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using your voiceYour voice is your most effective safety tool.  Yet it’s the tool most folk, especially women and girls, are reluctant to use.  “Do I have to say anything?” is a too-common question in class.  The answer is no, you don’t HAVE to do or say anything you don’t want to, and there are some cases where saying nothing may be your best choice.  That being said, there are reasons why using your voice is an essential tool.

  1. BREATHING.  Show of hands, who thinks breathing isn’t that important?  Yeah, that’s what I figured.  If you are using your voice you are breathing.  Breathing is critical to life, and critical to managing your reactions in challenging situations.  Which brings me to the next reason . . .
  2. FREEZING.  Inability to respond.  Using your voice can break that freeze.  The assailant is, in fact, often hoping you will freeze.  Which brings us to . . .
  3. STARTLING the assailant.  Assailants, like any predator, are looking for easier prey.  Targets who will be afraid, unsure, easily intimidated.  Using your voice, especially LOUDLY, by itself has a good chance of chasing off the assailant as that’s not what they expected.  Which can . . .
  4. ATTRACT ATTENTION.  Maybe any people around will look.  Perhaps some will whip out their phones to capture video.  If you’re super lucky, someone might try to intervene.  Most assailants don’t want to risk attention.  But maybe nobody is around . . . you may want to . . .
  5. INCREASE YOUR ADRENALINE.  Adrenaline, at the right level, can increase your physical effectiveness should you need to actually fight your assailant.  It can increase your speed and strength.  It can make time feel like its going slooooowwww.   (Note:  too much adrenaline, on the other hand, can begin shutting down your responses and effectiveness.)  And, finally, using your voice can . . .
  6. ENGAGE YOUR CORE.  Which brings in more muscle groups, connects parts of your body to work together like a power drive train, and increases your physical effectiveness.

There is a world of difference between an intellectual knowledge of your voice’s importance, and actually using it.  As in your ability to not only recognize but to state your needs, your preferences, and your boundaries. That’s why we practice using our voices in our self-defense classes.

Do you sometimes find yourself in situations (social, work, family) where you kinda go along because it’s just not a big deal?  There’s nothing inherently wrong with that — a crucial life skill is navigating and prioritizing choices.  But also recognize that we are often socialized to feel uncomfortable standing up for ourselves.  If you default that that, do you find yourself constantly left unsatisfied?  Do you feel more like a spectator rather than player in your own life?

Our January post began what I expected to be a two or three part look at self-care, and how that fits into your personal safety plan.  


Then COVID-19 happened.


Self-care in the wake of the rapid spread of COVID-19 has slammed us into uncomfortable positions. We have to pay more attention to both physical and social boundaries. Boundaries with strangers, acquaintances, and loved ones. Boundaries in public and in private. And sometimes, unfortunately, boundaries that hurt.


In January, I listed 5 categories of activities that fall under the umbrella of self-care. I looked more closely at two: those that can make you feel better in the short term but may or may not help your quality of life (self-soothing), and those that do positively impact your long-term quality of life (self-care). A few weeks ago I asked Facebook followers if their view of personal safety has changed with the onset of COVID-19, and a couple noted it was now easier to set boundaries. Mostly with people they knew. Here’s a good article about setting boundaries in these borderline chaotic times — what makes this particularly useful are the concrete examples given on setting different boundaries in ways that are more likely to build relationships.


If you find yourself yearning for some self-care structure, there’s help. The Center for Anti-Violence Education in Brooklyn, NY, has free webinars. One is called From Social Distancing to Social Care (the beginning of this workshop has a lot of self-care info), and the other is Decreasing Tension in Our Homes During COVID-19 (de-escalation skills). A great concept for self-care is mutual care, and a tool in that direction is pod mapping. Because sometimes the best way to care for yourself is to have a hand in caring for others, and allowing yourself to ask for care. It involves just a bit of planning, of thinking with whom you have a close relationship and could be supportive, and who you could also support. Thinking of others you also know and with whom you could build a better relationship (hint: this involves prioritizing friendships). And thinking of what organizations (NPOs, government, media, community) are impactful.  
One more self-care option: online reading group. Saturday afternoon I heard about Tolstoy Together, which has several thousand participant on six continents. They are reading War and Peace. It’s been decades since I’ve read anything by Tolstoy, and this blog is SO tempting . . .


As a self-defense teacher, I’ve noticed that most people put off important “stuff.” I am not the first to notice (I think it’s often pointed out by life coaches and self-help authors that “important but not urgent” often gets pushed aside by “urgent but not important”). Alas, that includes deep connections with others. Going through a pod mapping for some may be a good check on how solid your social network really is. To get through this stretch of time where we are asked to be physically distant, we will need to honestly assess and strengthen the quality of our social contacts.