BY RACHEL CHEESEMAN, FOUNDER OF STREET SMART SELF DEFENSE
After taking my son to a recent doctor appointment, I stopped into a public restroom on the way out. As I closed the stall door, my attention was immediately grabbed by the advertisement on the backside. It’s easy to understand why advertisers would be attracted to marketing a product in this way--due to the 100% chance of a “captive audience”. However, this ad wasn’t selling anything. It was raising awareness about domestic violence. Listed were several signs of abusive relationships, along with a series of perforated tabs across the bottom. Each one had a contact phone number for help. The most disturbing part about this flyer was that nearly three-quarters of the tabs were missing! A clear indication that domestic abuse is very prevalent.
On the surface, domestic violence is often associated with images of physical injury or restraint. But the wounds go much deeper than that. When I became a certified legal advocate through our local shelter, the first handout prospective volunteers were given was the “Wheel of Power & Control”. This tool blatantly illustrated the attributes and evolution of abusive relationships. The diagram of a wheel is symbolic of an endless cycle. Inside it resembles a pie chart that’s divided between the more violent obvious signs, such as threats, intimidation and physical abuse; to the lesser obvious non-violent signs, such as manipulation, leverage of children and isolation.
A big key in spotting the non-violent early warning signs is to ALWAYS trust your gut instinct. Don’t get into the habit of making excuses for someone else’s controlling behaviors. It’s not because they are having a bad day or that they really “love” you and understand what’s best. These people are selfish cowards with a constant, immediate need for self-gratification! It is extremely important to obey your instincts and remove yourself from this situation as soon as possible--BEFORE there is too much emotional investment into the relationship. Sadly, once both parties feel emotionally “vested” in an abusive relationship, it becomes much harder and more dangerous for the person being abused to break away. This is largely because the abuser’s lifeline comes from draining the life-force out of their partner.
Abusers are bullies and their goal is to break down their partner’s self-worth so much so that their partner feels as though they can’t live their life without them, despite the ongoing abuse. The best way to shield yourself from destructive relationships is to adopt a positive attitude about yourself. Learn how to say the word “NO” and realize that you are worth protecting in all situations and at every cause. Set attainable goals within your life so that you don’t get overly frustrated with yourself. Doing so will help you feel productive and independent, so as not to question your own judgment.
Most importantly, see yourself as a VICTOR! Not a … M-I-T-C-I-V ….… it isn’t always this obvious.
Rachel Cheeseman is a 2nd degree black belt and has studied the martial arts for the past 28 years. She founded Street Smart Self Defense Academy in Erie, PA 17 years ago to empower women, due to the rape of her sister in her off-campus college apartment. She is a certified instructor for the national full-contact self-defense program called “Model Mugging” and a certified instructor for the MUNIO Self Defense Workshops. Rachel is also a member of and former seminar instructor for the American Women’s Self Defense Association, and she has been inducted into the USA Martial Arts Hall of Fame, Action Martial Arts Magazine Hall of Honors and the World Karate Union Hall of Fame.