On New Year’s Eve in Cologne, Germany 20-40 men swarmed a group of women and attacked them. Tearing at their clothes, groping them, and robbing them, these men’s clear intention was to antagonize a group of women.

German police were criticized for the way they handled the seemingly well-coordinated assaults and the head of police actually stepped down in response to the sense of public mistrust.

The men were described as having been of North African or Middle Eastern origin, sparking a large debate in Europe about the refugee crisis. More than 500 related attacks were reported in Cologne alone.

The political mess of these occurrences aside, I think it is important to look at what this was in its most basal form, an attack on women.

Whether it was intended to be an attack on Western women specifically is uncertain at this time, though very plausible, but I’d like to leave the geographic element of this attack aside for the moment.

Years ago, my friends died in an avalanche. It was a tragedy and a highly traumatic experience. On the phone with my father while I was in Calgary for the funerals, my dad said to me “this is why you need to know self-defense.” I laughed at my father at the time and said “why, so I can fight the avalanche that is coming towards me?” I was pissed, my best friend had just died. But my father was right. Unpredictable events are just about the only thing we can count on, and as women we need to be prepared for these types of events.

I took Karate, Taekwondo and Krav Maga when I was a kid and teenager, and luckily the techniques stuck with me, saving me in a few crucial moments of my life. Krav Maga taught me specifically how to take down a guy 6 ft’ or over, which I did successfully when a friend told me I couldn’t take him down on a beach in Israel. I’ve been put into enough violent situations pursuing my path as a human rights activist and I can tell you this, women are a target.

Despite the fact that my father’s advice at 16 may have seemed out of place, I’m going to pass the message forward to you now: ladies, we need to know how to protect ourselves.

In my first book Gibberish, at the end of my free-flow novel I send a message to women to get physically strong, something that I myself sometimes overlook, but our need to be strong and capable of protecting ourselves is imperative. And if the attacks in Cologne don’t illustrate at least that, then I can just throw my towel in as a political scientist.

The group of men collapsed on the women much like an avalanche would, except this was organized. By men, not mother nature. Now I’m not saying that some of these women didn’t fight back if they even could in that moment, but we need to equip ourselves with the tools to be able to handle that type of situation so that men with aggression towards women think twice about attacking a woman.

While I hate putting the pressure on women to do something about this when the onus should obviously be on men simply not to attack, that’s not the world we live in now, is it? Women get raped in the Congo all the time, and domestic violence is rampant all across North American homes. There are certain warning signs we should pay attention to, because as a demographic, we are the most highly targeted adult population. We need to recognize that identification in society so that we can do something about it.

Learn how to defend yourself, ladies. The world we live in is hella different from even just 5 years ago and is still evolving. As the societal pillars that surround us slowly change, we can help push it in a positive direction by simply learning self-defense and becoming more confident in this dangerous world.

I hate to put it like that, but how can we expect anything to change if we don’t take a realist approach to feminist advancement?

Stay safe.

– Arielle London