April marks a very important month of the year when we once again rededicate ourselves to increasing awareness of Child Abuse & Neglect, as well as Sexual Assault. Both acts have been highlighted nation-wide this month in an effort to spread the word that it is essential to be continuously vigilant in our fight against these two societal ills. Both require us to be extremely watchful over our surroundings, and within our community, so that we can decipher things that may be out of the ordinary (let’s say a child who looks malnourished or a friend who has started withdrawing from his/her normal activities). As well, both require many more discussions about how to best prevent these crimes from happening in the first place. However, for the purposes of this post, I will turn the focus more to Mental & Sexual Assault/Abuse and ideas for prevention.
My experiences over the past 30 years have brought me up close and personal with thousands of men and women who have been victims of mental abuse and sexual assault. And the stories – while peppered with different facts – always have a set of commonalities. Get Safe (and I, Safety Stu) has been committed since our inception in 1993, to changing the thought process of those around us (and wouldn’t it be nice to say world-wide?) who don’t realize the close-to-home impact of these two types of abuses. While mental & sexual abuse, continue in this world – and sometimes it seems like it’s at a more rapid rate due to the proliferation of the media – I feel that it is my duty, at every opportunity, to speak out against any, and all, types of abuse that can happen to anyone, of any age…in my community, as well as across the country and the world. It takes many voices to prevent abuse and I am one of those voices – hopefully you are too.
See the following statistics by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center:
- ♦One in five women and one in 71 men will be raped at some point in their lives
- ♦Nearly one in 10 women has been raped by an intimate partner in her lifetime, including completed forced penetration, attempted forced penetration or alcohol/drug-facilitated completed penetration
- ♦91% of the victims of rape and sexual assault are female, and 9% are male
- ♦In eight out of 10 cases of rape, the victim knew the person who sexually assaulted them
- ♦8% of rapes occur while the victim is at work
When you think of sexual assault, the first thing that may come to your mind is the image of a woman wearing skimpy clothes, going to a nightclub, getting drunk and “asking for it”, or you may think of a couple’s scenario where the husband or wife gets upset with their spouse and physically abuses them in an attempt to show dominance and control. However, if you change your perception slightly, like I have over my years of experience in the Get Safe world….sexual assault & abuse, and the bruises it leaves, can happen to anyone and leave multiple shades of black & blue. It can happen anywhere, to anyone, at any time. This crime has no boundaries – geographic or socioeconomic. That is why it is so crucial to know the facts and the signs so that you can try to prevent this unfair misconduct from occurring in the first place.
Many times abuse is mental, which shows no bruising and is much harder to detect. Maybe you know someone in this situation, or perhaps you have faced this before in your own life…where you are with a partner (or parent, teacher, friend, etc.) who continually puts you down, calls you disparaging names or creates an alternative image of you that makes you feel less than or unworthy. As a matter of fact, those types of mental scars can become so deep, that you end up believing what your abuser says, even when it is completely wrong or goes against everything you may have believed to be true in your “past life”. Psychological abuse can many times live concurrently with physical abuse and happens over time. Unfortunately, even if there is no bodily harm, if this type of mental abuse is prolonged over many months or years, it can take ages to unravel.
How can we help? Well, helping someone in this situation can be dicey and takes patience and delicacy. First of all – DON”T JUDGE and always speak about the abuse itself, try never to talk about the abuser. Many times you will find that the person who is being abused, can become very protective over their abuser and shut down – shunning all communication with old friends and trusted advisers. The most important thing is to keep the conversation going – that way you can at least start to breakdown the lies and deceit under which the abused person is living. Additionally, this may open the door to connecting your friend with groups, counseling and even self-defense classes.
Many years ago when I had just started in the field, a good friend mentioned to me that her boyfriend had called her ugly. He went on to tell her that no one would ever love her and that he would be the only person that would. I was speechless (and believe me, that doesn’t happen very often to Safety Stu!). The difficult thing, was that there wasn’t any bruising that would have given her abuse away, but you could tell that her smile had dulled a bit and her self-confidence had fallen. Here she was, admitting to me that her boyfriend was spewing these lies at her….this woman who was a model, an actress and an athlete, was going home to deceit and manipulation on a daily basis. After she realized I was a trusted friend who would NOT judge her for her choices, she talked…I listened…and together we found services that helped her move past this toxic point in her life. I am happy to say that she is now in a healthy and loving relationship that supports and encourages her…one that does not tear her down.
We never know where abuse may strike, or by whom. One time, a boy in our kid’s safety class at Get Safe was sad because we were teaching him that he shouldn’t go into homes where his parents did not approve of or know the person living there. As we continued to repeat the lesson, this boy’s mother supported and agreed with Get Safe’s message. Although the student was disappointed, he listened to his safety teacher and his mom. Come to find out, a few weeks later this “playful” neighbor was being carted away by police for alleged sexual abuse against children. Needless to say, the vigilance of the mother and the child’s Get Safe education probably kept him from being the next victim!
I could go on and on, but the question still remains – how can we prevent this from happening in the first place? Here are some suggestions regarding all types of abuse:
- ♦See something say something – don’t stay quiet – listen to what your instincts say and find out more about the child or adult in question
- ♦Always scan people & their “person” – look for consistently dirty nails – or fundamentally poor hygiene, random bruising, withdrawal from social situations, changes in one’s personality, hyper sexuality (kids or teens knowing more than they should based on their age / being promiscuous)
- ♦Connect with the authorities: – National agencies such as RAINN the nation’s largest anti- sexual assault organization, Victims of Crime.org – which has a very helpful list of all national hotlines, https://victimsofcrime.org/, along with Child Protective Services https://www.childhelp.org/hotline are all great starting points
- ♦Positive education – one of the most overlooked ways of prevention is to stay educated – education is power. Learning more about this topic (and others) gives you the knowledge to look beyond a sometimes narrow scope of perception and allows you to see things that you may have overlooked before. Keep learning and stay educated!
While abuse may not be a topic that you want to discuss, we have all been witness to it, or at the least, known someone who has been a victim. Please stay aware and use your voice to encourage prevention of these types of crimes…it may be you that needs the help someday.
Remember that Get Safe offers classes in Healthy Relationships. Our specialized trainers will teach adults, seniors, kids & young adults how to recognize abuse, what to do, how to protect yourself and various prevention techniques – among other things! Check us out under the “Community Safety” tab above!
For more safety tips, pick up a safety book from your one and only Safety Stu (yes, that’s me!) on our website www.getsafeusa.com or on Amazon http://www.amazon.com/The-Gift-Freedom-Stronger-Safer/dp/0981712789 – Gift of Freedom, a Stronger Safer You…and in the future, we will talk more about great and simple tips to stay safe in any situation. Until then, stay tuned, because my hope is always that you, your family and your friends Get Safe – Be Safe – Stay Safe.
Stuart Haskin, or Safety Stu as he is known to his thousands (uh, let’s say tens) of admiring followers, is a leading expert in personal safety issues with a black belt in four different martial arts. For the past 30 years, Stuart has been teaching police officers, military personnel, teachers, students, and all people how to use the SAFE technique (Scan Assess Forecast Execute) to expand personal freedoms in all areas of life. #getsafeusa, #safetystu, #safety, #safetyfirst