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Vesna P. Jacob’s book, Fit to Fight is an invaluable resource for women who want to feel safer by knowing how they can defend themselves.
Review by Sandhya Renukamba
This past year, 2013, has been a revolutionary year, of sorts. Violence against women has not ceased or decreased – far from it. We no longer behave like ostriches about the situation, though, and there is an increasing awareness and conversation about the issue. After the Nirbhaya incident of December 2012, that affected the collective psyche of the nation, the issue has come out of the closet of taboo subjects. People are willing to concede that a problem exists, that it has always existed. Reporting of incidents has increased. There is a better understanding of the ‘why’ of these incidents – an acknowledgement, even if grudging, yet, that the victim never ‘asks for it’. There is pressure on lawmakers and the enforcers of these laws to work together towards a safer world. It is a long, long road to this world, and many obstacles, but at least there has been a beginning. While this has been happening, those who could be victimized also need to do their bit to stay safe. Risk management. We can no longer afford to sit tight while we expect things to get better. We need to get fit to fight.
Before anyone can shout ‘victim blaming’, the author makes clear in an introductory chapter that in no way does she endorse the view that any attack might somehow be the victim’s fault. Learning to defend oneself and fight back if required, is a vital life skill in today’s world. A bit like vaccination. Pre-empt, prepare, avoid, fight, and heal. Not just fighting back physically, there is the all-important mental fitness, awareness of one’s surroundings, being on one’s guard at all times, that is stressed upon. There are practical tips that can help anyone – even a person who is not really physically fit. There is a detailed discussion about how any ordinary situation – at home or outside it – can become threatening, and how to deal with it. Psychological preparedness, awareness of danger, basic fitness routines, martial arts and fighting techniques that can be easily mastered; the book deals with all this. There is also a discussion on what if unfortunately, an attack does occur and how to deal with the trauma after, medical and legal actions to be taken, helplines and NGOs that can be of use in case required, and healing – both physically and mentally. Most important, there is a comprehensive list of all related laws, lucidly explained for a layperson, that can be invaluable in case of an incident.
The one part that stayed with me after reading the book is where the author states that in case of an attack, it is important to decide if one should fight back or not, as it completely depends upon the individual set of circumstances what the outcome might be – the vital thing is to stay alive. Taking this decision this would make one feel less of a victim, less helpless, no matter what actually happens.
The author, Vesna P. Jacob, is a New Delhi based fitness expert originally from Bosnia, is herself a survivor of a molestation when she was a teen, and has written this book as her way of taking action. It could be an invaluable resource for not only the women of India, but also for anyone who could find themselves a victim of violence. One must be careful not to develop a slightly heightened sense of paranoia, though, looking at anyone and any situation, no matter however innocuous, through a lens of suspicion, something that lingers awhile after reading the book.
Publishers: Random House
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In her role as the Senior Editor & Community Manager at Women's Web, Sandhya
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