Fold In The Cheese David!

Fold In The Cheese David!

Over the last five years, I’ve had numerous conversations with experts in the physical self-defense and violence prevention space. What I’ve found so fascinating is 80% of our conversations centered around the roles situational awareness and intuition play in helping women improve their safety and security. When I asked these experts for recommendations on trainings I could take or conferences I could attend to learn these valuable skills, they didn’t know of anything offered for the everyday person, especially women.

Yes, there are trainings available for threat assessment professionals in specific career fields. There are a few books on situational awareness, but most of them are written from a male’s perspective or use a lot of tacti-cool jargon (though me and a few other badass women I know are changing that and getting published!). Yes, there are lots of self-defense classes marketed to women, but they tend to focus on the physical aspect.

How can a skill, that is supposed to prevent you from getting into a physical altercation in the first place, have such limited resources available for women to learn from?  It doesn’t make sense!

Society should not be telling women they can’t do something because it MIGHT be unsafe. Bad things happen to people while they’re going about their day NOT doing anything risky. To live a life in fear because no one helped you learn the skills to keep yourself safe is wrong. It’s time to make a change.

Years ago, I received an email newsletter with “The top 50 things women could do to start being safer immediately”. Some of the advice in the newsletter included “don’t mix alcohol and strangers”, “don’t go through a drive-thru late at night”, and “don’t let a stranger walk behind you”.

Uhm…do you see what’s wrong with these so-called “tips”? The advice is not helpful! They could’ve saved space by just saying, “don’t have a life”.

Telling me to NOT do something is not helping me learn how to be safe. (I talked about this on IG here). My inquiry has always been, teach me how to be safe in any situation and defend myself when necessary.

Women have amazing intuition skills that we use every day in different capacities. As mothers, friends, co-workers, and partners-we are the best at noticing when something is off with someone. We immediately know something is different than the day before by the slight difference in how someone says, “good morning”.

Those same instincts can be used to tell you someone is trying to manipulate you. They can tell you someone is not behaving in a way you would normally expect to see in the coffee shop. They tell you the creepy vibe you get from that one person is real, even if everyone else seems to brush it off as “just being friendly”.

I created The Diamond Arrow Group to help all women realize they already have the skills to keep themselves and their loved ones safer. They simply need to look at those skills from a personal safety perspective. I act as the translator between the information and trainings geared towards experts in threat assessment and the everyday woman who wants to feel confident in her personal safety skills.

I know without a doubt, you can live life on your own terms. I’m here to show you how.

The Number One Question I Get

The Number One Question I Get

A key component of situational awareness is being curious about your environment and the people in it. One of the family rules we have in our house is, validate assumptions and question what you don’t understand. A hashtag I often use in social media posts is #neverstoplearning. Basically, I love to ask questions and enjoy every opportunities to build my knowledge of the world around me.

What happens when the tables are turned and someone gets curious with me? They say, “I only have about 5 minutes before I have to get going-can you quickly tell me what The Diamond Arrow Group is all about?”

I take a deep breath (to stop me from wanting to talk as fast as possible), and say…

I save lives by helping women embrace their intuition, build their situational awareness and live life unafraid through one-on-one coaching, events, trainings, keynote speaking engagements.

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence MN fact sheet from 2020:

-33.9% of Minnesota women and 25.1% of Minnesota men experience intimate partner physical violence, intimate partner rape and/or intimate partner stalking in their lifetimes.

-53% of women experiencing homelessness in Minnesota in 2018 had stayed in a relationship, because they did not have any alternative housing available.

According to the Violence Free MN website:

-In 2020, 40% of DV homicide victims were Black, while compromising less than 7% of MN population.

-Native women face higher rates of victimization and accounted for 10% of 2020 homicide victims while making up only 1% of MN population.

-In 2018, the Violence Policy Center found that Black women were murdered by male intimate partners at rates nearly 3 times that of White Women.

-Economic abuse is one of the most used tactics to maintain power and control over victims and occurs in 99% of cases of relationship abuse.

Economic abuse is present in 99% cases of relationship abuse. That statistic blew my mind.

At the National level:

-1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men in the United States have experienced some form of physical violence by an intimate partner.

-On a typical day, local domestic violence hotlines receive approximately 19,159 calls, approximately 13 calls every minute.

-In 2018, domestic violence accounted for 20% of all violent crime.

-72% of all murder-suicides involve an intimate partner; 96% of the victims of these crimes are female.

-1 in 15 children are exposed to intimate partner violence each year, and 90% of these children are eyewitnesses to this violence.

Economic Impact:

-Victims of intimate partner violence lose a total of 8 million days of paid work each year, the equivalent of 32,000 full-time jobs.

– Intimate partner violence is estimated to cost the US economy between $5.8 billion and $12.6 billion annually.

-Between 21-60% of victims of intimate partner violence lose their jobs due to reasons stemming from the abuse.

– In 2012, 351 women died at work. The leading cause of their death was homicide-28% were murdered. While far more men die on the job overall at 4277, only 9% are murdered.

The physical/mental impact of domestic violence:

-Physical, mental, and sexual and reproductive health effects have been linked with intimate partner violence including adolescent pregnancy, unintended pregnancy in general, miscarriage, stillbirth, intrauterine hemorrhage, nutritional deficiency, abdominal pain and other gastrointestinal problems, neurological disorders, chronic pain, disability, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), as well as noncommunicable diseases such as hypertension, cancer and cardiovascular diseases. Victims of domestic violence are also at higher risk for developing addictions to alcohol, tobacco, or drugs.

I do a quick non-verbal read of the person who asked me the question (usually this read involves observing their jaw dropped in shock after hearing the statistics), before continuing.

The statistics on violence committed against women have remained stagnant for decades. The way things have always been done are not working. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result. It’s time to make a change and The Diamond Arrow Group is here to be one of those leading the charge. From urban to rural areas, high to low personal wealth, this impacts all women.

The beliefs that influence us the most as adults came from the impacts of events in our childhood. The teachings and trainings I provide need to get to women so they can start making changes in their daily lives to improve not only their own personal safety, but the safety of their loved ones.

If you can’t truly love someone until you love yourself, if you can’t truly know someone until you know yourself, then how can you truly protect someone, until you know how to protect yourself?

Since moving back to the community 15 years ago, I’ve had the opportunity to build great relationships and a positive reputation. I was once described as aggressive and assertive, with a good attitude. 😉 Many people can speak to seeing my work ethic and diplomacy first hand.

I mention all of this because there are big things in the works for the Sharp Women Launch event on March 8th. Make sure you save the date on your calendar!

Don’t Wait For Something To Happen

Don’t Wait For Something To Happen

Learning how to be more situationally aware is not about learning a new life skill, it’s about using life skills you already possess, from the perspective of personal safety.

“Having awareness means using your senses and intuition to notice something is off in your environment. Then, understanding what that means to you and your safety. Lastly, taking action to preserve your safety.”

-Kelly Sayre

Last week, there was a bank robbery and hostage situation in Central MN. It started in the middle of a weekday afternoon. There are not a lot of details being shared yet, but two points I felt compelled to write about for this week’s blog.

First, the suspect displayed erratic behavior in the bank lobby before the situation escalated.

During presentations, I stress the importance of noticing anomalies in your environment. A person displaying behaviors that do not match the baseline. Behaviors you would not normally expect to see in the environment. Anomalies can also be objects you would not normally expect to see in an area, but for the purposes of this post, I’m going to focus on behaviors.

Think about what type of behaviors you would normally expect to see while visiting your bank. People are generally quiet, almost in a library-type way. Due to the private nature of personal finances and the importance of security, bank employees and patrons tend to speak in hushed tones. The amount of distance for personal space is also increased, even pre-pandemic. No one wants someone looking over their shoulder at personal identification information or bank account numbers.

Behaviors that would be considered anomalies would be the opposite of what I described above. Someone being loud, getting too close to other patrons of the bank, pacing around instead of patiently waiting to meet with a bank employee.

No matter what type of environment you’re in, if someone’s behavior is an anomaly from the baseline, pay attention. If any of your intuition alarms start going off, leave the area immediately. There is absolutely no reason to stick around to see IF something bad is going to happen. None.

Stay calm and get to safety (leave the environment). Even if you read the behaviors wrong, you’re still safe. If you stay in the environment because you aren’t quite sure the person’s behaviors are threatening, it can get worse real fast. There’s nothing cool or fancy about getting to safety. Hollywood doesn’t make money off showing people avoiding dangerous situations. But real life isn’t Hollywood.

“You don’t have to be right, but I’d hate for you to be wrong.”

-Tammy McCracken

Second, when there is an active situation where lives are in danger, do not GO TO the scene to spectate.

In today’s world, real-time information and updates are shared immediately and broadcast all over the world via the internet. As someone who spends a good chunk of time studying violence and pre-threat indicators, I understand the curiosity when a situation is happening. I talk about the importance of being curious about your environment in order to stay present and notice anomalies. But that’s when you’re already in the environment. Being curious does not mean you should stop what you’re doing, get closer to the scene, and take a seat on the grass. (Yes, there literally were gawkers at the bank situation).

As I mentioned above, when a situation is happening in real-time, it can get much worse real fast. Law enforcement should not have to worry about keeping “spectators” safe. Victims of a situation don’t want to feel like people are watching events unfold, while eating popcorn and drinking a soda, when they’re having one of the worst days of their life. And, the suspect or suspects, may actually feel motivated to cause more damage to increase the perception that they are a “badass”.

Situational awareness is being present, staying curious about your environment, and taking action to get to safety the moment your intuition tells you it’s time to leave.

You already have the life skills needed to keep yourself and loved ones safe. Don’t fight your intuition because you want front row seats to the action. You may end up being a victim to that action.

“This life’s hard, but it’s harder if you’re stupid.”

-George V. Higgins

Who Do You Trust?

Who Do You Trust?

A couple of months ago, a friend asked me if I trust everyone from the start, or if I trust no one until they’ve earned it. My gut response was I trust everyone. I believe most people are inherently good and if you start the relationship on a positive note, it gives the opportunity to create a better foundation.

Her response was she trusted no one until they proved they were trustworthy. It was an interesting conversation starter, but we were both tired from training that day and simply left the conversation with those two viewpoints.

Now, weeks later, I find myself wondering if I truly trust everyone when I first interact with them. I strive to remain curious in my daily life, and that includes questioning if what I believe is something I truly believe, or if it’s been programmed in my head from some social construct.

Do I really trust every new person I meet? What exactly does it mean to trust someone? Are there varying degrees of trust?

After pondering these questions and testing them against my initial response to her, I found that it’s not so much that I trust other people, it’s that I trust my intuition in evaluating others.

Humans, especially women, have unbelievable intuition skills. Women have been traditionally raised to be the caretakers. To be good caretakers, we need to be empathetic. To have empathy for another person, you need to be able to really hear and see and feel what they’re saying. It’s not always what a person is saying, it’s how they are saying it. Reading the other person’s non-verbals are just as important as actively listening to what they are saying. I once heard a speaker describe it as “the audio matching the video”.

Does the person say they’re happy and content with a sad face and droopy shoulders?  If that’s the case, I don’t believe what they’re saying. It takes a lot more effort to fake body language than to fake the words coming out of their mouth.

From a personal safety perspective, it is vital for women to be able to read a potential attacker’s true intentions. The quote by Margaret Atwood, “Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them” comes to mind. To me, that statement seems extreme. Have I really walked around my whole life, wondering if every man that crosses my path might kill me?

Yes, I’ve interacted with male strangers that made me leery of their presence. Something about their body language told me they had the potential to cause me harm and I needed to pay extra attention to them and their proximity to me. But most of the time, they were strangers in a public setting. In that instance, I did not give them the benefit of trust. In fact, it was more in line with my friend’s response of “I trust no one”. So, did that mean I don’t actually trust everyone from the start?

That’s where I decided to dig deeper.

I don’t walk around in paranoia, fearful that every stranger wants to kill me. I don’t walk around paranoid period.

I’m alert and aware of the energy of a place and the people in it. I establish a baseline of what I would normally expect to see, hear, smell in the situation, and then I pay attention to anything or anyone that doesn’t fit that expectation.

I watch for anomalies.

If no one appears to be outside the baselines I’ve established, then I trust that they have no ill intent planned and mean me no harm. That falls in line with trusting strangers.

If I see someone behaving outside my baselines, my trust that their intentions are good, decreases. My intuition tells me I need to pay attention to them to gather further information. Even though my trust in them decreases, they could still have good intentions and mean me no harm. I do trust my intuition telling me to watch them and their actions. There’s still a level of trust there. I trust that their body language is projecting their true intentions. I trust that they do mean to cause harm or disruption of some sort. In essence, I do trust them, it’s just not in the harmless sense.

Learning to listen to your intuition and understand what it’s trying to tell you is essential in building your self-confidence. To move forward and live life the way you want, you need to trust yourself first and foremost. It starts with building trust in your intuition. As with most things in life, you have to start with what you have control over-you. By trusting that your intuition has your best interest in mind and the signals of intuition are always in response to something, whether you consciously or sub-consciously recognize the signals, you will build self-confidence in your ability to make smart decisions to keep yourself safe.

“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.”

-Rumi

Unchartered Waters

Unchartered Waters

This Thanksgiving week looks different.

I toggle between being grateful for the things in my life that haven’t changed in the pandemic (home, family, friends) and frustrated by the things that 2020 has destroyed.

Yes, destroyed is a strong word, and that is exactly what I mean. I don’t need to list my frustrations because we’re all in a place we didn’t expect to be at the beginning of this year. It’s not necessary to compare ourselves to others in order to say, “I’ve had it worse” or “I guess I don’t have it as bad as the other person”. My pile of poo may be different than your pile of poo, but we both have a pile of poo to deal with.

I’ll refrain from pretending this is article is motivational, all shiny and happy, and simply share what I’m focusing on right now. The three words I live by are: Bold, Curious, Kind. Throughout 2020, how I applied those words changed. Considering we are under constant change right now, it’s good to be fluid.

Bold.

An author I follow posted a status over the weekend that smacked me upside the head. To paraphrase her post, 2020 has been a year of “wait, what?” so why not make some ridiculous goals and crazy plans? WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO LOSE?

Absolutely nothing.

I could hunker down and play it safe with my goals for next year, or I could be bold and put out to the universe that I’m not going to play small. What big, hairy, audacious goal (or goals) can you set?

Curious.

As humans, we can be selfish. “It’s all about me! My life sucks! I have it so hard!” I’m not here to tell you you’re wrong. Your perspective is your truth, and back to my earlier comment, we all have our own pile of poo.

I could either stare at my pile of poo and complain about its size and smell, or I could stop having tunnel vision and be curious about what’s in my peripheral view. What areas of your life could you focus your curiosity on instead of having tunnel vision on your pile of poo? What’s something you’ve always wanted to explore, but never focused on before?

Kind.

So. Much. Hurt.

I’m hurting. I see others hurting. I see people hurting each other. There’s a lot of people walking around without noses because they’ve cut it off to spite their face. Figuratively speaking of course.

It’s dumb.

The biggest lesson 2020 has taught me is I can only control myself. I know, I know- that mantra has been around for a long time, but 2020 FORCED me to feel it in my bones. You can rah, rah, rah at me all day long like a motivational speaker from stage, but when you’re done talking, my response is “that’s cool, but I’m gonna go back to trying to control everything because that neural pathway is firmly established”.

I could continue on my path of insanity (you know, doing the same thing and expecting a different result), or I could start being kind to myself. Focusing on myself may seem hypocritical of my early comment mentioning how humans are selfish, but it’s not.

In the past, I’ve only thought of kindness as it relates to the way I treat others. Through my work with #500rising training and surrounding myself with amazing humans at Violence Dynamics, who I’ve let myself be raw and vulnerable with (like legit ugly cry in public-not my usual M.O.), I’ve realized the person who needs the most kindness right now is me. What can you do to be kind to yourself today?

The upcoming weeks and even months look differently for DAG. I’m having to let go of a lot of things and with that comes some grief. It feels like loss. I wish I could tell you what it will look like on the other side, or even when I will get to the other side, but I can’t. That would be my old neural pathways of trying to control everything and I’m currently destroying those old habits. (maybe I CAN learn new tricks! ?)

I don’t know what the future holds for me or DAG, but what I know is I’m going to be Bold, Curious, and Kind.

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

-Mary Oliver