This past weekend I participated in a free self-defense class that was organized by our local police department. One hundred and fifty women showed up for the class, which for our community, is a huge turnout. We learned lots of tips and self-defense moves that will help us to survive, God forbid, if we are ever in a dangerous situation. Most importantly, we learned that as women, we are allowed to set boundaries; we are allowed to speak loudly and say NO and fight back with everything we have, and I think that we all left feeling a bit more empowered.
One of the reasons that I attended the class is because as a woman, I often find myself fearful when I am home alone, or when I’m out walking, or even when I’m in a deserted parking lot. I’m sure the constant coverage of the recent disappearance of Mollie Tibbetts has also made me feel more cautious and fearful. Although I’m not running anymore, when I would go out for a run, I would try to be on high alert, because I believe that things can happen even in a small community where people often leave their doors unlocked and everyone knows everyone.
But there is another reason why I find myself on constant high alert: when I was in my 20’s, I was sexually assaulted. Without going into a lot of details, I was attacked by a man who broke into our apartment in the middle of the night when I was home alone. It turned out to be one of the neighbors. He was naked from the waist down and had a blunt object to use as a weapon. He jumped on top of me and started hitting me on the head with the weapon. Somehow I was able to fight him off, talk to him, and he left before I was seriously hurt or raped. I called the police and he was arrested.
I still can’t believe how lucky I was. Physically, I escaped any serious physical harm, but mentally? I was traumatized. I suffered from PTSD. I had to go to therapy and take medication because I had nightmares, couldn’t sleep, and was afraid to be alone. I was in a constant state of fear and anxiety, which lasted for a long period of time.
It took a long time, but I was able to get past my fear, although after a terrifying experience like that, I was deeply scarred emotionally and I will always have those scars. They will always be a part of me. But in today’s dangerous times, I refuse to give into fear. It took me a long time to get back my emotional health and I’m not going back to that place of fear.
What saved me that awful night? The grace of God, first and foremost, but looking back now, it was my courage and willingness to fight back. I was loud, forceful, and I was determined to not go down without a fight. Survival mode kicked in. Although I couldn’t see it then, and not for a long time afterwards, I was brave and strong.
Whether or not to talk about this experience has been on my mind for quite some time. I’m not looking for pity or attention. But I decided to write this post in hopes that it might help empower other women. We can defend ourselves. We can fight back. We don’t always have to be nice and polite, especially if someone is making us feel uncomfortable. We can set boundaries; we can be loud and say no. Most importantly, we can look out for each other. Don’t be silent. We’re in this fight together, as women, and as human beings.
I’d like to share a few important lessons that I took with me from the self-defense class:
- Don’t be afraid to set boundaries. If a man is touching you, invading your personal space, and making you uncomfortable in any way, say “STOP!” If a strange man is approaching you, and you feel threatened, get in a defensive position and yell, “GET BACK!” If his intentions were innocent, he will turn around, walk away and probably think you’re crazy, but so what? If his intentions are not good and he continues to approach you, you are already in a defensive position and are ready to fight.
- Be aware of your surroundings. Stay off of your phone, keep your head up, look around, notice the people, the vehicles, the buildings, and the landscape around you. Women who are not paying attention to their surroundings are more likely to be attacked because they have no idea it’s coming and their guard is down. Before you get in your vehicle, look around, look inside, and then lock the door when you get inside your car.
- Pay attention to other women around you. If you notice a woman who may be in a threatening situation or in danger, call the police. Even if it turns out to be nothing, we were strongly reassured by the police officers at the class that they would rather come to a call that turns out to be nothing than have to come to a call where a woman has been hurt or abducted.
- When you are fighting someone off, there are no rules. Bite, kick, scratch, and punch. Do whatever it takes. Go for the most vulnerable areas: the groin, the throat, and the nose. And the whole time you are fighting, scream and yell as loud as you can!
- Last, but not least, if you’re in a dangerous situation and you have a chance to run away, RUN! Don’t try to be a badass and stick around to try and fight to prove how tough you are. The key is to survive the situation! Be smart. Fight enough to get away and then run and scream for help.
Knowing these tips makes me feel more empowered. Knowing that I’m a survivor makes me feel empowered as well. I hope that sharing these tips will make you feel empowered, too.