Tag Archives: CSA

Guest Post: How to Conquer Life with These Five Self-Defense Lessons by Kelly Wilson


My friend and colleague, Kelly Wilson, shares how the current political climate has prompted her to build her self-defense skills.


Building my self-defense skills was not a priority to me until Donald Trump was elected president. A survivor of childhood sexual abuse and related trauma, my pattern was to choose the “Flight” part of the Fight or Flight response.

I decided that from now on, I wanted to choose when to run, and when to stay and fight.

The combination of Trump normalizing rape culture even more and millions of women marching around the world lit a fire deep in my gut. I wanted to feel strong. I wanted to be in control. I wanted to know that I had options should I find myself in danger. Because now I would be in the Resistance.

I signed up for my first self defense class for women in late January. Even though it was an hour-long introduction to self defense, my life and outlook were fundamentally changed. Here are five important self defense lessons I learned that continue to help me conquer life.

 

Be a Problem

Women are taught to be quiet. To smile. To be nice. In self-defense, these skills don’t work well.  Being a “nice, quiet woman” means that you are an easy mark.

One of the first statements my self-defense instructor made was, “Be a problem.” Nobody wants to try and take down a woman who knows how to handle herself. In life, being a problem could simply mean showing confidence and asking for what you need from others. Or drawing boundaries so that you can take care of yourself. Saying that one magic word – “No” – as a complete sentence, and meaning it.

These new behaviors might be a problem for other people. You know what? Their problems are not your problems.

wendy-g-shrink-yourself

Draw Attention to Yourself

Women especially are taught to “be polite.” Having good manners means to avoid calling attention to yourself or showing assertiveness or strength. We should be quiet and wait to be recognized.

Self-defense teaches us that in order to stay safe, we need to draw attention to ourselves. Make ourselves bigger. Make eye contact with everyone. Be loud. It seems counter-intuitive, but refusing to shrink keeps us safer.

 

Decide If You Will Fight

One of the advantages of taking self-defense is feeling more in control of yourself in uncertain surroundings. This includes whether or not to fight or to run. Some people take self-defense classes because they want to be able to incapacitate someone if attacked or in danger. Others take classes because they want to know how to get out of dangerous situations safely.

Both reasons are good. During my class, the instructor encouraged us to take some time and decide on our primary reasons for learning these skills. Do you want to be able to run? Great. Do you want to be able to fight? Great.

Safety is the ultimate goal.

 

Run Away If You Can

When I first began going to counseling, I discovered that I thought I was weak when choosing “Flight” instead of “Fight” when I was abused. I was ashamed of it, as if running was wrong or weak. It took me a long time to accept that running is not weak, it’s a way to protect myself.

It wasn’t until self-defense class that I fully realized this truth. Our instructor was a big, burly guy with meaty fists and a crew cut. He said, “Always run if you can. You don’t have to stay and fight, even if you decided that you wanted to. Run to people, because most people are good.”

Something about this big guy telling stories of how he ran from danger cemented it for me. Running is good. Running is strength.

 

Most People are Good

Building self-defense skills is like going over the emergency card before an airplane takes off. There’s a good chance that you won’t need to use the information at all. And just like – logically – most planes don’t crash, when it comes right down to it, most people are good.

Most people are not scoping us out and deciding if we’re easy marks. As we make eye contact and say hello to others as a protection, we begin to realize that most people do not mean us harm.

The irony is that building self-defense skills can help us see more humanity than we would if we were shrinking and afraid. That is where we can find our strength – in each other.


kelly-wilson-headshotKelly Wilson is an author and comedian who entertains and inspires with stories of humor, healing, and hope. She is the author of Live Cheap and Free, Don’t Punch People in the Junk, and Kelly Wilson’s The Art of Seduction: Nine Easy Ways to Get Sex From Your Mate. Her latest book, Caskets From Costco, has been chosen as a finalist in the 18th annual Foreword Reviews’ INDIEFAB Book of the Year Awards, the 10th annual National Indie Excellence Book Awards, and the 2016 Readers’ Favorite International Book Award Contest. Kelly Wilson currently writes for a living and lives with her Magically Delicious husband, junk-punching children, dog, cat, and stereotypical minivan in Portland, Oregon. Read more about her at www.wilsonwrites.com and on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

 

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Filed under Guest Post, Life, Mental Health, Politics, PTSD, Real Life, Self-Defense, sexual assault, Survivors, Writing

Guest Post: This is the Reason Writing Your Story Helps You Thrive by Rachel Thompson


Photo source: Unsplash.com/Milada Vigerova

Photo source: Unsplash.com/Milada Vigerova

I tell people right away that I’m a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, but I didn’t used to. I held that shame and fear of judgment in tightly for years, a filmy veil of anxiety separating me from everyone else. I didn’t feel I could really get close to friends or even lovers, always holding back this ugly secret. If anyone saw the real me, the tainted, used me, they wouldn’t want to pursue any kind of relationship.

It’s a common mindset after trauma – to be in victim mode and not even realize it. Total nonsense, of course, because I’m awesome. Ha! But this is what shame tells you, one of many horrific stories we learn to believe.

Therapy and meds helped me a lot to overcome those lies, but the damage is incredibly deep, it never truly leaves us. I moved from victim to survivor, but it took a lot of work, and if I’m totally honest with you right now, I still argue with myself sometimes; I minimize, or tell myself that it could’ve been worse, which is just so incredibly fucked up. How much worse would it have to be? I was only 11 when a man stole away my childhood…and then he came back for more.

Photo Source: Unsplash.com/Cathryn Lavery

Photo Source: Unsplash.com/Cathryn Lavery

Eventually, I found the courage to write and share my story, despite the voices in my head telling me to shut the hell up, that nobody would care to read about yet another victim, that talking about something that happened 30-plus years ago would be seen by total strangers as a pathetic bid for attention (when truly, who cares? It’s my story, dammit, and I matter).

I moved beyond surviving into thriving. Writing, no publishing, my story, became such a huge part of my recovery, I truly had no idea the impact on so many others and myself.

That’s where I changed my paradigm and fooled that wretched little voice: I made friends with Shame. She’s been with me longer than almost anyone, and she has a lot to say, too. So, I let her speak, and Broken Pieces was born. I released it in 2013 and it’s still #1 on Amazon’s Women’s Poetry list, #2 on Women Authors, and Top 20 in all of Memoirs, which blows me away.

It’s won gosh, like 10 awards, but more importantly gave rise to a huge community of survivors, and that means more to me than anything else! #SexAbuseChat (every Tuesday at 6pm pst/9pm est) on Twitter with survivor and licensed therapist Bobbi Parish, the #NoMoreShame Project Anthologies (published by the Gravity Imprint of Booktrope), and a 100+ person strong private survivor support group I moderate on Facebook are all the result of that first book. So is the Gravity Imprint!

Broken Places followed in 2015, with more amazing reviews, awards, and top rankings. I’m writing the final Broken book now, Broken People, for a Winter release from Booktrope. Apparently, Shame still has more to say.

I’m still just as busy as ever with writing, business, publishing, my advocacy work for other survivors, and most importantly, being a mom. Beyond surviving, I’m now thriving, though with occasional triggers, I stumble my way back.

My kids vaguely know something bad happened when I was younger – my son will be 11 in September. He’s very protective of his mama, and I love that about him. I’m raising him to be respectful of all women, including his almost-17-year-old sister with whom he bickers constantly over the Xbox and Squeakers, our girl cat. He has a lot of females in the house to learn from!

The lessons are there, though, and that’s what matters; I tell them both often, “you get what you give, and you give what you get.” Give mad, get mad; give compassion, get compassion. Him: Give money, get money? Me: Welcome to Capitalism (and book marketing).

I survived, and now I thrive, because I give what I get.

**********************************************

Rachel-Thompson1Rachel Thompson is the author of newly released Broken Places (one of IndieReader’s “Best of 2015” top books and 2015 Honorable Mention Winner in the San Francisco Book Festival), and the multi award-winning Broken Pieces, as well as two additional humor books, A Walk In The Snark and Mancode: Exposed. Rachel is published and represented by Booktrope.

She owns BadRedhead Media, creating effective social media and book marketing campaigns for authors. Her articles appear regularly in The Huffington Post, The San Francisco Book Review (BadRedhead Says…), 12Most.com, bitrebels.com, BookPromotion.com, and Self-Publishers Monthly.

Not just an advocate for sexual abuse survivors, Rachel is the creator and founder of the hashtag phenomenon #MondayBlogs and the live Twitter chat, #SexAbuseChat, co-hosted with certified therapist/survivor, Bobbi Parish. She is also the director of the Gravity Imprint for Booktrope, bringing stories of trauma and recovery (fiction and nonfiction) to life. Read more about the Gravity authors and their books here.

She hates walks in the rain, running out of coffee, and coconut. She lives in California with her family.

Author Site: rachelintheoc.com
BadRedhead Media Site: badredheadmedia.com
Twitter: @RachelintheOC
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Facebook Broken Pieces Fan Page:https://www.facebook.com/BrokenPiecesByRachelThompson
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LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/rachel-thompson/24/784/b95
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Filed under Anxiety, Blogging, Booktrope, Depression, Gravity Imprint, Guest Post, Life, Literary, Mental Health, Published, Survivors, Writing

I Still Remember…


Trigger Warning: Memories of Childhood Sexual Abuse

 

Stronger Than You Think2 cropped graphicI still remember my first sexual encounter. I was 4 years old. I remember every detail, as if I was a spectator, rather than the child. I don’t remember the physical sensations, but I do remember every word spoken, every scene enacted. Since it’s with me more than 35 years later, with more clarity than any other moment in my life, this must be the definition of trauma.

In reading fellow Booktrope author Rachel Thompson‘s memoirs about surviving her own childhood sexual abuse (CSA) trauma – Broken Pieces and its sequel Broken Places – for the first time a couple of months ago, many of her essays and poems struck a cord within me as a fellow survivor of CSA. My experience was different than Rachel’s, but some of the demographics are the same; my abuser was also someone I knew, though he was a child himself (8 years older than I) and the abuse occurred only once. Probably because my parents, and his, put the fear of God into him. But it didn’t stop him, only kept him away from ME. I know of at least one other girl, a good friend of mine, who he sexually abused, perhaps more than once; we didn’t discuss it much, even when we grew up. My abuse was also in the late 70s, at a time when such occurrences weren’t talked about.

Unlike Rachel, I never strove for perfection (I was always awkward. Still am, a bit, come to think of it.) or became a straight-A student (Geometry was my high school nemesis). I did, however – as I can see from the distance of 25 years – suffer from depression as a teenager, which probably contributed to me becoming an introvert (I still have to give myself pep talks  sometimes in order to interact with people in a crowd), who writes sometimes dark and depressing poetry. This was recently confirmed by my therapist, who also confirmed that my sexual “acting out” as a child was a direct result of that one incident, experimenting with both boys and girls, well into my teenage years. I’m not sure why it stopped then. Perhaps because at that point I realized I could get pregnant and knew I wasn’t ready for that.

I never forgot my experience. Not Innocence cropped graphicTo this day, I can remember every minutiae, as if holding a magnifying glass on the scene, every word that was spoken down to the image that goes with it. It’s almost as if it was another little girl, another blonde, green-eyed, 4-year-old pixie of a girl experiencing that and me watching and cringing, helpless to do anything to stop it. Then again, watching that same little girl seeking out that same experience with other children.

Later, when I was about 10 years old, I had a crush on this same boy who abused me, with whom I went to church and school (K-12) for years. Until he married and moved away. I saw myself as sick, that I would crush on someone who would victimize a child – only I didn’t think of it in those terms until I reached adulthood. All I knew was that I was ashamed to have tender feelings toward him, and didn’t understand the why of any of it. I’ve always wondered, but never asked: did she, the woman he married, know what he’d done? They’re divorced now, have been for many years. And when out of the blue, my parents received a Christmas card from him and his new wife “Wendy,” that’s the first time I remember having a “trigger” – it really scared me…as nothing had prior to that in a long time… Was he trying to say something? Send a message? Why did he marry a woman with MY name?

Was this why I became introverted? (How to make friends when you’re carrying around this huge secret.) Why books became my best friends? (Books cannot hurt or betray you.) Why as a teenager I would stare for hours at the ceiling above me? Why for years I couldn’t sleep in the dark or without my stuffed animals? Why I would shut myself inside my bedroom and throw my Birthday Girl figurines – I had all of them at one time; none of them survived – against my bedroom walls until they shattered into tiny pieces? Why the calm descended after each of those girls shattered? (Throwing things and hearing them break against a wall is very soothing. Cleaning up after yourself, not so much.) Were they ceramic substitutes for my own body? I had too much survival instinct, or else too much fear of hell to attempt suicide (though one summer spent with my cousins on our grandparents’ farm in Texas, I carried a thick rope, and when I was alone, would twist it tightly round my neck) – raised in a conservative Christian household, I learned from a very young age that suicide is a sin…and there’s no repenting THAT sin.

cropped-cropped-cropped-Stigma-Fighters-V1Though I’ve never really been secretive about this, I’ve not made it a regular part of my conversations, either. Since becoming friends with so many other writers – collectively known as Stigma Fighters – who, like me, live daily with some form of mental health issue, and who have become such inspirations to me through their bravery and selflessness in sharing their stories and their encouragement, I knew I needed to be brave enough to share some of the darkness within my own soul, in hopes of lending my support – and the occasional hug – to others like us.

 

(Stigma Fighters logo used by permission. The lines of poetry in the graphics are my own.)

 

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Filed under Anxiety, Booktrope, Depression, Life, Mental Health, Writing