It's Not Okay

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Defining sexual harassment/cat-calling, in short, is an unwanted comment or action done in a sexual nature. Unwanted.

I have never met a single person who has favorably desired to be honked at by a drive-by car and hear words describing their body parts. It is unwanted.

Describing sexual positions, body parts, asking for sex, refusing to give up if a person declines giving you their phone number/says no to a date, and many other examples are absolutely not okay.

It is not okay to get mad at a person if you are rejected for your sexual advances. No means no and silence is not consent.

Recognition of this should be universal, but it is not. Everyday people are dealing with sexual harassment in our city. We must engage our community to begin discussions. Each of our neighborhoods in the Metro St. Louis area are different, and it will take community leaders willing to take a stand to create a sustainable difference.

Are you that person?

Be an ambassador of your neighborhood. We need leaders that will take the charge. Even if you just simply talk to people about this situation. Speaking out allows others to realize they are not alone, someone is in their corner willing to tackle the negative ideas in our society, and gives people the opportunity to consider a new way of thinking.

Will you join me? 

5 Ways to Gain Better Awareness of Your Surroundings

 

This list is by no means an attempt to create paranoia. We should live our lives everyday with joy and peace as much as possible, yet that does not advocate ignorance to the actions done by those who wish to steal our peace. As my instructor often states, we should be "casually observant" - not full of fear. Our goal is to bring awareness, and create an atmosphere of safety for ourselves, families, and friends.

It is also not to pretend that we can prevent all sexual harassment. None of these will keep someone from shouting obscene words at you. Nothing here is meant to place blame on someone being harassed. It could, however, help keep a harassment situation from becoming a case of assault. Everything written below are good rules to follow - no matter if you are trying to prevent sexual assault, a carjacking, or mugging.

I hope you enjoy reading my 5 ways to gain better awareness of your surroundings.

1. Putting Your Cellphone Away

We have all done it, or at the very least have observed people with their necks crooked down being absorbed by their cellphone. It's easy to get caught up in the latest Facebook post, checking your e-mails, or whatever it is that keeps you from knowing who or what is around. You're not the only one noticing this cultural habit. Others are banking that you won't notice when they approach to sexually harass or assault you. Put the cellphone away when you are out in public. If you must check it, make sure to raise your head frequently to see what is going on. A cellphone doesn't have to be a black hole for your attention.

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2. Listening To Your Surroundings - Not Your Music/Podcast/Audiobook

This one is even difficult for me to do. I take the public transportation system which can lead to long, boring rides to and from work. Unfortunately, I've also noticed that my inability to hear what is going on has been taken advantage of several times by sexual harassers. I've caught the tail-end of crude comments thrown at me as I've sat on the bus, waited at bus stops, and even when walking down the side-walk. If someone would have grabbed me from behind, it would have been extremely difficult to know they were there until it was too late. Yes, this goes for joggers and runners too.

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3. Observing What Is Around You While Entering/Exiting Your Home or Car

Look - and look again. It kills me to see people leave their car door wide open for longer than necessary, fiddling with their purse before getting in or out of their car, not paying attention to who is potentially around them when carrying groceries into their home, and so on. You're at your most vulnerable in these moments. Can you imagine how easy it is to approach a person with their arms full of heavy bags while struggling to place the key inside of a door?

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4. Looking Behind Yourself Periodically

This is worth doing no matter where you are at, but especially while walking or jogging. We can become so focused on what is in front of us that we fail to pay attention to who could come up from behind. Try it out for a few days. You'll end up shocked how much more you notice. It doesn't mean that you have to look back every two seconds, but to do it once in a while. Maybe after a couple of blocks. As it becomes more of a habit, you'll see how often you need to do it. Those with hearing issues may want or need to practice this more often than others.

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5. Sitting/Standing With Your Back Against a Wall - Not Exposed

Wow, it makes a difference! You're able to see all the interactions in front of you without the wonder of what is going on outside of your visibility. This isn't a normal habit for me, but when my instructor spoke about it in a recent class, it made sense to begin implementing it. Besides, it's fun to people-watch!

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Are there any habits that you picked up that are helpful in bringing awareness? Did anything come to mind to change in your life to make you less vulnerable?  Let me know! I'd love to know your thoughts.

 

11 Signs of a Great Self Defense Class

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I am a huge advocate for both women and men to take self-defense courses. Not only do they help you learn at least the basics of protecting yourself, they also teach you self-confidence.

Self-confidence can empower an individual to no longer accept inappropriate behavior from others, especially, sexual harassment/assault.

Personally, it took me a long time to feel worthy enough to stand up and say "no" to harassers and abusers. My self defense course gave me back my voice. It made me no longer afraid to stand up to people who lack respect for my boundaries.

If you have never been to a self defense class before, you will want to make sure the studio/school you attend demonstrates these 11 signs of a great self defense class!

1. They are open to all ages, genders, and people with varied abilities. This can show they probably have a well-rounded practice and lack discrimination to who attends.

2. The teacher does not avoid or become uncomfortable when you share your life story or reason for being there. Especially, if it is a trauma related situation.

3. Training involves learning how to protect yourself with realistic scenarios. They are not teaching based on fairy tales or idealistic situations.

4. If you are in a group class, your classmates are willing to help you and match your speed. In other words, someone with more experience than you isn't going to go much faster than what you can handle or learn from.

5. They encourage their students to check their ego at the door. It is a place of learning - not to show-off.

6. Questions are welcomed during and after class. Not everyone learns the same way and they recognize this.

7. Padding is not regularly used unless absolutely necessary. Many will disagree with this, but it's important to remember that hitting a pad feels much different than hitting the soft tissue of the stomach. They both react differently and you will too.

8. They place an importance on how to take care of your physical health. Strikes, both receiving and giving, put tension in your body. You should be instructed in how to ease the tension afterwards.

9. You should be not only allowed but encouraged to find your own voice through your progress. Mimicry is not flattery.

10. Training with weapons is a regular occurrence. This could be with wooden, plastic, or dulled metal objects. Even if they are fake, it still is helpful for real life situations.

11. They are willing to teach you the "why" and "reason" behind what they are teaching. Just doing drills without understanding how the moves connect, or why you would do them in the first place, will create a disconnect in your practice.

Thank you for reading my 11 Signs of a Great Self Defense Class! Do you have any others you could add to this list? Drop them in the comments below!