Overcoming helplessness and learning self-empowerment is an obstacle most of us who have suffered from rape or physical violence have. Within our encounter the helplessness forced on us leaves a devastating brand and we are left to re-embrace our personal power and move forward with our lives. I hope my story and my self-defense tips will provide encouragement on your road to personal empowerment.
When I was ten years old, I was abducted and raped. When the doctor finished my exam and confirmed my rape for the police, he told my parents not to worry. I was young and resilient, and with time, I would recover. I had joined the sorority of the one in three women yearly who endure the trauma of physical and/or sexual violence. My parents brought me home believing the ravages of my rape would eventually dissipate and I would return to the individual I was prior to the violence.
I was a strong-willed child and I survived. But, like so many survivors, the insidious thread of helplessness and shame became interwoven within the tapestry of my personality. I perceived threats in non-threatening situations, and my amygdala raged out of control sending cortisol searing through my brain, my heart pounding with false alarms of danger. I lived my life in a state of perpetual hyper-vigilance.
Years later, when I became a parent, the insomnia and nightmares of my lost childhood transformed. My children became depicted in my haunted dreams, suffering kidnappings and hideous abuses, alone and without help. After a turbulent exhausting night, I confided in a friend. Her look of compassion embraced me when she asked me if I had ever been raped. I was surprised by her question. Until that moment I believed most parents suffered from the same anxieties and fears I did.
Thanks to her, I sought counseling. My rape had left its fingerprints within my mind. I was diagnosed with a chronic form of PTSD and began the long road of recovery. During my therapy, I was encouraged to search for ways to overcome my sense of helplessness. I started taking self-defense classes and I became an avid martial artist. I have since earned black belts in two different styles of karate and I teach women’s self-defense classes and seminars. I believe in self-awareness, self- empowerment, and self-protection. I hope to give these simple self-defense and self-awareness tools you. Below are ten simple steps women can take to protect themselves from assault.
- Be aware of your surroundings. Perpetrators target women who are distracted. Look around and notice who is next to you. Stay off your cellphone when entering or exiting your car or house.
- Keep your doors locked when you are home. 50% of all sexual assault and rapes are reported within a one-mile radius of the victim’s home or in their home.
- Don’t get into an elevator with someone you don’t know AND feel uncomfortable with. Wait for the next elevator. If you feel the need you can politely tell them you are waiting for your husband or boyfriend.
- Don’t park next to vans or large vehicles that you can easily be pulled into.
- Walk in the center of lanes when in garages, shopping malls and parking lots. Stay away from doorways, stairwells, and parked cars.
- Do not use your key fob to locate your car. Wait till you get to your car before unlocking the door. Perpetrators DO target their victims and may climb into the backseat of your car before you reach it.
- If someone approaches you make eye contact. Predators do not like to be seen.
- If someone becomes too close put your hands up and loudly state, “Stop!” You want to draw attention of other individuals to you. Your voice is your number one weapon. Use it. Be loud and be firm. Continue using your voice until you feel safe.
- If someone grabs you slam your fingernails into their eyes and rake down their faces while screaming stop or back off as loud as you can. Use words. Eyes are the first target, using the palm of your hand and hitting their nose is the second, punching their throat is the third, and a knee to the groin is the fourth target area.
- Under any circumstances DO NOT go with a predator. Do not believe your submission will save you. Yell, scream, scratch, bite, hit, kick, and struggle to get away.
Practicing these tips will increase your feeling of safety and increase your chances of avoiding or fending off a potential assault. Remember, if you have suffered a rape or sexual assault it is important to receive counseling to improve your chances of living a long and healthy life.