This Part Rarely Gets Talked About

This Part Rarely Gets Talked About

Last night, myself and other 500rising instructors attended a virtual training presentation on “Legal & Ethical Implications – The art of explaining yourself”. The training was pre-work for the in-person training next month to attain Level II certification. As always, the information Tammy McCracken (founder of 500rising) shared left me thinking, why don’t more instructors talk about this in self-defense classes?

A lot of self-defense training focuses on the physical aspect. How to hit or kick, and the best places on the human body to target. Many times, the training includes a tool that a person can carry to defend themselves and the best ways to use it. This area of study is all about being in the fight.

Fairly new to self-defense training (at least in the everyday women’s self-defense discussion) is situational awareness. How to observe your surroundings using all your senses. How that information is fed from your subconscious to your conscious. How to take action to avoid a physical confrontation. Reading other people’s body language and improving your own non-verbal signals to give off the vibe that you are not an easy target. This area of study focuses on before the fight, and what I geek out about.

The area I don’t see many social media posts, blogs, articles, etc. regarding is the aftermath.

*You became aware of a potential threat to your safety and tried to avoid it. Situational Awareness

*You weren’t able to avoid it, so now you are in a physical fight to defend yourself. Self-defense

*The fight is over, and you are alive. Now what? Aftermath

In the first few minutes after you have defended your life and stopped the threat, how will you feel? What will you do? What are the things you need to do?

Your body’s natural response to a threatening situation is an adrenaline rush. It helps your body react more quickly. It makes the heart beat faster and increases blood flow to the brain and muscles. It’s your “fight-or-flight” reaction. It can also decrease your ability to feel pain and give you a burst of strength to do something you wouldn’t be able to do under normal circumstances.

Coming down from that adrenaline rush can make you feel weak, tired, drained, and barely able to speak in complete sentences. You may be injured and needing medical attention, but you are alive and have the opportunity to heal.

Defending yourself in a fight is an act of violence. You did everything you could think of to avoid getting to that point, but it happened anyway. You’re a mom, wife, daughter, sister, friend…you may never have thought of yourself as a woman who has a “mean right hook” or who knows what it feels like to do damage to human flesh. It can have a mental impact that lasts much longer than coming down from the adrenaline rush.

The aftermath of violence has physical, psychological, legal, and ethical impacts. The topic deserves its own focus as part of a well-rounded training program. The 500rising training last night went just over an hour and barely scratched the surface of aftermath. I’m looking forward to the in-person training next month to deepen my knowledge, so I can share it with you. Together, we can go from strength to strength and change the statistics on violence against women.

“Everything has the opportunity to heal, except death.”

-Kelly Sayre

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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

Fear Mongering and Click Bait

Fear Mongering and Click Bait

Last week, an article was shared with me about an alleged Tik Tok video declaring April 24th National Rape Day. In doing a quick online search, there were quite a few articles talking about this alleged video.

When something gets shared with me, whether it’s a video, article, picture, or a personal account of a woman being attacked, I try to get as much information as I can. I want to learn the details, in order to pull out lessons that will help other woman stay safer. It’s not about figuring out what the victim did wrong. It’s about looking at the tactics or methods used by the predator, and sharing that information so everyone can learn to recognize early warning signs.

In every attack from one human to another (or group of people), there are pre-threat indicators. The indicators are not always recognized, either because the victim does not consciously observe them and misses their intuition signals, or a third party doesn’t recognize the indicators for what they are. Again-this is not a blame game, it’s a lack of knowledge on threat assessment.

The alleged Tik Tok video would be considered a pre-threat indicator. Except, no one could find the video. A friend of DAG, whose job is in crisis management and threat assessment, had his entire team scouring the web for this video. They couldn’t find it. What they did find was a post on social media talking about the alleged video. From that post, mainstream media took it as fact (without verifying there was an actual video), and used fear mongering as click bait.

Now, some could argue that the public needs to be made aware of any and all threats of violence, in order to protect themselves. I disagree.

Real and viable threats? Yes-those need to be brought to the attention of the right people to avoid violence if at all possible.

Fear mongering and scare tactics to get clicks, likes, and shares? Nope.

Not only do scare tactics make the situation worse, it can be re-traumatizing for anyone who has experienced that type of violence in the past. Instead of sharing knowledge to empower women in their personal safety (ex: here’s the warning signs to watch for and options to get safe), it causes panic and anxiety.

What is the most important thing to do when your intuition alarm bells start going off? Stay calm and decide on a course of action that keeps your safety the #1 priority.

How can you build confidence in your personal safety skills? Here’s 4 things to start with…

  1. Get on The Diamond Arrow Group’s email, follow DAG on Facebook and Instagram, and connect with Kelly on LinkedIn. (Share our info with others!)
  2. Practice simple daily habits to increase your situational awareness skills. (Watch this video for ideas.)
  3. Gather a group of friends or family and take self-defense classes. (Are you in central MN? Here’s a FREE class with 500rising instructors next month.)
  4. Research self-defense tools and figure out what would work best for you and your lifestyle. (Don’t know where to start? Email me.)

I don’t want you to live your life in fear of the “what ifs”. There are so many cool people to meet, so many cool places to travel to, and so many cool adventures to experience.

A diamond through an arrow symbolizes courage moving forward. Let me help you build confidence in your personal safety skills so you can live life on your terms.

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

-Mary Oliver

Sneak Peek at the DAG Book

Sneak Peek at the DAG Book

I’ll be in a self-imposed, writer’s isolation this week to work on book edits. Since it’s blog week, I thought it would be fun to share an excerpt with you. A sneak peek/VIP insider info sort of thing.

The excerpt below is a “diamond” in the rough (hahaha…get it? ;-p).

DAG Book (still trying to come up with a title!)

“One night, just as I was drifting off to sleep, I heard a loud bang and saw a flash of light through my bedroom curtains. I was too terrified to move. It had sounded like gunfire. I didn’t want to look out my window for fear that the person would see my curtains move, and know I was awake. I called 911 and two Sheriff Deputies showed up. It was late at night, but I was wide awake.

The one Deputy kept testing my memory by repeating back incorrectly what I said.

Deputy: “you said you heard two shots”

Me: “no, I said I only heard one”

I lived in a newer development with small city lots. The neighbors on the bedroom side of my house told the Deputies they hadn’t heard anything.

The two Deputies were professional and took my statement. When they left, I started doubting what I had seen and heard. Maybe I had dreamt it? Maybe it was a firecracker? I didn’t sleep that night, even with Diablo next to me.

I few weeks later, I heard two men’s voices outside my bedroom window, late at night. Again-I froze in bed and silently cursed Diablo for sleeping soundly, while I lay in fear. Where was my scary pit bull protector when I needed him?

After I didn’t hear anything for a few minutes, I assumed it was the neighbors and went to sleep.

While making coffee the next morning, I looked out my front window, down onto my driveway, and saw the explanation for the two male voices I’d heard the previous night. A vehicle had pulled into my driveway (it was winter and the recent snow was a great evidence collector), the passenger had gotten out and walked up to my front door. The driver had gotten out and walked around my house, to the base of my deck stairs, and back to the vehicle.

I remember feeling absolutely terrified.

My mind started racing. Was this related to the weird noise I had heard a few weeks ago? Were they casing my house? How ballsy to walk around my house in the winter, when I could easily see their tracks the next morning. Was this a psychological game and they were intentionally trying to intimidate me?

At the time, I was working on a law enforcement event in town, so I called one of my contacts. I shakingly told him about the tracks I was seeing around my house. I also mentioned that I thought I had heard a gunshot a few weeks prior. I felt so helpless and scared. I kept thinking, “WTF is wrong with me? I’m living by myself and I don’t have a single weapon in my house. (yes, yes-technically I had a variety of weapons in my house, but “affordances” wasn’t in my brain yet). I don’t have a plan as to what I would do if someone tried to break into my home. Obviously, my dog isn’t going to be any help.”

If we look at fear as a motivator instead of a hindrance, it can help us improve our lives. I didn’t want to live in fear in my own home. I needed to take accountability for my personal safety and create a plan.

My LE contact calmly reassured me that most likely, the individuals had mistaken my house as someone’s they knew. After walking around, they probably realized their mistake and left without incident. It was a reasonable explanation and it calmed me down.

It’s important to point out I had a law enforcement contact I knew and trusted enough to call and ask for advice. If I hadn’t had that connection, I would’ve been faced with the decision to either call the police non-emergency number or shrug it off and act like it wasn’t a big deal. As a single woman, living alone with her cuddly pit bull, I have to admit I probably would’ve shrugged it off.

I’m not saying it would’ve been the wrong choice, it simply would’ve been the choice I picked. As women, when we tell someone about something that freaked us out, but nothing bad happened, we hear “See? It was nothing.” We may even be told we were “probably overreacting”. This perpetuates the habit of downplaying our intuition when we sense something is off in our environment.

If I had called my Dad that morning instead of the LE contact, he would have done his best to reassure me that everything was fine, that I was okay, and then he would’ve whispered out of the side of his mouth “don’t tell your mother, it’ll freak her out”.

The message, “if something scared you, but nothing bad happened, you are fine. BUT…keep it to yourself because it might cause worry in someone else”, gets ingrained in our head.

Do you see the screwed-up messaging women get about their personal safety?

We need to change the conversation and talk about the real things women face. We need to talk about what violence towards women really looks like and how to create a plan that works for them. We need to stop making women feel like they should keep their fears to themselves because heaven forbid we make someone else uncomfortable.”

Let’s Get Rid of Pedestals

Let’s Get Rid of Pedestals

This past weekend, I was made aware of a woman experiencing some really horrible things. My heart broke for her. Not out of pity, but because of the work I do studying violence against women, I recognized all the factors making it hard for her to know what action to take. Does she have the answer inside of her? Absolutely. Does that make it easier for her to take action? Not at all.

“But Kelly, what factors could possibly be so big that someone would hesitate to take action?!?”

Money

Child(ren)

Pets

Her home

Her routine

And the big one…

Shame

Brene Brown says “secrecy, silence and judgment: those are the three things shame needs to grow exponentially in our lives.”

When anyone is experiencing a traumatic event in their life, it can be paralyzing. There are so many questions they ask themselves. How did this happen? How did I not see the early warning signs? What will people think of me when they find out? People think I’m so great in other areas of my life, how did I screw this part up so badly?!? They want to hide their pain because the pain of other’s judgment feels suffocating and isolating.

In my opinion, social media has amplified the power of shame. It’s the double-edged sword of seeking connection by sharing parts of our lives with others and the dopamine hit of getting likes and affirmations in the comments. We want people to like us, so we continue to refine our public image to keep the good feelings flowing. To share the not-so-great moments of our life and be “real” in the virtual world gets shoved in the closet. The lines between real life and the virtual world are so blurred, that shoving embarrassment in the closet starts happening in our relationships with the people in our physical world. During the pandemic, I found myself not wanting to talk about my struggles online or in person because a.) Everyone was struggling with something, if not everything, in their life so I didn’t want to add to the weight of the world and b.) I strive to maintain a high level of personal responsibility so working on myself to get through the tough times makes me look inward for answers. While that may seem noble, if I’m not careful, I stop sharing my pain with the people who love me unconditionally. I keep the messy parts of myself secret because in the past, the judgment of those I thought would be there for me no matter what, was crushing. I was ostracized by those closest to me and left to fend for myself. (teaser: I dive more deeply into this in my upcoming book. Gah! Being vulnerable was scary but so therapeutic!)

I look at life’s difficult times as lessons, so while I wouldn’t wish my experiences on anyone, I see the silver-lining in what I learned by getting through it. My increased empathy for others, my refusal to judge anyone by their past, and the belief that no one’s life is perfect. My mother tells me when I was a little girl, if I got hurt, I didn’t want to be held. By her account, I would lash out and want to be left alone. In reality, I did want to be consoled, but on my terms. I see the same behavior in my youngest. When he gets upset, he wants to be alone. I wait a beat, then I sit close by and let him know I’m there for him whenever he’s ready to talk or needs a hug. I stay quiet and I hold the space for him. It usually doesn’t take long before he tells me why he’s mad and ends up in my lap for a hug.

The woman I mention at the beginning of this post is in the middle of a storm. What she doesn’t need is anyone making her feel ashamed, feel like it’s her fault, or pass judgment. She needs to know her closest circle of people loves her unconditionally and will hold space for whatever feelings she needs to work through. She needs to know that when she asks for help, she won’t be told what to do, but instead will be given any and all the resources to take action.

No one is perfect. We’ve all got our own shit. Thinking someone else has it all together and finding yourself jealous of YOUR perception of them is toxic. Twisting jealousy into judgement to make yourself feel better is a shitty thing to do. On the flip side, don’t feel like you have to air your dirty laundry in public to be “real” either. It’s your rules. It’s your mental boundaries. Live life on your terms.

“Can we get rid of the pedestals already?

I don’t need to tell you all the times I fucked up in my life so you can feel better about yourself.

You don’t have to pretend you’ve got all your shit figured out for me to respect you.

The grave equals all.”

-Kelly Sayre