Re-scripting the dialogue with our inner critic

19 May, 2015

The Impact of Socialization

One of the things I’ve noticed over 23 years of teaching empowerment self-defense is how impactful socialization is when it comes to taking in and eventually believing the negative messages others create about us. This internalization of other’s beliefs, to the point where they feel like our own beliefs, can be so automatic we aren’t even conscious of doing it – so it’s no use to blame ourselves for blaming ourselves!

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Let’s Give Them Something to Talk About

7 May, 2015

Being able to express boundaries and enforce them –if need be — is a protective factor against sexual assault and intimate partner violence, but what about all the other harms and outcomes that advance conversations can potentially prevent or help manage?

Dee Rene, in this article, reminds us that communication around sexual consent is an ongoing process and there’s much more to talk about than yes or no “before you get busy.”

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Visibility matters

19 Mar, 2015

“It is increasingly important to lift of the voices of LGBTQ young people who are often not represented in media outlets, as well as share their diverse stories and perspectives. Oftentimes, LGBTQ young people are unable to see people who reflect their identities. This can be isolating and challenging, especially if a young person is struggling to accept themselves for who they are.” – Trevor Project website

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When Schools Don’t Protect Our Girls: Is Self-Defense an Option?

3 Mar, 2015

In my feed this week was a story about a 15-year-old boy who snaps a classmate’s bra repeatedly and won’t stop when she tells him to. Her teacher takes no action when she reports the incident and the boy finally snaps her bra hard enough for it to come undone. She punches him twice in the face and then he stops. She’s in trouble with school administrators and he’s not. Her mom questions that outcome and puts the school on the hot seat for failing to protect her daughter from sexual assault. What’s your perspective? Do you relate to the person who was the target of harassment? Are you concerned about a fair consequence for her aggressor and/or for her?…

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There is nothing about us without us.

9 Feb, 2015

#NothingAboutUsWithoutUs This powerful statement was reiterated in a conversation recently with a person that works at an organization that serves people with disabilities. First used in association with the disability rights movement, this saying now has meaning across social justice movements. A little history, from Wikipedia “Nothing About Us Without Us!” (Latin: “Nihil de nobis, sine nobis”) is a slogan used to communicate the idea that no policy should be decided by any representative without the full and direct participation of members the group(s) affected by that policy. This involves national, ethnic, disability-based, or other groups that are often thought to be marginalized from political, social, and economic opportunities.” It is not a new idea – as a political motto…

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Walk the Talk – bullying prevention

12 Jan, 2015

Alena Schaim, Executive Director and Instructor for the De Vargas Middle School program says, “Walk the Talk excites me because it goes beyond ‘Bullying is wrong.’ messaging. Students already know that bullying is hurtful and are affected by it. Walk the Talk gives them the empathy to identify with what others experience and concrete tools to help.”

Walk the Talk moves away from simplistic models of bullying – “she is just saying that because she is jealous” or “he must have low self esteem” and replaces it with a nuanced understanding of bias and stereotypes and how they play out at the lunch table – we help young people address bullying at its source.

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Get to Know Carolyn Meyer-Wartels, LCSW-R

16 Dec, 2014

Carolyn is an experienced psychotherapist who has been working in private practice on Manhattan’s Upper West Side since 1996. Empathic and direct, she offers therapeutic services for individuals, couples, and families. She appears as an expert on parenting issues for both television and magazine and is a regular speaker at local and national organizations. Carolyn holds a Masters degree from New York University, is a certified Imago Relationship Therapist and is a graduate of an advanced institute specializing in Parent /Infant therapy from the Jewish Board of Family and Children Services. Carolyn, we enjoyed our collaboration with you on Parent, Caregiver and Educator workshop so much. You‘ve offered workshops like this before. Prepare has been offering parent and educator workshops…

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IMPACT at Camp Promise

10 Dec, 2014

Our campers learned skills to turn scenarios in which they would otherwise have felt helpless into opportunities to use their greatest strengths—their voices—to set boundaries, advocate for themselves, and report abuse. They learned how to carry themselves to look like difficult targets—a key lesson with given that statistics report somewhere between 70% and 90% of people with disabilities being abused or assaulted.
The group that left the workshop looked very different than the group that came in. They sat taller, spoke louder, and had more confidence. I encourage anyone who works with a “vulnerable” population to reach out to Prepare. The training they offer is invaluable, especially to people with physical and cognitive disabilities. And, I cannot wait to see IMPACT:Ability transform the lives of a new group of students!
Donate to Emerging Strategies for Learning and Leadership (a 501 (c) 3 organization) to support training 6 additional instructors in the IMPACT:Ability program.

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IPV impacts everyone differently

3 Dec, 2014

In a recent class with 9th grade girls, we did a version of an exercise where one person stands in the middle of larger group of their classmates. She represents the person in an abusive relationship. Each of the surrounding people, one by one, read an unsupportive statement and cut their connection to her by turning their back to her. As the circle turned their back on her, her abuser, standing just off to the side, is clearly the only one left that is there for her.

The exercise was repeated and the surrounding students read very supportive statements. They re-established a connection to her by facing her and reaching out their hands to her. The visual was clear and dramatic. The victim now had a network of relationships that would sustain and support her, whatever she decides to do.

The exercise was profound for everyone, most of all, the student in the middle. She had a dramatically difference response both times – feeling abandoned and alone and horrible the first time; ready to think, plan, accept help, and take care of herself the second time.

My takeaway from this series on IPV, reinforced deeply by that exercise just 2 weeks ago, is that my judgment isn’t what is needed. What is most important to the victim is maintaining a connection – possibly a lifeline. I won’t forget.

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Complex Dynamics in IPV

25 Nov, 2014

Hilary Bok at, writing about why people stay, reminds us that leaving can be dangerous, even fatal. While leaving is not everyone’s goal, if it is, then it would make sense to stay “at least until you had figured out how to leave safely and cover your tracks.” Not always so easy – where to go, how to support yourself and children, dealing with blowback from friends, family, community, managing shame and self-blame. Let’s just say, it is a high bar for many. And, because someone hasn’t left yet doesn’t mean they’re not in the process of figuring it out – which might require time and great discretion for the sake of their safety.
The capacities one would call on to leave are the same capacities that are being eroded by the cycle of abuse – for example, self-respect and confidence. The longer the relationship lasts, the more those capacities are affected, and the more ties have been created – financial, children, household, community for example. Contrary to myth, most women (85%) in an abusive relationship do leave, or at least try, according to Sara Staggs.

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