Sexual Assault and Super Heroes

April 01, 2019

Sexual Assault and Super Heroes


I was recently discussing the comic book hero industry with my husband. Being the avid comic book collector that he is, I knew I could count on an intelligent explanation for my one burning question. I saw a preview of the recent movie for Captain Marvel. What struck me was that the hero was being portrayed as a woman. I said, “I thought Captain Marvel was a guy. Wasn’t there a show in the 70s where a guy said Shazam and he turned into Captain Marvel?” My husband replied, “Yes, that is true”. I pressured further, “I don’t get it, what happened?” To which he replied, “Well it’s complicated”. Then he tried to explain the technical rights between DC and Marvel comics and how the once affiliated relationship between Captain Marvel and Shazam was eventually separated. Even more confused, I replied “So Captain Marvel is essentially genderless?” And as fate would have it, my husband said “Yes….theoretically”. Wow…this was some serious TMI if ever heard it. I never expected such an intellectual discussion about what I thought was a simple question about a comic book hero!

Over the past few years there’s been a dramatic shift in the Hollywood film industry. More women are being cast in the leading heroic roles. More women are leading the charge in high octane fight scenes.   More women are making smash hit movies with these elements--and Hollywood is cashing in! Just look at the box office blockbuster hit movie “Wonder Woman”. Therefore, it’s no surprise that Hollywood cast the lead for Captain Marvel as a woman. To borrow a line from the popular 1976 movie “Network” …. more women are throwing open the windows and shouting, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not gonna take it anymore!” The increase in these types of roles for women, I believe, is inspiring more women to turn their fear into power. You see it everywhere. More women than ever before are enrolling in sports (once dominated by men) like kickboxing, wrestling, MMA, etc.

So, you might ask, “What does this have to do with Sexual Assault Awareness Month? My answer…” EVERYTHING.” It doesn’t take a genius to see that sexual assault is still a big problem in society. Our media focuses predominately on the bad news in our culture, which leads to a feeling of “learned helplessness”. We become conditioned to believe that we are all sitting ducks. Very rarely do we ever hear success stories of women thwarting attacks. Inspirational stories like this happen every day, we just don’t hear about them because there’s not enough carnage. My goal in this latest blog post is to point out the positives and salute the women who are fighting on the front lines to empower others as well as those women who have successfully fought the front lines to escape and/or survived sexual assault—and there are LOTS of them!

I once taught a woman who fought off her attacker with a can of tuna! She didn’t have any prior knowledge of formal training skills. She just used what she had available in the moment and refused to stop beating the guy with it until he let her go! Another woman, prior to me teaching her, had been gang raped by a dozen guys in a church bathroom! She heroically survived the horrible ordeal and went on to live a successful life despite what happened. Remember, it’s not the size of woman, rather, the size of the fight within the woman that matters most! Speaking of movies, I’m going to get my popcorn now for Captain Marvel.  I am woman…. hear me ROAR!!



Rachel Cheeseman is a 2nd degree black belt and has studied the martial arts for the past 28 years.  She founded Street Smart Self Defense Academy in Erie, PA 17 years ago to empower women, due to the rape of her sister in her off-campus college apartment. She is a certified instructor for the national full-contact self-defense program called “Model Mugging” and a certified instructor for the MUNIO Self Defense Workshops. Rachel is also a member of and former seminar instructor for the American Women’s Self Defense Association, and she has been inducted into the USA Martial Arts Hall of Fame, Action Martial Arts Magazine Hall of Honors and the World Karate Union Hall of Fame.

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