– Episode Eleven –

Domestic Violence Part 1

About The Empowerment Podcast

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In this podcast, created as a platform to teach you everything she knows about self-defense, join host Silvia Smart in this safe space. With over three decades on the frontlines, she’ll give you skills and knowledge for your self-defense toolkit so you can live your most fearless and empowered life. Research proves that empowerment self-defense programs work. Participants are less fearful, more aware of their boundaries, and are able to speak up sooner when faced with manipulative or threatening situations. Furthermore, for those who have experienced trauma in the past, evidence shows that empowerment self-defense training can interrupt the cycle of violence and decrease the likelihood of a future assault.

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Our stories are important. YOUR stories are important! Consider sharing your story with me and with my listeners.

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Host Silvia Smart and author Lauren Taylor discuss this newly released book which is an excellent resource for everyone – those interested in empowerment, in self-defense and instructors of ESD as well. Join Silvia and Lauren as they do some of the exercises in the book and chat about the ins and outs of this fascinating publication worthy of a read!

The Empowerment Podcast – Episode 48

Finding Empowerment within the Upsetting Context of Mass Shootings – an Interview with SAC Kieran Ramsey, FBI Portland

There’s a clear uptick in mass shootings across the country leading to lots of fear, confusion and anguish. Who better to talk to than the FBI? Join me and my guest, Special Agent in Charge of the Portland FBI, Kieran Ramsey.

We discuss how regular people like you and me can help prevent mass shootings and play a role in stopping this disturbing cycle of violence. (Hint: it will not make the news.) We discuss the ins and outs, ups and downs of knowing what to look for, fact versus myth, reporting, planning, preparation and yes, believe it or not, empowerment!

Many thanks to SAC Ramsey for sharing his experience and wisdom as we negotiate the complex landscape we all live in right now.

Please share this episode far and wide. Together, we can create a kinder and safer world, one relationship at a time. We’ve got this!

Resources Mentioned in this Episode:
• Call 911
• Call Your Local Non-Emergency Police Phone Number: Directory by City
• Report to the FBI
• Contact Your Local FBI Field Office
• FBI Phone #: 1-800-CALL-FBI (1-800-225-5324)

Connect with Silvia
Trauma Informed Active Shooter Trainings with Silvia

Special thanks to my editor, Henry Smart-Denson

The Empowerment Podcast – Episode 47

Folks, Florida is on the front lines right now. There are huge safety concerns brought on by the cruel laws, restrictions, rhetoric, and policies of Ron DeSantis and his friends that are affecting many people. Because of this, Equality Florida, along with the NAACP and the League of United Latin American Citizens, have all issued travel advisories for the State of Florida.

I wanted to find out more and am thrilled to introduce you to Brandon Wolf, the Press Secretary of Equality Florida.

In April 2023, Brandon’s organization, Equality Florida warned against traveling to the state of Florida for folks in the LGBTQ+ community saying it could be risky and potentially unsafe. The warning says: “Taken in their totality, Florida’s slate of laws and policies targeting basic freedoms and rights pose a serious risk to the health and safety of those traveling to the state.”
The League of United Latin American Citizens issued its own warning, saying bluntly: “Traveling to Florida is dangerous.” The advisory goes on to say travel in Florida “can be unsafe for people of color, individuals who speak with an accent, and international travelers,” and people in those groups could face “a heightened risk of harassment, possible detainment, and potential family separation based on racial profiling.”

From the New York Times: The NAACP became the latest to issue a travel advisory to the Sunshine State, warning that Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis’s “aggressive attempts to erase Black history and to restrict diversity, equity, and inclusion programs in Florida schools” have turned the state into an openly hostile place for people of color and members of the LGBTQ+ community.
Before traveling to Florida, please understand that the state of Florida devalues and marginalizes the contributions of, and the challenges faced by African Americans and other communities of color.”

The Empowerment Podcast – Episode 46

Denial, Safety, and Empowerment – If we’re gonna talk about Empowerment Self Defense, we have to talk about denial. When talking with survivors of sexual assault and survivors of other types of relational violence it is common to hear that the survivor had a funny feeling something was wrong but then doubted themselves or rationalized or minimized their intuition and flat out ignored it. This is called denial.

Denial can put us at risk and because of that, breaking through denial in all the ways it manifests in our lives keeps us safer. Period. Looking at and talking about denial is directly connected to empowerment self-defense AND to our safety as we walk through the world.

The Empowerment Podcast – Episode 45

Meet Jill Shames, Empowerment Self Defense Instructor. Listen in as she and host, Silvia Smart, share a few self-defense success stories and talk about all the things the survivors did RIGHT! Find out why they recommend a perspective shift as you think through your own experiences! You are strong and powerful and Jill and Silvia believe in you!

The Empowerment Podcast – Episode 44

Meet Lauren Taylor who has been working to end gender-based violence since 1978, when she co-founded Washington, D.C.’s first shelter for abused women. As an empowerment self-defense teacher and founder-director of Defend Yourself, she’s trained more than 35,000 people in the D.C. area and elsewhere in the U.S. She’s also trained dozens of trainers around the country and around the world.

Join us as we find out more about Lauren and what makes her tick. Learn about the book she co-authored with Nadia Telsey, which will be published in the fall! Importantly, follow the links here to learn how to pre-order the book and support this important work!

The Empowerment Podcast – Episode 43

I Survived a Cult
Join host Silvia Smart as she shares pieces of her journey to empowerment and survival from a cult-like martial arts system. Listen to the red flags that crop up around these dysfunctional and sometimes dangerous systems and people.

Cults and charismatic leaders with ill intent are everywhere – Qanon, NXIVM, Scientology, and The Children of God, are just a few examples. Cults and narcissistic, manipulative, and sociopathic leaders exist within conspiratorial cultures, churches, and spiritual groups. People get stuck in these systems – especially when they are vulnerable. Learn the signs so you can protect yourself and stay safe.

Audio Transcription


This podcast is brought to you by the empowerment project.

Research proves that empowerment self-defense training makes you safer period. I want you to have a great self-defense toolkit so you can create strong boundaries, speak with confidence, and take up all the space that you deserve in the world.

We’ll hear stories from survivors and find out what worked for them and why. We’ll interview leaders in the field and talk about tips, concepts, and really easy things that you can do to make yourself safer and interrupt the cycle of violence.

I’ve taught self-defense classes for over 30 years and I promise to teach you everything I know!

Ultimately, I’m going to want you to get some in-person training, but a great empowerment self-defense class is more than just the physical skills. The list of things I want to teach you is endless, so let’s get to it.

My name is Silvia Smart, and welcome to the empowerment project.

I’m so glad you’re here! Welcome.

Hey hello! Welcome back!

Glad you’re here. It’s October and October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, which by the way, is also sometimes called intimate partner violence or intimate violence.

We’re going to have a short series about domestic violence. Today we’re going to talk about basic facts and statistics and get on the same page. We’ll see how sexual assault and violence in relationships affect various populations. And we’ll take a look at the continuum of sexual assault through the lens though of intimate relationship violence.

Next episode, we’re going to look at the warning signs of an abusive person and, or an unhealthy or dangerous relationship. And we’ll also look at how power and control work and think through some of the key components of a healthy relationship and what that might look like.

I’m really looking forward to the following episode, which will be an interview with a very dear friend of mine, who experienced domestic violence. She’s going to share her story with us and will tell us how she managed to get away. We’ll also talk with you in that episode about things you can do to support a friend who might be experiencing relationship violence.

So before we dive into this episode, I just want to mention that this can be really hard to listen to, and hard to hear. Remember to take care of yourself. We’ve talked about this before. I’m going to remind you to breathe but anytime you need to, you can also remind yourself to just breathe, and stop listening. If you need to just stop the podcast and go for a walk or come back to it later.

Sometimes talking about these things can create an awareness that something’s going on in our own relationships. So just in case, something comes up for you that you want or need to talk with somebody about. I’m going to give you some hotline numbers. You can call them or you can also go to their website and read more, or do a chat.


Here in the US:

National Domestic Violence Hotline


1-800-799-SAFE (7233)

Love is Respect – National Teen Dating Abuse Hotline



StrongHearts Native Helpline




For listeners who live outside of the US go to UN Women and search HELPLINES for #s in a bunch of different countries.

Basic Stats

Take a deep breath. This topic is complex and ranging and there is no way we’re going to get to all of the different aspects of it in this one episode, not even in the three that I plan to do so. Today, I just want to focus on beginning our conversation with a pretty broad overview, and some examples from the continuum of sexual assault and violence, specifically through the lens of relational violence,

To start, I’m going to read the description of what is domestic violence from the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, which is a great resource. Basically, here we go.

“Domestic Violence is the willful intimidation, physical assault, battery, sexual assault and or other abusive behavior as part of a systemic pattern of power and control, perpetrated by one intimate partner against another. It includes physical violence, sexual violence, threats, economic and emotional, psychological abuse, the frequency and severity of domestic violence varies dramatically.”

That’s pretty clear. Right? Did you know that in the US alone, more than 10 million adults experience this kind of violence every year? Okay, I’m going to take a deep breath. That’s a lot of people. Domestic Violence is prevalent in all communities, regardless of all the things: age, socio-economic status, sexual orientation, gender identification, gender, race, religion, nationality. It’s one of those terrible things that knows no boundaries.

The impact of this violence is huge. It’s physical, mental, and emotional with consequences that are economic, medical, and legal. We know, for example, that kids who grew up in violent homes, learn and integrate these patterns of behaviors that passed down through the generations and affect multitudes more of people. And then there’s death, murder, and homicide. Most of these happen when there are guns involved. In fact, when the abuser has access to firearms, the likelihood that they will kill their partner jumps like five times higher.

Okay, again, deep breath,

I am going to stop right there. If you want more details or more statistics, they are everywhere, I’m going to recommend, again, the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, that’s a great website dig around. They have very detailed handouts, specifically about domestic violence, and the Black community, domestic violence, and American Indians and Alaska Natives, and all sorts of other facts and resources. So I’m gonna recommend that you go there if you want more detail. I think for us for today, that’s enough. It’s just the beginning. But it’s enough, it’s enough for me.

So let’s take a deep breath. And let’s keep going.

The Continuum

We’re going to talk about the continuum of sexual assault with this particular lens of domestic violence or intimate relationship violence. The one that I’m going to use is from the Arizona Coalition Against Domestic Violence, which, by the way, shout out to this organization, their website is great, and it is chock full of great information, another wonderful place for you to dig around. If you want more information on this very broad topic that affects so many people, the Arizona Coalition Against Domestic Violence, highly recommend it.

For the sake of just having some organization around how we talk about this continuum. We’re going to sort it into some different categories, like emotional abuse, property damage, physical assault, sexual assault, and lethal abuse.


With regard to emotional abuse, let’s start with that. emotional abuse sometimes takes the form of isolation, isolating you, from your family, from friendships, from other relationships that you have which the batter the abuser believes is a threat. It includes things like degradation, using humiliation, making you feel worthless, valueless. Verbal abuse is part of emotional abuse. Another form of degradation. It includes violent language, tone, and threats. Some examples are like things that we’ve talked about before on the continuum are like jokes, quote, I say in quotes, jokes about how you’re stupid or slut or an idiot, even after you ask them to stop. Other types of emotional abuse are treating you as an object staring at your body parts and not stopping when you ask them to. Jealousy is definitely in here within this category of emotional abuse like who are you talking to? Who are you speaking with on the phone? Who are you texting? Who are you going with always wanting to know like, who you’re with and who you’re spending time with and showing that jealousy? criticizing, calling you cheap or stupid, telling you? Well, you know, if you don’t give it to me, I’m gonna go find sex somewhere else. Or criticizing how you have sex together. withholding affection is emotional abuse, withholding, not just affection, but sex also as a punishment because you did something, quote wrong or, quote, bad. calling you names telling you you’re worthless. I mean, I think we’ve sort of touched on this before but specific name-calling and in public in front of other people, creating an environment that feels hostile, I would say using sex to create an odd, uncomfortable environment like having pictures of naked women hung up, all over the place, or at work, or just part body parts. Just basically just creating what can feel like a hostile environment. unwanted sexual comments can create emotional abuse, like someone asking you very specific questions about your sex life in a way that’s prying that’s demeaning. using that information against you again in public or when you’re out with friends. So these are just a few examples of some ways that emotional abuse might play out.


Okay, we’re going to talk about property damage, which is pretty, pretty clear. Property is damaged. Sometimes it’s specifically chosen because it has meaning to you. Pets are sometimes put in this category, which I kind of sometimes think they need their own category, but hurting the beloved pet or the beloved pet of a child, your child. This is part like we’re gonna lump it into property damage, even though again, I feel like it could have its own category. But let’s list out a few examples just to make it really concrete. They punch the wall right by your head. They throw objects at you or past you are down on the ground. They break furniture, plates, or glasses, they tear up your clothing or cut it up, or trash objects that are near and dear to you like your favorite books or your artwork. Again, here come the animals hurting animals are threatening to harm your pets, breaking windows, or doors, defacing your car, or your place of business where you work. That is all in this continuum, right? Because this behavior is frightening. It’s scary, it’s violent. It’s, it may be directed at you or it may not but it’s in front of you. And you’re feeling that escalation that intensity, that anger that rage. It’s meant to control and to have power over.


Let’s talk about the next category. But first, let’s take a deep breath.

We’re going to talk about physical abuse. Physical abuse is like physical control. as a means to restrain you Or to have power over you again by holding, grabbing, shoving, strangling, and striking one or multiples of strikes. Physical abuse. I feel like this category is also super clear, but just to be even clearer. restraining is like holding you down, holding you back, holding you by the arm, or by the torso sitting on top of you, pinning you down.

And again, deep breath.

And striking is punching with a closed fist slapping with an open fist, hitting with an object like a bat or a vase, or a book or a shovel or a pot or a pan. So those all lie in this realm of physical assault. Next, we’re going to talk about sexual assault, which can be like a punishment, which we talked about used as payback for anything that the abuser feels like it’s owed to them, and or their friends. bribery, manipulation threats, and actual sexual assault. Some examples of this, let’s go through some there’s reproductive abuse, which is when your partner refuses to wear a condom, for example and refuses to let you see a doctor. insistence on uncomfortable touching, like squeezing and not stopping when you say it hurts, forcing you to undress even when you don’t want to like literally pulling your pants down while you’re trying to pull them back up. There’s rape.

Okay, deep breath.

We’re gonna keep going. Unwanted watching of others having sex or unwanted viewing of pornography. Your partner leaves porn all over the house so that your kids see it, even when you ask them not to, exposing you to a sexually transmitted disease, or infection. There’s forced prostitution, you know, your partner tells you he’s gonna kill your children and leave you for dead if you don’t start turning tricks on the street or having sex with their friends. There’s getting drugged. There’s being forced to participate in pictures, recordings of porn put up on the internet. Maybe there’s a camera video camera hidden in the bedroom. And maybe you’re drugged and you don’t know what’s happening. There’s forcing you to have sex or to do unwanted things like, say you don’t like anal sex, and you’re forced to have anal sex, which rape. So these are some hard to hear examples of sexual assault that can take place within a violent, unhealthy, dangerous, intimate relationship.


Last, we’re going to talk about lethal abuse, which is stalking which can be very dangerous following you sending you letters, constant, subtle threats, waiting for you outside home or work, hang up calls, peeping, harassment, anything that places you within this realm of fear of the unknown, and fear of what could possibly happen to you or your children. And of course, then there’s murder and suicide. Taking the life of the victim is the ultimate act of control. In fact, 65% of all murder-suicides are perpetrated by an intimate partner.

So deep breath here.

We’re kind of done. I don’t know this topic is intense, and it’s really, really ugly.

And I don’t know about you, but I need to just take a breather for a minute.

If you think you might see yourself or a relationship that you have in any of these examples, or even if you aren’t sure, I want to tell you again about the National Domestic Violence Hotline because there’s someone there you can talk to. Or if you can talk to a safe friend or safe family member, please do. And if a hotline is better for you, make the call now as soon as it’s safe to do so. You know, if you are in a relationship that isn’t safe, please know you’re not alone. And there is help. Again, if you can, it’s wise to talk with a safe friend or family member. And to think strategically about how you can get out of the situation, it’s really important to have a plan and to be able to jump into that plan when it’s safe for you to do so. But having a plan that other people know about who are safe for you, you’re safe people is super crucial. We’re going to talk about this. When we have the interview with my friend a couple of episodes from now we’re going to talk specifically about how to get out and how to help someone get out.

But for today, again, take a deep breath.

And want to mention that next episode we’re going to talk about, I know I mentioned this earlier, but I just want to say it again, we’re going to talk about warning signs of abusive people and unhealthy or dangerous relationships, along with what you can expect from a healthy relationship just to have that balance.


Today, I want to close with a little story that’s somewhat related. Back when I was in college in the late 70s, and early 80s, I was taking one of those required, like humanities slash history courses that everyone has to take. And I decided to write my first paper on the histories of a few specific women who’d been incarcerated for killing the men who beat them. It was a very dark paper.

But I felt good about it. I put a lot of time and effort into it. I found the subject matter fascinating.

And was it my best work? Probably not. But it was good. It was a good research paper. When I got it back. It had a huge red F circled at the top.

After class, I went up to the professor and I was like, “What the heck?” He began a diatribe against me. And all the other women who don’t know their place It was so ugly. It was a barrage of ugliness. I can’t remember all the horrible things he said. But I do remember how I felt standing there listening to this man and watching him spew and the spittle was coming out of his mouth. I felt so pissed.

So the next day, I made a few copies of my paper and made an appointment with the department head. I gave him a copy of my paper and I told him what happened the day before. He said he would look into it. I also told another professor who taught my class on the philosophy of women’s studies, I gave her a copy of my paper as well. So that was that.

Oddly, the following week, I got my paperback and the F had been crossed out. And instead, I had an A-. I loved that minus and thought it was very funny.

Anyway, that is just my little story. I want to mention thank you for hanging in here with me! This is a tough topic.


I wanted to mention that I was very grateful when a listener corrected one of my errors and you’re always welcome to do this. I’m always open to know when I’ve made a mistake. When I talked in the first episode about a book called “The Body Keeps the Score”, I mentioned that it was by Russel van der Kolk. His first name is Bessel, not Russel!


Thank you for hanging in there with me. And I can’t say I look forward to talking about domestic violence. But I think it’s important that we do talk about it. It affects a lot of people. It has generational effects. And so thanks for listening, and I will catch you next time.

Wrap Up

And it’s affirmation time. This is how I end every self-defense class. It’s kind of cheesy, but it’s very cool. And this is how it works. We’re going to do like a little call and response. If you can say this out loud. If you can repeat after me, do it because it’s important, I think, for you to hear your own voice. But if you can’t, like if you’re on a crowded subway or someplace where It’s embarrassing, don’t worry, you can also just say it inside your head. Okay, so I’m going to say something and you’re going to repeat it after me. I’m going to give you space to do that. And at the end, we’re going to say “YES”! Here we go.

Repeat after me.

I am worth protecting.

I love myself.

I belong.

I deserve to take up space on planet Earth.

I am a strong and powerful person.


And hey, as a wrap up, will you do me a favor? Will you do all the things that you do when there’s a podcast like, will you tell your friends, will you subscribe? Will you come back each week? Communicate with me? Review this podcast? Will you please do all the things to help get more bandwidth, help more people find out about this podcast? That would be super awesome!

Take a deep breath. You are amazing. Thank you for being with me. See you next time.