When I first decided to do a video I sat down with my husband Ryan and ran a few ideas of what I felt was the most important thing I could say in regards to women’s self defense. As with anything you must have a strong foundation in order to build and the understanding of creating boundaries for yourself and knowing you have a voice to speak up I feel is probably one of the cornerstones. When I showed the extreme rough first film edits to Ryan, we spent several hours hashing out what was said to realize that though this is a women’s self defense blog these are the exact same things we also teach our sons and it is just as imperative. Knowing you can, being encouraged to be brave enough, and actually verbalizing where your lines are when it comes to body autonomy and rude rhetoric is in fact foundational.
On November 22, 2016 Olympic Doctor Larry Nassar was indicted on several state charges of, “sexual assault of a child.” By the time this whole thing was all over it had come to light that he had molested/raped, “at least 265 young women and girls dating back to 1992.” BBC News. January 31, 2018. The really haunting part about all of this is that it didn’t really seem to come as much of a shock to the gymnast world. Sure some had come forward slowly over the years but never enough to apparently make anything stick. So much was swept under the rug even to a point where several young girls told their parents and they were not believed. One young girl was even made to apologize by her father to Nassar for “slandering,” him. The whole story is horrific and there are suicides, that father being one of them, linked to his crimes. He was so deceiving with what he did he often had the majority of the victims as well as parents second guessing themselves.
I had extensive surgery to remove a bone tumor from my leg in high school. I had just started playing soccer the year before and whereas I was enthusiastic, I was terrible. If I am honest with myself I was only there because the uniforms were cute; well they were cute until I got lambasted by a kick directly in the eyeball my junior year and my mom made me wear goggles….. My interest in soccer waned after that. However the season following the surgery I was back at it and due to the constant running I ended up messing up my leg even more creating a muscle herniation. One day after practice I told the coach about it and we went into the Sports Medicine Room. He had me lay on the table while he rubbed my leg. I hated every minute of it. Now please understand he did not go anywhere above my knee; I am not saying whether or not what he was doing was or was not appropriate, but I did not like his hands on me and we were alone. I also did not know if it was right or wrong so I kept silent. I had minimal exposure really to sports, for all I knew this was par for the course on injuries. What I did know was that I could not hop off that table fast enough when it was over, busted leg or not. I avoided and quit soon after. Even if I would have said I was uncomfortable we know how that story would have ended because whether or not his intent was of a grooming nature or not, I could be falsely accusing an innocent man who was just doing his job.
While talking over my video with my husband we started discussing the above story and sports in high school and just the general lack of understanding of lines drawn. We had recently read an article of a Joplin High School coach that was just charged with molesting a minor, he used his authority as a teacher to gain access into this child’s home. We talked about fixing this, I told him of the coach in high school, and we tossed around more prevention ideas. I mean there were 265 young girls in the Nassar case, several told their parents, several times parents were present in the room, and this went on for decades.
Several times parents were in the room….. that one killed me. I mean, that was my first solution to the problem, always have another person present as an authoritative figure for the young person. When we were foster parents to teen girls, my husband Ryan was never alone, even in a car with them. We wanted to maintain an above reproach approach. I have gone into have a conversation with a male pastor who shut the door to his office. He thought he was giving the situation privacy, but I opened the door for both of us. I was not concerned safety wise in the least for myself, but I set up that precedent not out of paranoia, but protection for both of us. This may not be the line that others draw for themselves, that is fine. I set this up for my comfort zone and what works for me, you have to decide for yourself and your lifestyle.
The sinister nature of grooming is so embedded in deceit that it fools not only those around them but the victim themselves. In a previous article I mentioned a foster child that had asked me, “what if it felt good?” As if she was the one to blame in that sadistic game. That’s how it starts, a simple touch that makes a person feel squirmy, but they don’t know if they can even say anything, should they say anything, if they do will they get in trouble, will their family get in trouble? With all these confusing thoughts just at the beginning of what could look like to any outsider an innocent touch, it’s no wonder that silence reigns. Tragically it is the next time the spiral starts when it goes just a bit farther….but its okay because he/she is a friend of the family, or he/she is a family member and you don’t want to stir the pot…. and honestly they are nice to me, they bring gifts, make it seem like it’s a game, a game I don’t necessarily like but a game that this person who is older obviously knows more about, maybe I even like certain aspects about this game. This circles to the point of, this feels dirty but I participated so now I am guilty, dirty, I am wrong, I let them do this to me, I don’t have a right to say anything.
With a coach or a teacher it’s the same thing but now you have added variables. Nassar’s occupation as a doctor held a benefit in his predatory mind, who would question his medical authority? No one, not even the parents. Nassar had the threat of derailing Olympic dreams, with a coach, the possibility of not playing, college scholarships. It’s the authority in the situation that sadly a younger person innately thinks they need to keep the predator happy with them and they can’t do that while accusing them of something inappropriate when even in their own head they are confused.
Ladies learning any type of self defense or even putting our children in the classes will not help if we do not know where to draw a line and say no in the first place.
So how do predators act during the grooming process? Ponder through this list from Protect Young Minds and talk with your children about it:
1) They seek out and pay extra special attention to a child
2) Acts over the top interested in the child
3) Buys gifts, brings small things for them
4) This one is is a big one and a situation I talk about in the video Touches or hugs them in front of trusted adults which make the child think that the touching is okay
5) Flatters the child with knowledge of their likes and dislikes, may claim to have the same ones
6) Pretends to be good friends with the child. Adults should NOT be best friends to your child
7) Looks for ways to be alone with the child like offering to babysit, note parents can be groomed for this too by this line of thinking.
I am not saying all of these things are in and of themselves the holy grail of a predator mind set for grooming your child. There are circumstances that differ for everyone, but I am saying pay attention to your parental instincts, don’t ignore that gut feeling and pay attention to your child’s body language.
So where do we draw the line? How do we prepare our kids? Here are a few ideas for parents:
1) Teach body safety at an early age
2) Teach them the above grooming behaviors
3) Have them report any gifts they receive from teachers at school, church, from coaches, family members, and parental friends.
4) Teach them it is never okay for anyone to show them pornography or tell them dirty jokes
5) They must know they can come to you with ANY concerns and their fear or their feelings will not be minimized. They need to know they won’t get in trouble
6) If your child has come to you and is struggling to tell you what happened, DO NOT freak out, help them talk through it with love and encouragement. It likely is embarrassing so be patient
7) Teach your child to report anytime they have been alone with an adult
8)Do not be afraid to talk with your children, the education sadly is needed and we are held accountable to give them the right tools for safety and communication
Nobody wants to hear this, hell I don’t want to write this, but damn I want to stop it. I want my kids to not even hesitate, I want to hear them state loudly and clearly that they are uncomfortable the first time they don’t like “Heavy Hand Jacks,” hand on their shoulder and then I, their protector, will sort out the details. And believe me, I WILL sort them out. I have waded through and seen and listened too much to what happens afterward to the majority of the population. This is real, it is very close to home. Rainn states that one in nine girls and one in 53 boys under the age of 18 experience sexual abuse or assault at the hands of an adult, 82% of all victims under 18 are female. 90% of all these victims know their assaulter. Know them. That’s a family member, a family friend, a neighbor, and an extremely high percentage. Give your child and yourself the ability to be able to say clearly, “Stop, you are making me uncomfortable.” Also, rot in jail Nassar.
Author- Christun Erwin
"Thank you for your words. They make an impact and its important that, human to human, woman to woman, mother to mother... you know that you make a difference, even to those you never knew your words" -Krystal