of time, placing her in the context in which the attack occurred. Her actions could have influenced the trial, and the sentence that was handed down. She also chose to break the law by drinking when she was still underage, which could have had an effect on the trial, too. This is what she was responsible for, and what I had hoped to demonstrate.

Is this victim blaming? Is seeking to understand and demonstrate how the courts could have acted and what the victim did and could have done ‘victim blaming’? If it were, I hope I have proportioned responsibility as exactly I could have given the information I could dig up – after all, to blame is to hold responsible (Reader’s Digest Universal Dictionary). Among many, many other meanings.

6. AWARE and ‘rape agenda’

Marc MacYoung, the expert I consulted for my last post, advised me to look into a possible link here. Based on his experiences in America, he thinks that advocacy groups in America are seeking to make money out of spreading a so-called ‘rape agenda’ to make money, and might have thought that this hold true for Singapore. I have found that there is no evidence to suggest that the Association of Women for Action and Research is out to spread a rape agenda, as examined in my previous post.

I chose to write about the courts and the victim because they were underreported and underanalysed. The news media and feminist advocates have written at length about the criminal’s behaviour, and I saw no need to add on to what they have said. Discussion about the courts and the victim’s behaviour was severely lacking in comparison. Local personal safety experts, if any, have said nothing about this incident in public. So I wrote about the courts and the victim to make up for this deficiency, and because personal safety is one of the many things I am interested in.

I won’t even try to talk about what I have not said, what I have not done, what I do not believe in, the attitudes I do not hold towards women, or what I do not think about criminals and society. I honestly hope that, this time, people will finally understand what I’ve written about.

I would like to thank Magical Chicken at Barnyard Chorus for publicising my previous article, my blog, and for thinking so highly of me, going so far as to say I am Magical Chicken’s ‘favourite Rational Male Blogger’ and to actually write about what I have said previously. Magical Chicken has referred more viewers to me on this issue than any other single source, and I am grateful to Magical Chicken for helping to raise my online profile. May you live long and prosper.

Responsibility AWAREness

About two weeks ago, the Association of Women for Action and Research (AWARE) posted this article. The sheer vitriol in the text turned me off immediately, and I thought nothing more about it. Later, I saw my contacts on Facebook reproducing the link to the article. I re-read the article, and felt that something was off. Approaching American self-defence expert Marc MacYoung (again on Facebook), I held a brief discussion with him about the article, and concluded that I had to comment on this article. (You can find the full discussion here.)

The author has written a very messy piece. There is no clear line of logic or argument. From what I understand, the author is furious that the prosecutor pushed for ‘reduced charges’ (aggravated outrage of modesty instead of rape), and attributes this to an unspecified ‘we’ putting a kind of ‘blame’ on the victim. This line of thinking is both fallacious and extremely dangerous.

Rape is a very complex crime. The layman definition is that the perpetrator(s) had sex with the victim without the latter’s consent. However, in a court of law, the prosecution must decisively prove that the victim did not give consent prior to the act. The prosecutor’s job becomes exponentially more difficult when alcohol and high risk behaviour comes into play.

Alcohol makes crime more complicated. It lowers inhibitions, impairs judgment, and compromises memory. In this case, everyone involved had played a drinking game prior to the assault. The victim had sex with someone after the game and before the crime. To someone under the influence of alcohol, the victim’s behaviour could be interpreted as a signal of sexual availability. This effect could be pronounced because the members of the group could have pressured each other towards that interpretation (assuming that had happened).

Here, the woman claims that she did not agree to have sex with the others. However, it is simply the word of one woman against five others — all of whom were under the influence of alcohol. it is very difficult, if not impossible, to clearly prove in a court of law when the line between consensual and non-consensual sex was crossed. The victim said she consented to having sex with one guy, but she did so after being pressured and drinking heavily. The accused might have said that they did not attain consent, and this might have been true, but the prosecution cannot prove the veracity of this statement. The accused could have said that as an expression of guilt and remorse, and not necessarily as a factual recount — or perhaps the accused thought that they did not seek consent, and had convinced themselves that the woman did not give consent. A good defence lawyer, seizing upon alcohol, would probably be able to muddy the waters and prevent the prosecution from using this to decisively prove a rape case.

I cannot say for certain what the prosecutor thought. But I think the prosecutor believed that it’s easier to prove a case of aggravated outrage of modesty than rape here. Further complicating matters are other facts:

1. There was no sign of sexual assault. Rape is a form of sexual assault. Without signs of sexual assault, it is hard to prove a rape case.

2. The perpetrators stopped when she started to bleed. This is not typical behaviour for rapists; this calls into question their intent to carry out their act, and maybe (but I do not know) mitigates their actions.

3. The victim’s boyfriend called the police. The victim had a boyfriend. But by choosing to engage in what she did, she is showing to the court that she lacks a sense of responsibility.

Robin Rheaume says that ‘we’ are blaming the victim. That is not true. There is a distinct difference between ‘blame’ and ‘responsibility’. To blame someone is to find fault with someone. To be responsible is to take on an obligation. Responsibility is a part of blame, but blame is not a part of responsibility.

Here, the woman failed to take responsibility for her actions. She deliberately engaged in high-risk behaviour. To declare ‘The failure of a woman to adequately assess the risk of attack does not mean that she caused what happens and should take blame for it’ is to declare that a drink driver should not take responsibility for running over a pedestrian. It is simply absurd to think that one can divorce one’s action from the consequences of that action. Every action has consequences; the woman has to take responsibility has to take actions. To not do so is both foolish and dangerous.

The woman engaged in high risk behaviour. An example of such behaviour is for a young woman to go alone late at night to a place with plenty of strange young men and alcohol. Another is for a single young woman to play drinking games in a private place with young men unknown to her. Such behaviour puts her at a very high risk of being robbed, raped, and/or killed. This whole case could have been avoided had the victim not showed up, left the moment she realised she didn’t know most of the people at the gathering, or went home before the drinking became serious. She took a risk, and she got burned.

Ordinary and sober people do not normally commit crimes. An ordinary citizen who sees an unguarded purse sees someone else’s property. A thief sees free money. In this case, hormonally charged young men under the influence of alcohol could have interpreted her behaviour as that of sexual availability, or at least an opportunity for sexual activity. This, or a permutation thereof, could have occurred in this case.

The judge, prosecution, and defence know this. It will be very difficult in this case to prove a case of gang rape. The judge may say that it is ‘factually rape’, but that is his opinion, and his opinion does not and cannot count. What counts in a court of law is proof, and as shown above, there is no clear proof that rape had indeed occurred. Had the judge acted on his opinion, he would have perverted this principle of justice.

This is a very messy case all around. It is all the more tragic because it could have been prevented. Had the woman not showed up, all of this could not have occurred — and that is why she is not totally absolved of responsibility for what happened to her.


I would like to highlight something MacYoung said in the discussion:

[I]t is the opinion of myself and many other personal safety experts that many of these advocacy groups are promoting ideas that guarantee they always have a client base. With the information they give about a woman’s ‘rights’ to behave in dangerous and stupid ways, they are guaranteeing there will be a never-ending supply of rape victims for them to ‘help.’

…[L]ook into the funding that AWARE Singapore is getting and their political/legal lobbying and activities. The big money isn’t in the front lines actually helping women who were raped (Here in the States, most of the front line people are volunteers). The big money is in administration, ‘education’ fees, lobbying, medical and psychological funding.

MacYoung’s opinion might be a valid one. I know MacYoung doesn’t think highly of American groups similar to AWARE. But American advocacy groups operate differently from AWARE.

In its Constitution, AWARE states it shall not ‘indulge in any political activity’. According to its 2008 financial statement, AWARE had a deficit of $5,975 in 2007, and a surplus of $19,934 in 2008. Net current assets for 2007 were worth $208,365, and $407,699 in 2008. In 2009, AWARE had a deficit of $9,407, with net current assets worth $398292.

I guess it’s safe to rule out lobbying from the agenda — AWARE’s constitution prohibits political activity. Much of AWARE’s funding comes from donations and subscriptions. The ‘big money’ MacYoung refers to would fall under ‘other income’ in the financial statement, in addition to other revenue like sales from its online store. In 2008, AWARE made $33,596, and in 2009 it made $18,359. These figures are significantly less than donations ($319,300 in 2009, $328,207 in 2008) or fund raising activities ($72,683 in 2009, $43,584 in 2008’s flag day).

Given that AWARE cannot lobby and makes more money from donations and other fund raising activities than ‘other income’, it’s safe to say that AWARE is not out to spread a ‘rape agenda’ to guarantee a steady stream of income from activities that would make big money in America. However, I cannot as yet disprove the notion that AWARE is deliberately spreading a rape agenda to attract more support and donors.

Still, AWARE does a lot than just talk about rape. If one wants to spread a rape agenda, one would fixate on rape, which AWARE is not doing. AWARE discusses everything from financial knowledge to secularism; rape is just one facet of many. I can’t see a rape agenda here, at least for now.

In light of what I have seen so far, I think Rheaume was simply expressing an opinion based on illogic, and nobody at AWARE caught it. Still, the article should have been fact-checked, and its opinions compared to those of recognised self-defence experts. If there were an editor, that person failed. If there were no editors, there should have been one.

I guess MacYoung got this wrong here, but his experience is mostly limited to America. I wish there was someone like MacYoung in Singapore, someone who is extremely knowledgeable and experienced with self defence and the law, but I’m not going to hold my breath, and I won’t hold out for him. Nobody should.

The author thanks Marc MacYoung for permission to use his material and the discussion on Facebook for this post.