– Episode Thirteen –

Domestic Violence Part 3

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.

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!

Hey, everyone, welcome back. Really glad you’re here with me. Originally, when I thought about doing an episode about domestic violence, I thought of it in two parts. But when I was recording the second part, there was really a lot to talk about. We’ve decided to break it into three parts. So here is the third part of the domestic violence series.

And just remember that you taking care of yourself is the most important thing. If you hear something that activates you, or triggers you, or makes you feel uncomfortable, or reminds you of something that happened, and you need to turn the podcast off and walk, go for a walk or give someone a call or take a break and come back later remember, that’s always totally fine!

Domestic Violence is a hard topic to talk about. It’s hard to hear about to listen to, to think about. So self-care for you is super important. Thanks for listening. And here we go with the next part about domestic violence. Thanks.

Okay, take a deep breath.

Signs of an Unhealthy/Potentially Dangerous Relationship

There is an organization called One Love. Their website is www.joinonelove.org. It’s a great organization. They have a mission to educate young people about what it means to be in a healthy relationship and what unhealthy relationships look like. They want to work to empower young people to help them to identify, and then avoid abuse as well as to learn how to be in a healthy relationship. It’s a great website, I highly recommend you go check it out, www.joinonelove.org.

They talk about the 10 signs of an unhealthy relationship. So, in the spirit of being super thorough, and covering lots of different aspects about unhealthy relationships, warning signs, red flags, abusive people, I want to go at this from their angle because it’s beautifully done.

10 Signs of an Unhealthy Relationship

The first one – which we kind of already talked about is intensity. This is when someone is super emotionally intense with you, with their feelings, right from the very beginning. It’s kind of over the top and it feels really overwhelming and really intense. That’s a warning sign that there’s something off.

Manipulation is a clear sign that something’s not right.

That’s when someone tries to control you, control your decisions, control where you go, who you spend time with, who you talk to, how you feel, what’s okay and what’s not okay to think. That is control and manipulation and that is not okay.


That is when someone on purpose ruins your reputation, demeans your achievements, and maybe even publicly humiliates you or minimizes your successes. That is sabotage,


That is when someone makes you feel responsible for their actions or makes you feel like it’s your job to keep them happy. It’s your job to keep them from getting angry. It’s your job to make them, okay. That’s not healthy and could be the sign of an abusive person.


We talked about responsibility and lack of responsibility. We talked about blaming and deflecting responsibility which is when someone is always making excuses for what they’re doing. They make everything your fault or someone else’s fault. It’s not their fault. That’s not okay.


We talked about them feeling like they own you. One Love talks about this as possessiveness. This is when someone is jealous, to a point where they try to control you, who you spend time with, what you do, how you get there, how you get back, what you’re thinking along the way. That is possessiveness. And that is not something that a healthy relationship has.


We’ve talked about isolation which is when someone keeps you away from friends or family or what you love to do, or school or work or play. They drive wedges, and they say things like, it’s just you and me now. Or All I need is you, you’re the only person I need. You’re my everything. Those types of words indicate something is going on.


We’ve talked about belittling when someone does and says things to make you feel bad about yourself. They say they say humiliating things, make jokes at your expense, and think they’re really funny. Those types of things.


We talked about anger, and, and they talk about it as volatility. This is when someone has a really strong and unpredictable reaction that makes you feel scared or confused or intimidated, that is not okay. If you feel scared, if you feel intimidated, if you feel like you cannot be you, if you feel like you can’t speak up and say who you are, and what you want, or don’t want. That is not okay.


This is when someone is disloyal or acts in an intentionally dishonest way. So, there’s this sense that they are not trustworthy with your deepest soul. That’s not okay.

National Teen Dating Abuse Hotline

I want to give you the number for the National Teen Dating Abuse Hotline. It’s 1-866-331-9474.

You Are Not Alone

If you have any of these things going on in your relationship, in any relationship, if you’re wondering about it, or if you’re kind of confused about it, please, please, please find someone safe to talk to about it. You’re not alone. There are people who love you, no matter what you’ve said or done in the past. And you could use some help to try to figure these things out. The person that you’re not trusting is not the best person for you to talk to right now. It doesn’t mean that you can’t ever talk to them, or that you won’t talk to them in the future. But it just means for right now you need somebody with a different perspective, to help you work through some of this stuff. Pick someone who loves you. And, again, if you can’t find someone safe at a time that safe at a place that’s safe for you call the hotline when you can.

Domestic Violence Intervention Program

There’s an organization called Solutions Domestic Violence Intervention program. Their website is www.solutionsdvip.com. They’ve created a power and control wheel. We’ve already talked about most of the behaviors on this wheel. But they have a couple that I have not mentioned yet. And they bear mentioning. They talk about minimizing, denying, and blaming, which we have talked about. But just to be clear, that’s when the abuser makes light of the abuse. They tell you, it’s not important. You’re overblowing it, why are you so dramatic, and they don’t take your concerns about it seriously, they might even deny that it ever happened. And they may, if they do admit that it happened, they might blame it on you, or tell you that you caused it. If only you had, if only you had not, right, either you were supposed to have done something or you did something you weren’t supposed to have done. And that is what caused my anger. That is a sign of someone who needs to have power and control. And that is the sign of someone who could be abusive, or who could be abusing you. Or who could be abusing someone that you know

Economic Abuse

This power and control wheel talks about economic abuse, which we have not really touched on yet. This includes things like preventing you from getting a job so that you’re financially dependent on them. They might ask you for all of your money or make you give them all of your money, your paycheck. And then they might dole it out to you in a small allowance. Or even if you do have money. As I said, they might take it from you or they might tell you what exactly to do with it. They might keep you in the dark about how much money there is or the passwords to the bank accounts or the PIN code to the ATM card so that you do not have economic access. That is economic abuse.

Coercion and Threats

One more thing on the power and control wheel that I want to bring up is using coercion and threats. We’ve talked about this, but it bears repeating because this is a huge red flag. They might make or carry out threats to do something to hurt you. They might threaten to leave you to commit suicide or to report you to welfare so that your kids get taken away from you. They might make you drop charges if you’ve filed against them. They might make you do illegal things, which they can then hold over your head to manipulate you. This is really ugly stuff.

Take a deep breath.

If you hear some things that sound familiar, I wanted to spend a moment and talk about some things to consider or to think about if you’re experiencing abuse. Or if you know someone who is. UN Women, that’s UNWomen.com. If you think you’re being abused, they have great resources, I highly recommend just search UN Women. I mentioned this in episode one of this series on domestic violence. I pulled from them some guidance about how to find safety and support if you feel like you’re in a situation that’s out of control for you, that is dangerous for you.

You want to consider sharing your worries and your concerns and your fears. Share them with a trusted friend, with a trusted family member, with a neighbor with someone who feels safe, someone who you can trust.

And then if you can you want to work with them when it’s safe to do so, to develop a plan. A plan you can fall back on when and if you next need help with this plan. For example, it could include things like creating a secret code, or multiple code words, or send sentences or a series of emojis that would help you communicate more safely with them. Think through what needs you might have and how you can make it work. Come up with codes for the different needs that you have.

They recommend developing an escape strategy, such as saying you need to go to the pharmacy or to the grocery store. And then once you’re there asking to use their phone, so that you’re not leaving traces on your own phone, but use their phone to call for help.

They recommend that you think through several plausible reasons for leaving home at different times of day or night in case you need to escape. Like they mentioned, “I’ve got to run to the pharmacy”, or “oh, my gosh, I forgot that I’m baking something for a birthday party tomorrow and I forgot the eggs.” Or “I promised the neighbor that I would take out their recycling and I need to go do that.” If it’s you know, the night before garbage day, or things like that.

Think outside the box, think of things that you regularly do that wouldn’t create a red flag, that would be sort of an everyday realistic kind of thing you could in the moment, say, as you started to feel that things were getting unsafe for you or for you and the kids.

I think that is clear. If possible, you want to keep your phone always charged, always handy, always ready, always accessible. And you want to have numbers on your phone that you can call for help. And then I want to say that it’s your phone. But if it’s not private, you can think about changing the names of the people. You know, if your best friend is named Emily, and your partner knows that Emily is your safe person and they don’t like it when you call them or talk to them change their name. Now they’re Sally, right, but you know, and you can call them when you need to, “I was just talking to Sally, my coworker”. Have these numbers handy in your phone, like friends, family members, hotlines, or the police.

And I want to be clear, if your life is in danger, you can call the police. But as we know, for Black Indigenous People of Color, that might not be the safest option. So think about who can you call in an emergency and set up those plans, set up those code words so that you can create a network or a bubble of safety that you can count on if you need it.

If you can try to think through and identify patterns in your partner’s violence, like the way they use violence, when they’re violent, what ticks them off, what sets them off. Like, for example, when I had a training with the Portland Women’s Crisis Line, this was years and years ago, every Super Bowl was a huge day for them to get domestic violence calls because there was drinking and there was anger when their partner’s team lost. So, for example, look for those types of patterns and see if you can figure out or help yourself, find ways to predict when abuse might escalate so that you can act before then, well before then, to create safety for yourself.

In a nutshell, tell safe people what’s happening. Let them help you make a plan. Think through all the different pieces of your plan. Get it all set up so that when and if you need it, it’s at the tip of your fingers, or it’s not something you have to recreate or can’t find or don’t remember so that you have it all ready.

If you decide to leave, you can create a safe plan after you get out also, because the plan isn’t just how to get out but it also is about how to stay safe once you’re out. And when we talk with my friend and interview her – I mentioned her in the last episode – we’re going to have this great interview with a friend of mine who escaped a situation of domestic violence with her child. And we’re going to talk more about how to get out safely, how to think through a plan. And then also we’ll talk about if you’re a friend of someone who you’re concerned about, how can you help them think through a plan and help them get to safety.

But the next thing that I want to talk about here is, once you’re out if you decide to leave, what are some things to consider so that you can stay safe?

First and foremost, you can choose not to stay in contact with that person, you can block them, you can, you know, as we’ll hear from my friend when we interview her, you might need to go into hiding for a while to stay safe to move, to change your phone number, to change how you get places. Those are things to think about how do you stay safe. You can choose how much contact you have. If you choose to have contact with them, you can choose to have contact only in public places. And if they refuse, that is a huge red flag, then maybe go back to Plan A and choose not to stay in contact with them.

You know, the breakup of any relationship, even if it was really unhealthy and dangerous, is hard. And it’s okay to talk about your feelings. And it’s okay to process through this stuff with your safe people. I want to mention that, again, processing through these feelings with the person who is abusive is now I would probably say probably not the best choice. But to find people who love you, who want you to stay safe, who will care for you and help you stay that way. Those are the people that you can start to really rely on the people you trust.

It’s okay to ask for support when you need it. It’s okay to keep calling the hotline anytime. That’s what it’s there for.

Later, when you’re feeling really good and strong, you can volunteer and you can be the person who answers the phone on that hotline. That’s going to be a way that you can pay back. But you don’t have to do it right now. Right now, it’s your time. It’s your time to get to safety. It’s your time to figure this out. Take your time, be gentle with yourself. If your abuser calls you and you don’t feel like answering please don’t answer. Let it go to voicemail. Turn it off, delete the voicemail, it doesn’t matter for you for right now. You need to create a safe bubble for yourself and your children.

As much as you can surround yourself with positive people listen to podcasts that are uplifting, read stuff that you love, cook good food, do healthy things. Do self-care, do things that feed your soul, that feed your heart that in as much as you can. Sometimes that can be really hard, especially if you don’t have a lot of money, you don’t have a lot of time, you’re now suddenly a single mom, you’re living in a friend’s living room or in your car. It can be so hard. So, keep finding ways to reach out for help. Keep finding ways to bring positivity to yourself in any way that you can.

If you feel like you have to call this person for some reason, see what you can do to create a safe place or safe way to do that. Whether that means calling from someone else’s phone or a payphone or a public phone in a store and know that no matter what your choices are, they are your choices just like your life is your life. Your choices are your choices. And it is not okay for others to blame you or for anyone to tell you just to get over it. It’s okay for you to take your time to figure this out to process through it to create safety, for yourself, for your kids, and know that you have choices.

These hotlines can help you find choices and resources and support. We’ll talk more about it in the interview with my friend in the episode when we interview Pam.

But in the meantime, let’s be really clear, you deserve to be safe!

What do Healthy Relationships Look Like?

For the sake of balance, we’re going to talk about the signs of a healthy relationship. These are things a healthy partner will be willing and eager to share with you or to do for you. First of all, though, like to be really super clear, and kind of the overarching umbrella is that a healthy relationship is one in which both of you see one another and see yourselves as equals.

When you’re in a healthy relationship, you can negotiate and things feel really fair.

Both of you are willing and able to have conversations about conflict, open-hearted conversations about compromise. And really working through finding ways to deal with conflict that are fair for both people.

Healthy relationships have non-threatening behavior. That means both of you talk and act, so that both of you feel safe and comfortable, and connect to express your deepest self and who you are and what you’re comfortable with what you want to do what you don’t want to do. And you can feel safe doing that.

Healthy relationships have an economic partnership. That means the two of you make money decisions together, you make sure both partners benefit from whatever financial agreements or financial arrangements you make, and you have access to the information that you’re making decisions about.

In healthy relationships, both you and your partner respect one another. You listen. You’re not jumping to judgment or criticism. You’re supporting one another, you’re affirming one another, understanding and listening to understand. You’re valuing my opinion, I’m valuing your opinion.

There is shared responsibility. There’s a fair distribution of work, of chores, of decision making, family decisions, cleaning, all the stuff. It’s shared. It’s open, it’s talked about in a safe way.

Healthy relationships are trusting and there is support. Your partner supports whatever your goals are in life, and you support theirs, as long as no one’s getting harmed, and it’s in everyone’s best interest. And if it’s not, you talk about it respectfully, by listening, owning your own feelings.

There’s responsible parenting, both people share in the raising of the children and in the roles that need to be played. There is sharing of the care that needs to be taken, in the decisions that need to be made.

Super importantly in a healthy relationship is honesty and accountability. The partners accept responsibility, each one for themselves while owning and acknowledge mistakes, apologizing for them, showing how they’re going to change their behaviors in the future.

Communication is open and truthful. There’s trust. There’s support.

One Love the organization that educates young people about loving relationships has a list of 10 signs of a healthy relationship. And I love it. And again, for the sake of thoroughness, I want to go through it because maybe, you know, maybe, you can hear something when it’s said a little bit differently. Or also they say things that I haven’t said yet. I guess what I’m trying to say is maybe the perspective is slightly different. So maybe it’s easier to hear or identify with 10 signs of a healthy relationship.

One is that it goes at a comfortable pace. Remember when I said that an unhealthy relationship can feel super intense, super fast? Well, a healthy relationship would go at whatever pace you feel comfortable with. Slow, medium, fast, but it’s at your comfort level. It feels enjoyable to you. not scary, not like too much not overwhelming, but good.

There’s honesty, you can be honest, you can be truthful, you can be candid, you can be who you are, you can say how you feel, you can speak your mind, without having any fear about how the other person will respond.

There’s respect. You value one another’s beliefs, opinions, you love one another for who you are not who you wish they were. But for who you really are, authentically,

There’s kindness, you care for one another, you’re empathetic to one another. You listen, you provide comfort and support when it’s needed. Like a safety blanket like, like someone who just can hold you. There’s always going to be conflict, but in a healthy relationship, it’s a healthy conflict. And what I mean by that is, it’s open, it’s respectful, you can discuss the things that you disagree about, you can confront one another without having it be a huge drama, or feel fearful about it. But just honestly talk through disagreements, and come out on the other side.

A healthy relationship has trust, period. You have confidence in your partner, you know, you trust that they’re not going to do anything to hurt you. Or to ruin your relationship, they keep what’s best for you at the top of their list, close to the top, they also take really good care of themselves, just like you do. You take good care of yourself, they take good care of themselves. And that way you come together as two whole human beings.

A healthy relationship has independence. You have autonomy. You feel like you have your own life, things that you like to do. You don’t have to share everything. You have space to be who you are not just inside the relationship, but also outside, there’s a quality, the relationship feels balanced.

Everyone puts the same effort into it, so it’s not one-sided. You don’t feel like you’re carrying the whole thing. Both parties are taking responsibility. You own your own actions and your partner owns theirs. You keep your side of the street clean, they keep theirs clean, you come together, owning your own stuff, not blaming, right? Owning your own stuff.

And most importantly, you’re having fun! You’re not crying every day! You’re actually doing fun stuff together, and you really enjoy the time you spend together. And that is more so than any of the conflicts that you have. It’s lots of fun. It’s lots of enjoyment. It’s lots of growth, and it feels good and harmonious.

End of the Story from Last Episode

Okay, folks, we are closing in, we’re wrapping up, I wanted to tell you the end of my story. As you remember, I was crying every day. I was waking up to the fact that this was not the way I wanted to live. And I was pretty sure that it had a lot to do with the person I was in a relationship with.

We had a couple of mutual friends. There are two people in particular that he’d tried to drive me away from, by actually telling me lies about them. By doing that by telling me stuff that wasn’t true about them by telling me things that they said about me which they didn’t, or things they felt about me which they didn’t. He was driving a wedge between me and them, in particular, these two people.

I decided that I would start talking with them and just go to them and be honest like, “Why? Why are you saying this stuff? I thought we were friends, why wouldn’t you say this to my face?”

And what do you know, he’d been telling them lies about me, too. So, we talked, and the more and more we talked, the more we realized what was going on.

Now, he happened to look up to both of these people, so those two friends and I got together. And after lots of talking and trying to figure this out, we decided to confront him. We set up a time and a place. And one thing at a time, one lie at a time, one deceitful thing at a time, one, falsehood at a time, we let him know that we’d found him out.

He denied all of it! But my eyes were opened, and I could not go back.

A few weeks after this, as life would have it, we were going to move across the country. I was leaving first to get everything set up, to get an apartment, and all of that stuff. He was going to wrap some things up and follow me out about a month or six weeks later.

I looked at this as a way to get away. Well, what do you know, I felt so incredibly free, and happy to be rid of him, once I was so far away. It became obvious to me how unhealthy this relationship was, and how abusive and mean he was. To me. It was like night and day.

So, about two weeks before he was going to fly out to move out with me, I called him. And I told him not to come. And that was that.

I was really grateful for how it worked out right or wrong, good or bad. That is how I chose to do it. And the relief that I felt, knowing that I was free of this man was so strong. I did not doubt myself Not once. If you’re dealing with a situation like this, I am holding you, I am wishing you only the best.


Call on your friends, call on the people you trust and get help to get out. If you have a friend who’s going through something like this, it’s not your job, to rescue them. Call your friends to talk about that, right? It’s not your job to save the day. But you can show them that you are trustworthy, that you are open to listening, that you are supportive. And you can let them know that you are available to help if they decide that they need you. You can support their autonomy by being present in whatever way you can be present for them as a friend without trying to go in and fix it. That’s their job as an adult. But you can be fully present and supportive.

This stuff is complex. It is scary, it is hard. We are all doing the best that we can!

Remember no victim blaming! Show yourself some grace and some compassion, however, you can do that. If you have a friend who’s going through this, show them some grace and some compassion. We all deserve to be safe. You deserve to be safe. You deserve the best and the most loving of relationships we all do!

Till next time, my friends. Thanks for hanging in there with me. This was a long one. Thank you love you stay safe. Talk to 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.