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October is . As kids are heading back to school, it is important to remember that teens experience dating violence too.

1 in 4 adolescents reports experiencing, according to the . As with adults, this violence can include a of emotional, physical or sexual abuse.

Emotional abuse attacks the victim’s self-esteem through put downs, humiliation, controlling their behavior, or keeping them away from friends and family.

Physical abuse might look like slapping, pushing, grabbing, throwing, hitting, shaking or choking.

Sexual abuse could include unwanted touching, peeping, nude photos or forced sex acts.

From www.acadv.org

Both victims and perpetrators of teen dating violence can experience serious consequences such as depression, decreased interest in school or other activities, drug and/or alcohol abuse and risky sexual behaviors. Teens who are involved in unhealthy relationships as they are growing up are much more likely to experience a pattern of unhealthy relationships as adults, making this a serious community issue.

Warning signs that a teen may be a victim of teen dating violence may include:

  • Spending less time with friends or family
  • Making excuses for a dating partner’s behavior
  • Trouble succeeding in school or work
  • Dramatic change in weight or appearance

Only 40% of teen girls and 32% of teen boys who were victims of teen dating violence asked for help. One of the reasons for this is that teens don’t want to talk with adults about dating issues—in fact, less than 1 in 4 teens have had a conversation with their parents about teen dating violence. Parents can help teens by helping them to feel good about themselves, listening to them without judgment or criticism, and modeling positive relationship behaviors.

Healthy relationships involve equality, respect, honest and open communication and independence for both partners.

Sometimes, traditional ideas about what is normal for men and women can be a barrier to forming healthy relationships. If a teenage boy believes that the man should make all the decisions and control the woman’s life, he might be at risk for perpetrating teen dating violence.

Warning signs that a teen may be a perpetrator of teen dating violence may include:

  • Threatening to hurt others in any way
  • Insulting a dating partner in public or in private
  • Thinking that violence is a solution to problems
  • Breaking things or a dating partner’s belongings

There are consequences for perpetrators, too. They could be expelled from school or even face jail time.

Parents, teachers and others who work with youth can help prevent teen dating violence. For more information see . If you or someone you know is experiencing relationship violence, please contact your local Domestic Violence Shelter. In Madison, it’s .

7 Self Defense Myths

10 Jul

My job as a women’s self defense instructors is widely misunderstood. This is partially because there is no really credible certification system for teaching women’s self defense, so many people teach it without a complete understanding of what they are teaching and give people the wrong idea. Why should you believe me over them? Not only have I grown up studying martial arts since I was old enough to walk at a school owned by my mother, a now 7th degree black belt in Shaolin Kempo Karate (a self defense based mixed martial art), but I have spent several years educating myself about violence against women through research, volunteer work and activism. Most self defense teachers understand one or the other– fighting back or what you’re fighting against. I strive to understand both sides.

These are some of the most damaging myths about self defense:

1. You need to learn how to protect yourself if someone attacks you when you are walking alone at night, because nobody you know would attack you, and if they did you would know what to do.

About 90% of violence against women falls under the category of sexual assault, and within that we know that about 85% of sexual assault is committed by someone the victim knows: a friend, acquaintance, family member or intimate partner. Most women don’t believe someone they know and trust could attack or sexually assault them, which is why their guard is down and they usually have not thought through what they would do in such a situation. A good women’s self defense class teaches more than martial arts– it teaches how to navigate dangerous social situations.

2. Women are targeted to be victims based on how they look and/or what they wear.

Attackers choose their victims based on what they think they can get away with. Who won’t tell? Who wouldn’t be believed? Who can they overpower with the least amount of struggle? This is why the majority of sexual assault victims are minors. To suggest that a woman’s appearance has anything to do with her attack is called victim blaming and it is extremely damaging.

3. Perpetrators of sexual assault and other violent crimes are sick and different, so they are easy to spot and avoid.

Most perpetrators look and act just like anyone else. I would even go as far as to say that many simply do not know better than to commit sexual violence. In a poll of college aged men whose actions fit the legal definition of rape, over 80% said their actions were “definitely not rape.” This is why it is important to talk about these issues and educate people to change our culture.

4. Self defense is mainly a set of physical skills plus screaming “NO!” and “BACK OFF!”

Self defense is first about recognizing and avoiding dangerous situations so you hopefully never have to use your physical skills, and second about recognizing that we as women are just as strong and capable of fighting back as any man. Although the material is serious, a good women’s self defense class should feel fun and empowering!

5. The hardest part about physically fighting someone off is that they are probably bigger and stronger than you and they may have a weapon.

Probably the biggest obstacle that most survivors report is the “fight, flight or freeze” response to trauma. Many women report that they didn’t realize what was happening until it was too late and then they were in such shock they were unable to think clearly or act in the way they would have thought they should. If you know how to fight back, it doesn’t matter how big or strong your opponent is. What matters is your reaction in a moment of high stress. That is why martial arts classes are great preparation– because they train your body to react to unexpected attacks with physical defenses, and because they teach how to communicate clearly while working in close quarters with other people’s bodies.

6. Women who don’t leave abusive relationships are different from me. I could never end up in a situation like that.

Any person is capable of ending up in an abusive relationship. I know many intelligent, strong, powerful women who have ended up in psychologically toxic or physically abusive relationships. If it were obvious, nobody would go there! The are so subtle and complex that the best thing you can do to avoid it is to understand and HEED the by getting out before you are too emotionally invested.

7. Pressure points and grappling are the best defenses for a woman who is not trained in martial arts.

UGH this one annoys me. Let me put it this way: most self defense classes are from 2-12 hours long. I have studied martial arts since I was a small child and I STILL have trouble using pressure points effectively. My first choice for physical defense? HIT ‘EM IN THE FACE!!! As for grappling, it’s so trendy right now with the surge in popularity of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and MMA. The thing is, joint locks are great (although too complicated for a beginner), but if you are smaller than your opponent you do NOT want to go to the ground with them. Yes, there are ways to defend on the ground but no, they are not easily accessible for someone untrained in martial arts.

Men Who Want To Protect Women

15 Jun

Most fathers, brothers, boyfriends and more are good men who respect and care about the women and girls in their lives. Many of these men feel protective of these women and girls, and I can understand why. The world is not a very good place for women in a lot of ways. 1 in 3 women will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime.

I’m concerned, however, that some men may have some poorly informed ideas about how to best support the safety, comfort and happiness of the women and girls they love.

Threatening, intimidating or fighting bad people doesn’t help women.

Often it’s just a joke, but sometimes it’s more serious. The sentiment of “If anyone messes with you I’ll mess him up!” is not only misguided, but could cause more harm than good.

1) Telling a woman that she essentially needs a bodyguard sends her the message that she is a victim who can’t take care of herself and is deeply disempowering, not to mention insulting.

2) Violence and posturing are the problems here, not the solutions.

3) Often the best way to stand up for someone is to help them stand up for themselves. My mother recently moved to Texas and several women there told her, “Oh I don’t need to learn self defense– my husband has a gun!” Her response: “Where is your husband right now?”

Instead of saying, “I’ll protect you,” try things like, “I”ll stand by you if you need to tell that guy off” and “No, you’re not overreacting. He has no right to treat you like that.”

Warning women or girls to distrust men or to live in fear detracts from their quality of life.

Women don’t need to change how we dress or where we go in order to protect ourselves. Over 90% of violent crime is committed by men. Those men are the ones who need to change their behavior.

Rather than warning women or girls “what guys are like” or “how some guys think”, men who care about women should spend that time and effort talking to other men about how to respect women and how not to commit sexual violence.

Women: Expecting the men in your life to protect you is dangerous for everyone involved.

While women and children are most often the victims of sexual assault, men are much more often victims of violence in general. Women are taught to avoid conflict in our society, while men are taught that “a real man doesn’t back down from a fight.” That’s how a lot of men get hurt.

I would not want or expect any man in my life to take a punch for me, any more than I would want to take a punch myself. I write mainly about keeping women safe, but honestly one of the biggest social lessons a man can learn to keep himself safe is to avoid conflict. Repeat after me: “Hey man, I don’t want to fight.”

Tips for everyone to protect your loved ones:

-Don’t laugh at sexist, hateful or. If you can, confront the joker about why it’s not funny.

-If someone you know feels unsafe, don’t brush off their feelings. Encourage them to get out of that situation in their own way.

-Understand the warning signs of and .

-Recognize that nobody “asks for it” when they are raped or sexually assaulted. , including children.

-Empower your loved ones. Don’t let them underestimate themselves or put themselves down. Build their confidence by believing in them even when they don’t believe in themselves.

Respect is SEXY!

12 Apr

bloggers Lori and Courtney wrote an excellentdiscussing Dr. Ogi Ogas’s (shame on them)which asserts that “gender equality inhibits arousal”. (Say wha??! I know, right?)

Their main point is that his science and logic is faulty, countering with the following stats:

A Rutgers University study d that feminism boosts sexual satisfaction for both men and women, and that having a feminist partner is linked with healthier, more romantic relationships, at least for heterosexual couples. A study published in the journal Sex Roles found that:

-College-age women who reported having feminist male partners also reported higher quality relationships that were more stable than couples involving non-feminist male partners.

-College guys who were themselves feminists and had feminist partners reported more equality in their relationships.

-Older women who perceived their male partners as feminists reported greater relationship health and sexual satisfaction.

-Older men with feminist partners said they had more stable relationships and greater sexual satisfaction.

A dear friend of mine just discussed this very issue with me this weekend. Her current boyfriend is what I would call a feminist, whether or not he identifies that way. Before dating him, she was used to being with men who were socially and sexually aggressive, disrespectful, and inconsiderate of her feelings. She expressed that looking back, she doesn’t know why she was attracted to them because things are so much better with her current boyfriend. Since stats don’t have faces, I asked her if she would share her story… and she has some really powerful things to say:

When I think about my perceptions of sex when I was an early college student in comparison to what I think now, I can’t believe that the same person held such different ideas. I grew up in a healthy, respectful environment. It was taught to me at a young age that regardless of gender or sexual affiliation, each partner should be expected to treat that person as an equal with respect and love and that no one person be dominate over the other. I was involved academically in school, as well as athletics, and had many healthy friendships with both guys and girls. Just recently I have had one eye opening revelation-what we witness in the media and music, even if we had healthy upbringings with good morals instilled in us, can still persuade people to act irresponsibly, dangerously, and maliciously when it comes to sex….especially when alcohol is involved. In movies, songs, commercials….women are often objectified and men are often glorified when they can have several conquests with women. As a college student, I found myself that being submissive and giving in to men who were being forceful with me did not satisfy me sexually, but it satisfied an attention need and a normalcy need (or what I thought was normalcy). The feeling I had when receiving a text message inviting sex or when a guy at a party would insinuate sleeping together later made me feel wanted and needed. In all reality, I felt like shit the next day knowing that I was intimate with someone who typically knew nothing about me as a person and had no intention of knowing me in the future. But in the moment, I felt wanted and needed…and was happy to feel “sexy enough” to get a guy off. I have a hard time counting the number of times I really enjoyed ANY of those encounters myself. The only need I was fulfilling was my obsession with attention-a sign of my vulnerability and insecuirty. When I started dating the person I am with today, I found it odd that he wanted to actually date. We would have sex, like many couples do, but it wasn’t all we did, and it was different. It wasn’t expected, he never insinuated, he has never demanded or pushed limits. It was so different to me, and at first uncomfortable. That is sad to think about now. It is frightening that a respectful man who doesn’t push for sex or expect it was strange to me. I couldn’t believe he wanted to spend so much time with me, and that our sex life was more than just sex. He is concerned with my satisfaction more than his own, and I have found that I have learned alot about sexuality, what is healthy, and that women can really enjoy sex too! I know college is a difficult time for all, a time for exploration, but it is devastating knowing that some women feel they need to be in uncomfortable situations to feel wanted, and also that some men think they need to be forceful (whether physically or verbally) to feel powerful. This goes for same sex relationships, as I have a gay friend who was in a relationship for several months with a man who demanded he do things sexually that my friend was uncomfortable with…but went along with because he wanted so badly to feel wanted. In much fewer words, our media has a sad way of influencing our perceptions on what is normal behavior for dating and for sex. I am fortunate that although I have allowed myself to be put in situations I am not proud of, I now am dating a guy who helped me to really feel important AND sexy. Although I was having sex in college, I didn’t have a SEX life. I do now, with a mature man who is comfortable with himself and loves me unconditionally. People need to recognize rap music and comedians as crap entertainment, and not emulate what they portray.

is a fabulous comedian and blogger who specializes in celebrity humor. I just want to say I respect her for saying exactly what she thinks.

Here GloZell calls out on the lyrics of her song (I know, this is so last summer but bear with me here…)

Now, I know some sexual assault prevention activists might look at this call out as victim blaming– that GloZell is saying that Rihanna is “asking for it”. My interpretation is that she hopes to empower women like Rihanna to seek healthy relationships. So. Good lookin out, GloZell. We all need to look out for one another. Rihanna is so talented and captivating and it’s not right that she has had to deal publicly with her abuse, but I hope she is finding ways to grow past it because, fair or not, a lot of eyes are on her. I think we need to hold people accountable when they have so much influence, particularly over young girls. Seriously, who wants a rude boy? Where are the songs about nice guys?

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