Self Defence

A woman in a business suit holding her hand up to the camera.
Written by Helen Menzies,

Following on from Emily’s previous article on Moderator Safety, as promised she signed the qualitative team up for a Self Defence training course.

This was probably one of the most important training courses we could go on, not just because we are qualitative researchers going into strangers’ homes but because you never know what life is going to throw at you.

The course took place at a local gym and we arrived filled with a mixture of excitement and trepidation. To be honest we were pretty revved up to learn some karate kicks and ninja moves, so I must confess to feeling slightly disappointed to walk in and find a PowerPoint presentation projected on the wall. The instructor reassured us the course would combine theory and practical and in fact we learnt a lot from both elements.

In the theory section we explored how to assess a situation and the importance of trusting your instincts. As Emily pointed out in her article, if something doesn’t feel right remove yourself from the situation as quickly as possible because nothing matters more than your safety. We discussed some of the things we can put in place when out and about on fieldwork e.g. sitting close to the door in a respondent’s home, always parking on the main road not a driveway and how to de-escalate a confrontational situation.

It’s not just about in-home situations either. It’s important to think ahead about the area you are visiting and how you will get safely between the interviews, ideally booking taxis in advance if you don’t have your own car.

We also looked at the law on self-defence and the use of ‘reasonable force’, which can be such a grey area. Ultimately you would need to prove your actions were proportional and necessary in the circumstances.

Then things got physical. We paired up to look at body language, verbal control and ultimately hands-on techniques. We started out shy but we soon got into the swing of things (especially Jo who waited until then to mention she studied Jiu Jitsu for several years!).

Of course we sincerely hope we never have to use the physical techniques we learnt on the course but it has certainly boosted our confidence and made us think even more carefully about the role of moderator safety.

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