At age 20-something, I was assaulted on the street one night outside of my New York City apartment. Thankfully, I was able to scare him off before he got a strong hold on me. The scarier part came in the days to follow when I asked myself all of the “what if” questions that could come after a story like that. What if he was able to knock me out? What if he raped me? What if he had a weapon? And so on…
This led me to get more serious about my martial arts training and learning the life-saving skills of self-defense. As I trained and grew in the ranks, eventually to 3rd degree black belt, I can still look back on that night and see how it led me to where I am today, speaking to thousands of students around the country about safety and sexual assault prevention.
For me, self-defense is not just about kicks, punches and blocks, it’s a mindset that all of us can easily achieve. Let’s face it, there comes a time in everyone’s life when someone tries to hurt us emotionally or physically. The more prepared we are for those moments, the more we can powerfully and gracefully move on, regardless of the outcome. Sometimes, we can even avoid them altogether.
Here are my first 3 lessons on defending your mind, body and heart against people who suck:
Lesson #1: Awareness – Being fully present is something most of us struggle with these days. Talking, texting and headphones are just a few of the distractions that keep us from being completely aware of our surroundings at all times. Being fully aware means putting away the distractions and keeping your senses heightened.
Lesson #2: Mark Your Territory – Create personal and physical boundaries and make them non-negotiable. This can apply to people you choose to date, be friends with or associate with. Another way to create boundaries is to apply it to the physical space around you that nobody should enter unless invited into.
Lesson #3: Communicate Powerfully – We communicate both verbally and non-verbally. Many times our message is more powerful by our body language and our tone, than our vocabulary. Walking with your head up, shoulders back and making direct eye contact are all non-verbal clues that you mean business.
When communicating verbally, use your tone effectively. Speak with conviction and leave the question marks off the end of your sentences.
Say it with me: NO! A two-letter word that is sometimes so difficult to say, is now all it takes to legally accuse someone of rape in some states. In many cases of sexual assault it may take a lot more than using words to get someone off of you, but having the ability and confidence to stick up for yourself (and in all areas of your life) is the first step of communicating powerfully.
Do I think that self-defense is the only answer to sexual assault prevention? No. However, I do think that every one should learn at least the basics in protecting their mind, body and heart against people and situations that suck so you can let the world Hear You Roar!
Credit // Author: Jennifer Cassetta
Jennifer Cassetta is empowering students to become confident, strong, and safe. Through her interactive keynote and workshop, Jennifer gets men and women to talk about taboo issues like date rape, domestic violence, stalking, and sexual assault. She provides tips on how to be safe wherever you are, whether on social media, on a date, or even walking down the street. Learn more at campuspeak.com/cassetta.