– Episode Five –

The College Edition!

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.

Other Episodes You Might Like...

The Empowerment Podcast – Episode 53

Stephanie Cyr has started an Empowerment Self Defense Program at SFSU that is rolling out in the Fall of 2024! In this episode, she’ll tell us all about it, share a wonderful self-defense success story and so much more. Our wide-ranging conversation covers how great it will be when we can make ESD a standardized course offering in all public schools and how ESD can impact health, along with positivity and lots of hope for the future of this movement.

The Empowerment Podcast – Episode 52

Success Story – Complying & Playing Along

Did you know that complying and playing along are essential tools you already have in your toolkit? It can help us buy time to get help or get to safety. Join host Silvia Smart as she shares how one person “played along” to stop an attempted rape and get to safety.

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

The Empowerment Podcast – Episode 51

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. Introduction.

Hey, hello, welcome back.


I’m glad you’re here with me. Let’s jump right in because we’ve got a lot to talk about. Welcome to the empowerment podcast, college edition. This episode, this information is near and dear to my heart. Sexual Assault and dating violence are huge problems on college campuses and, well, and for your age group, even for those of you who have chosen not to go to college but are flying the coop so to speak. In this episode, I want to talk about this time in your life. It’s exciting. The world is your oyster and adventure awaits! And at the same time, the statistics are crazy.

And let’s just say that rape, well, men need to stop raping. Period. But I’ve been saying that all my life and I’m 60 and really, mostly nothing has changed during my lifetime. It’s really frustrating. But anyway, until things do change, why not know a few of the facts, and here are a couple of the things that might go a long way toward keeping you safe. We all love you. And we want you to stay safe and to have a blast, as you leave home and head out on your adventures. We want you to do the adventures and to have the fun, but also just to know kind of what is really happening, what is actually going on, and what are some things that you can do about it. That’s what we’re going to be talking about.

First off, I’m going to take a sec to define sexual assault and dating violence and then look at a few just a few of the statistics so we can get on the same page about what’s actually happening. I have a cool self-defense story to share about a freshman at college and then, later on, I’ll start throwing stuff at you Like strategies, tips, and just things to think about and plan for.

This is also an important episode because the stuff we’re talking about is not just for those of you who are college-bound or leaving home this information. And the tools we’re going to talk about for your toolkit are universal no matter how long ago, we graduated. For me, that was quite a while ago. In self-defense, there’s a lot of crossover. In the previous episodes, we’ve talked about the information that I want you to have. So, for those of you who haven’t yet, college-bound or not, be sure to go back and listen to episodes 1, 2, 3, and 4. This episode is specifically about college and young adults leaving home. But again, this information is universal.

Self Defense Story

You know me though. First, I have to tell you the beginning of a self-defense story. This story takes place In New York City. There’s a kid in kind of like late elementary school, early Middle School, who really wanted to walk to school and walk home from school. And their mom actually made them take a self-defense class. Mom said, “you can do that, but you have to do this first”, which they did. They did not want to take the class and promptly forgot about it. It was like a 10-week course, I think like one hour a week. So anyway, they took the class forgot promptly all about it. But years later, they were in their first year at college asleep in their dorm room and woke up in the dark with someone literally sitting on top of them sitting astride them, pinning them down. I’m not going to tell you the ending yet. I’m going to keep you in suspense, but I promise to tell you the ending because it’s got a very cool twist.

Defining Sexual Assault

First, real quick, let’s define sexual assault just to make sure we’re understanding and that we’re on the same page. The official Department of Justice says, “any non-consensual sexual act prescribed by federal, tribal or state law, including when the victim lacks the capacity to consent” Basically, we’re talking about any sexual contact that you didn’t explicitly agree to. And if you’re really drunk or high, you may not be conscious enough to speak up or fight, but that does not imply consent.

You know how I’m always telling you that being raped and assaulted is not your fault. Well, here’s what the rape abuse and Incest National Network also called RAINN has to say about that, “Sexual Assault can take many different forms, but one thing remains the same, it’s never the victim’s fault.” As a reminder, there is no victim-blaming here. Not ever. RAINN by the way, the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network has a great website that I will be referring to a couple more times. But they go on to give some specific examples of what Sexual assault is. And I think it bears just calling it out. And again, I’m going to just quote because they say it so well. “The term sexual assault refers to sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the victim. Some forms of sexual assault include attempted rape, fondling or unwanted sexual touching, forcing a victim to perform sexual acts such as oral sex, or penetrating the perpetrator’s body also known as rape.” In other words, rape is a form of sexual assault. But not all Sexual assault is rape either.

RAINN goes on to define it. And I know this is gross, but stay with me. We’re almost done. “The term rape is often used as a legal definition to specifically include sexual penetration without consent. For its Uniform Crime reports the FBI defines rape as penetration, no matter how slight of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person without the consent of the victim.” So again, you might be feeling like it yuck, icky, awkward, disgusting, you name it. But part of the reason, in my humble opinion that sexual assault has gone unchecked for so long, is because it’s uncomfortable to talk about, so people just don’t talk about it. It’s layered over by shame and embarrassment and guilt. Sometimes just feels easier to not talk about it.

I think and my sincere deep hope is that by talking about it, by naming it by calling it out for what it is: despicable, power and control, domination, toxic masculinity, WRONG. Call it What you like, but that by talking about it, we can finally have an impact on this sick and harmful and hurtful aspect of our culture and change it for the better.

One more definition here because RAINN has a really good one about force. I just I’m going to read it to you. We’ve talked about this in past episodes, but it’s great to hear a national organization call it out. Here we go, “Force doesn’t always refer to physical pressure. Perpetrators may use emotional coercion, psychological force, or manipulation to coerce a victim into non-consensual sex. Some perpetrators will use threats to force a victim to comply, such as threatening to hurt the victim or their family or other intimidation tactics.” This is nothing new for those of you who’ve been following along, but it’s clear and concise and it bears repeating. Perpetrators will manipulate, lie, coerce, threaten, to get what they want. And the earlier in the testing process that we can feel and identify this behavior, the sooner we can respond, and the safer we can be. This is what an empowerment self-defense class is all about.

As a little aside, here as you head off to school or move out of your home, you might find it interesting to know the laws in your state or the laws in the state that you’re moving to. If you do, we have a great link up on our Facebook group, which allows you to specifically search the laws regarding sexual assault in every state of the United States. So go to Facebook or the next time you’re there and search for The Empowerment Community and find us. You’re going to need to answer a few questions and say yes, that you’ll agree to our ground rules because we want to keep the space safe. But once you’re in, come on in and take a look, we’re posting resources there. Things you might find interesting. We’ll let you know when there’s a new episode of the podcast. And this is a place a safe place we hope where you can ask questions and tell stories and let us know what’s going on for you. All of the moderators are empowerment self-defense instructors, and we’d love-love-love to have you join us. So next time you’re on Facebook, check it out The Empowerment Community and just jump on in we will look for you there.

One last thing to get on the same page. Who are the perpetrators? We’ve talked about this before in previous episodes. You know that stranger assault does happen, but the majority of assailants are someone we know, like at least eight out of 10 times, which is most of the time. More often than not, it’s people we know which makes it extra confusing. This is important to remember as you head off to college and leave home because we’re actually most at risk with people we know. For example, someone from a class that you’re taking the friend of a friend, someone on your team or in a club that you belong to, someone at work, or a neighbor, someone down the hall in the dorm, stuff like that. So people that we know.

And a quick tangent about your right to change your mind. Just because you’ve consented to any type of kissing or touching in the past, that does not mean that the person you’re doing it with has carte blanche in this current moment or anytime from now on. Once again, I’m going to quote RAINN because they say it’s so well. “Survivors of both stranger rape and acquaintance rape, often blame themselves for behaving in a way that encouraged the perpetrator. It’s important to remember that the victim is never to blame for the actions of the perpetrator.” No victim-blaming.

You have the right to change your mind, no matter what’s going on. No matter what you’ve said, promised or done in the past, you can always change your mind. Sexual assault is never your fault. Never. Period.


I promised you some statistics and I’m going to start to dump them on you right now. I will try to keep it so it’s not too many and it’s so it’s not too overwhelming. The National Sexual Violence Resource Center has a lot of great information. Here’s an example: one in five women and one in 16 men will be assaulted on a college campus. And by the way, statistics are very similar for those who choose not to go to college or university but leave home, go off to work, or have other adventures. It’s like this age group is what we’re looking at. But there is a lot of data about college campuses. And it’s maybe more well researched than information about young adults who leave home.

I’m going to throw out a couple more. An article in The Atlantic said that three out of four, that’s 75% of LGBTQ students experience sexual harassment. But just so you know, that includes the whole gamut from harassment and stalking all the way through rape. Statistics for same-gender assault are really hard to come by. More studies are needed for sure. And also, these crimes are often amongst the least reported. 

But one in five, one in 16, 75%. We’re talking about some really big numbers. And as far as I can tell from my reading, from people I’ve talked to, from my research, these statistics really hold true across private and public schools, primarily white institutions, or primarily black colleges, or even really diverse campuses. They hold true at colleges and universities all around the country. All parts of the country like the south, north, east, west, and Midwest. None are exempt. Some schools might handle sexual assault better or care more or have better policies than others. But this is an epidemic and okay, this really pisses me off, but as I talk with people across the country, as I read about what continues to happen on college campuses, it appears to me that indifference to sexual assault is still a matter of course. For God’s sake, I was going to “Take Back the Night” marches in the 70s.

Colleges might think or feel justified by keeping their heads in the sand because of the low reporting rates. Almost all of sexual assault victims on college campuses do not report. More than 90% are not reported. A huge part of this is probably how awful it is for victims when we do report. I have a recommendation for you. Jonathan Krakauer wrote a good book about this. He’s a journalist, he wrote “Into the Wild” and “Into Thin Air” and I really love his books. This was a book specifically about sexual assault on college campuses. It’s called “Missoula” and I recommend it. He demonstrates through three examples of sexual assault on that one college campus, the dinosaur age that still exists for any of us wanting to find justice for sexual assault on college campuses. So it’s not an easy read, but it’s a good one.

I have one last statistical thing I’m going to share. This is from RAINN again. And it’s really important, so listen. The first year, freshman year is when most assaults happen on campus. But out of all four years, out of all the sexual assault cases that happen on a college campus during your four years, 50% happen the first six weeks of school. This bears repeating, so I’m going to say it again. The first year, freshman year is when most assaults happen on any given college campus. But 50%, that’s half of all assaults over all four years happen in your first six weeks of school. There is a lot of information tucked into these two statistics. 

Remember that my philosophy is that I tell you this stuff not to scare you or make you anxious or anything. Not at all, in fact, exactly the opposite. This is about you being empowered, feeling free, having fun, and enjoying this moment in your life, going away to college leaving home, you have enough stuff on your mind, like really important stuff. But your safety is up there among the most important!

I’m right in there with all the people who love you. Your safety is super important to us. And we want it to be important to you. You are worth protecting. As an empowerment self-defense teacher, my point is this: Once you know this stuff, these numbers these statistics, you can simply be aware. This is where prevention lies. This is where your empowerment self-defense starts. You can start to learn to trust yourself, to make plans to use strategies to keep yourself safer and you can actually start to live with less fear. and that is the point of any really good empowerment self-defense class. To empower you with actual real information so that you have the power to make choices that are in your own best interest. 

Facts can be empowering and oh my gosh, what if you are the one who inspires your friends to work together to keep one another safe? What if you, because you are brave and willing and armed with real facts, what if you are the one that gets your college to take this stuff Seriously? Be still my beating heart! I am your champion and I always will be. You have a whole tribe of strong and powerful empowerment self-defense instructors and self-defense survivors standing with you, standing behind you, holding you up. Get on the Facebook group. Let us know what you need to make things happen on your college campus. We have got your back okay. We really do and that was a total tangent. So let me get back on track. 

One more shameless plug. I really, really want you to take a self-defense class in person. Not just listen to me, bla bla bla bla. You’re getting great information here, I promise. But I want you to get empowered by hitting and yelling, striking learning where to hit, where is it most effective to hit and I really want you to feel how hard you can hit. That is so empowering and that is really good stuff. If your college offers a self-defense class, take it, please. If they don’t have self-defense, make a stink, and ask for help. Let’s see if we can help you get one. And as an alternative, take a boxing class. I don’t know. Boxing is it’s not a self-defense class to be sure, but the thing I like about it in the absence of an empowerment self-defense class is that you get to hit stuff. You get to hit really hard. And that is something that is really important for you to know – how powerful you are! Even the smallest of you is very powerful. And I want you to know that!

We’ve got to move on. And I’ve got to do this. I’ve got to talk about alcohol and other drugs. We all know that some of you are going to drink and use. So let’s just be honest about it. There’s a book called “Gynes Guide for College Women”, written by Susan Scanlon. She’s a doctor on a college campus and she compiled some data about alcohol use in relation, specifically, to sexual assault. If you’ve listened to any of my other podcasts, you know, you’re never going to hear me judge anyone’s drinking or drug use. It’s really none of my business. But what IS my business is sharing information with you so you can make good decisions and strategize and plan with your own best interest in mind. I want you to stay safe. And alcohol and drug use puts you at risk period.

Here’s what I mean. This is from the GYN guide. In a study of all freshmen women who ever binged by drinking four to six drinks in one night, 25% were victims of sexual assault. Of the first-year women who ever binged on 10 drinks in college 59% were sexually assaulted in their first semester. So you can see there’s a tight correlation here between alcohol and drug use, and sexual assault. I just want you to know that. What I’m saying is that I want you to have a plan. Stick with it. Stick with your friends. Watch out for your friends. Make sure they’ve got your back. Talk to one another about the guys who give you the creeps. Hold on to your drinks. Know what you’re putting in your mouth. Watch what you’re putting in your mouth. Always have an exit strategy. Don’t leave your friends behind. Make sure that’s part of your plan, by the way, and don’t let them leave you behind.

Okay, one last shameless plug. If you were a person like me, who wants to start drinking can’t stop. If you’re the person who like me is a blackout drinker, please, know, this is not what normal drinking looks like. I was able to get a handle on this early in my life. Only because someone who loved me told me exactly the same thing. Let me know if you want to talk about it or if you have any questions, I’m all ears.

I have another recommendation. There’s a woman named Chanel Miller who wrote a book called “Know my Name” It’s really well written. I listened to it on Audible and I loved it because she reads it herself. So you can actually listen to the book in Chanel’s voice. She might be familiar to you. There was an incident a few years back on the Stanford college campus where a woman was found after a frat party by a dumpster, and the guy who assaulted her ran away and was caught by two guys who are visiting from out of the country. Anyway, she shares her story in all of its details. She talks about all of it from her own perspective. She’s really brave and strong. She decided to go for justice and she was dragged through the wringer. I just recommend it because it’s great information. It took place on a college campus. And it’s just a very powerful story about sexual assault and striving for justice within the justice system.

I have a little story I want to share with you. My husband and I took my daughter off to college a few years back, not very many, like four or five years back to a very big university on the east coast. It was a very exciting time. There was a large parent orientation program planned. Being a self-defense teacher, I was very curious to see how they handle sexual assault on their college campus, which you and I know is a huge issue. It was phenomenal. That the entire weekend It was not mentioned. Sexual assault was not mentioned once. To me as a mom, not even in the three-hour-long safety workshop! I couldn’t believe it. They talked about things like, well, we want you to remind your student that when they’re in the library, they should be sure to know where their computer is and keep it with them so it doesn’t get stolen. They should always remember to lock their dorm room. So I was surprised and stood up a number of times and asked very specific questions and was there they’re like, that just doesn’t really happen on our college campus. There-there. That’s not something you need to worry about. I was horrified.

I was so horrified that I made an appointment with the head of security on campus. And when I was back in October, I met with him and he totally blew me off. It was really disgusting and discouraging. But that is my story as a mom and as a self-defense teacher, and I know that this university is not a unique University. This drives me nuts. There is so much indifference. And you know, here’s the thing. It’s never the assailant who drops out, quits their job, gets depression, has the falling grades, is riddled with confusion, gets injured, is plagued afterward by low self-esteem or self-doubt, commits suicide, gets pregnant… This is the toll that sexual assault takes on a victim. Getting justice and having a system that holds you tight and safe during the time after an assault can go a really long way toward healing. This is what we need from college campuses and from our justice system, and it’s just not there. Indifference, apathy, pretending it’s not a problem, acting like it’s not an issue. Across the board. This is harmful, and it’s perpetuating a lie. Until perpetrators are held accountable for the harm they cause, there’s no justice. Period.

Meanwhile, do all colleges need to offer self-defense classes? Yes! Do they? No! There are still to this day false ideas that learning self-defense teaches violence and it doesn’t. And to this day, there is still old-fashioned thinking that the best chance to survive and assault is to lay there and take it. I kid you not. But this is old news. And it was proved wrong a long time ago. So why are people still saying it? Why are people still believing it? And why are college campuses acting like this is not a problem? I don’t know. But can we please change it, please?

By the way, I’m really excited because this week I get to interview a wonderful woman who was just hired by a college in New England to make an impact on their campus regarding sexual assault and I am really looking forward to the interview. Either the next episode or the one after that, I’ll air it and it will be really cool. I think she’s going to share a lot of great information with us about what a good college campus can look like, that is actually working to fix this and is taking a role in creating a safe campus and looking at sexual assault. So keep your ears peeled, there’s more to come.


I promised I would lay out some strategies for you. Remember, or just know that you can pick and choose. So, I’m going to put them out here and then you pick the ones that feel right to you and try them out and see what works. Strategy. number one, I want you to practice hitting stuff. And to me, that is really important if you can’t tell by now! knowing how to hit and where to hit and how powerful you really are not only fuels your confidence, but it fuels your safety and it’s one of the most important tools in your self-defense toolkit. I can’t teach it in a podcast. So, get your butt to an empowerment self-defense class and enjoy it because it’s really, really fun.

Okay, other strategies, sign up for and take a self-defense class on your college campus. And if they don’t have classes, push for it. Tell us in the Facebook group that you don’t have one that you want to make it happen. Let us help you strategize. Let us help you plan how to make it happen or hook you up with empowerment self-defense teachers in your area, who could just come onto campus and do some teaching. Please let us know.

Second, you could take a boxing class I mentioned that earlier, right practice hitting stuff. It’s not a substitute for a self-defense class, but it can help fill the gap until you can find one or get to one. 

There’s a college safety program called “Walk with Me” and this one is near and dear to my heart. My daughter went to an arts magnet High School in our area and for the seven years that she was there, I tried multiple times every year to get on to their campus and teach a self-defense class for free during PE times, after school in the evenings, whatever they would have me do, I tried, and I tried and I tried. And I was blown off for seven years. The year before my daughter graduated from high school, one of the young women who was in the class ahead of her was down at the University of Texas, in Austin, and she was walking home at night after a dance recital and she was murdered. Her name is Haruka Weiser. Getting kind of emotional here. There is no guarantee that she would have taken my self-defense class and there is no guarantee that if she had taken a self-defense class, that that wouldn’t have happened, but we will never know So Haruka’s mom and dad and sister started this safety program on college campuses called “Walk with Me”. And the idea is that when you’re walking on campus at night, make sure you have somebody with you. And if you see a friend leaving who’s walking somewhere at night, make sure they have someone with them. It’s a very simple idea and it’s really effective. Go in pairs go in groups, just make sure no one has to walk alone.

Okay, deep breath. That’s more for me than it is for you.

There are more strategies. There are safety apps, like really good safety apps that you can just keep on your phone. There are safety apps that are part of your school’s app. And there are safety apps specific to your school. And if there aren’t there other safety apps that are really, really good. And again, go on to The Empowerment Community on Facebook, and we’ve uploaded a link to the five top college campus safety apps. And they’re great because my daughter actually did this with me a couple of times. If she was walking home from work late at night, she would just text me and say “I’m walking home”. She would put me on her app, which I had a copy of and I would watch her walk home. I would literally watch the GPS and make sure she got safely to her dorm. So, cool idea.

Other strategies: have a pre-arranged agreement and a solid plan with a group of friends. If you’re going out, talk about it. Talk about what your expectations are, make ground rules. Something like, well, if even one of us feels uncomfortable, we’ll all leave. That might not be completely realistic. So make it realistic, like, okay if even one of us feels uncomfortable, so and so is going to be the person we picked tonight who will go home with them and the rest of us will stick together. Have a pre-arranged time to leave the party and come home, which has been set down in advance. And if for some reason your friends ditch you, or you want to get out early, it’s best not to accept a ride or walk home with a person you vaguely know. So if you can, call the ride service at your school. Most schools have some sort of a ride service, some sort of a 24/7 “let us come pick you up and take you back to your dorm”. Have that number in your phone and make sure it’s easy to find. Or take an Uber or take a Lyft. Each of those apps has safety components that are built right into the app. I’ve written a blog about it on my website and their websites also have information if you don’t know what those are. Go to my website Nagacommunity.com/resources. And check it out, you’ll see my blog, and there’s an Uber Lyft safety blog. Or again, go to just the Uber or the Lyft website and take a look know what those are and use them.

It’s never a bad idea to have not just a designated driver, but a designated sober friend who can keep their eye on the group unhindered by alcohol and other drugs so they can kind of maintain their headspace. As part of your planning and prep, have a few go-to verbal responses at the ready, like practice them in your head before you go. “No” is always a good one. Or “No thanks”. Or “I am I’m going to just stay with my friends” or “this party makes me uncomfortable. Let’s go”. Other things you can say: “No thanks. I’ve reached my limit, no more drinks”. “Nope. I’ll stay here with just my friends”. Stuff like this you get the idea. Just have a couple of quick easy responses that you can pull out that you don’t have to think too much about.

Every single college campus I’ve been to has these blue emergency lights all over campus so know where those are. Walk by them, make sure you know where they are. Lock your dorm room at night. Keep your hands free as you walk but know where your phone is and keep it at the ready. Or, some people like to walk with the phone in their hand and that’s totally okay too. Talk with your RA about safety because they are going to know a lot. They’re going to have a ton of information about resources on your college campus.

The most common place for assault to occur not just on a college campus, but again, young adults moving out from home living on your own is in “a place of residence”. So think about when you’re inviting someone into your dorm room or apartment. And thoughtfully consider your plans when you’re going to a party at someone’s house or at a frat. And really think through what your options are and like who you can call on to help you stay safe. Right? Have a group.

Remember all of the stuff that we’ve talked to up till now the continuum, the testing process, trusting your body and again, if you haven’t yet, go back and listen to the first four episodes of this podcast. Do yourself a favor and go back and listen now because all of those things are important for you as a young adult, and again, get to know what the resources are on your college campus. Talk with your friends about staying safe, make plans. There are great resources on the RAINN website about college safety. Really good. So go take a look do a deep dive. They’ve got all sorts of information about some of the stuff that I’ve talked about and a lot more than I haven’t. So go check it out.

I know some of you are thinking okay, what about bear spray mace and pepper spray. You’re gonna hear a lot of opinions about this. But since you asked, over the years, I have heard way too many stories of people putting a lot of trust into their mace or their pepper spray. Here’s one I heard this the first time I ever taught a self-defense class. The person was at their front door, they were getting dropped off after a date. The person leaned in to give them a kiss. They said no, the person ignored them and kept groping and kissing. And this person pulled their mace out of their pocket to spray it and it was their lipstick container. 

Remember, if you carry something like pepper spray, it can always get taken away and used against you. Just use caution here like don’t let it give you a false sense of security. In my humble opinion. It is more important – way more important – for you to know what your body weapons are. What can you hit with? Because you always have those and you don’t have to go looking for it. You don’t have to pull up in a drawer or dig through your purse or hope that it’s in your backpack. It’s like it’s right there on you. And if you have those weapons. And if you’ve practiced with them, and if you know what the primary targets are that you should be hitting and which strikes to use, you’re in great shape. Like you have a lot at your disposal.

That’s why I want you to take an empowerment self-defense class. In later episodes, we’ll be talking about body weapons and we’ll be talking about primary targets because that’s really important information to have. But for right now, I just say if you’re going to have that stuff, fine. It is your choice. But practice with it. Think about it. Have it always handy. Know, it can be taken away from you or used against you and just proceed with caution. Really think about it.

Your school will have resources specific to your campus, you probably want to check them out. For example, some of them like I mentioned earlier, have very specific ride services or “Walk with Me” programs available any time of night. Your school might have a Women’s Center or an LGBTQ Center where there are support services and other kinds of services. So check those out. The list of tips can go on and on. I want to mention the rain website again. College guides always have all sorts of tips and strategies too. Just open yourself up to reading about them and trying them out. Find out which ones feel right, which ones work for you.

Talk with your friends, because they’re gonna have ideas that you haven’t heard of yet. You can do this. You really can. I trust you. I know you’ve got this. Also, don’t forget the most important strategy: take an empowerment self-defense class! Okay, I think I’ve said that about a million times, but knowing a bunch of the physical stuff that you can do to take back your power and to feel your confidence fuels your words and actions and keeps you safe as you go out into the world. More than anything, have fun. I want you to enjoy this time and enjoy this adventure because you deserve it. And yes, you are worth protecting.

We’re getting towards the end of this podcast and I want to tell you the end of our story. Okay. Mom made the kid take a self-defense class, they promptly forgot all about it. But years later, they wake up and an assailant is sitting right on top of them wake up, someone’s there in your face, they instantly – instantly – remember the base of palm strikes that they learned in their self-defense class, They start pummeling the attacker in the face and head with base of palm strikes. The attacker falls off the bed and runs out the door. Here’s the twist. As they’re running out the door, they dropped their wallet. So our young hero gets to press charges. I love that story!

As a quick aside, after recording this podcast, I found out about a book that I am devouring. It’s called “Sexual Citizens, A Landmark Study of Sex, Power, and Assault on Campus”. It’s by Jennifer Hirsch and Seamus Kahn, it’s amazing. It’s a deep dive into five years of research done by over 30 people about sexual assault on college campuses. They pull apart this “Red Zone”, which is that first six weeks of freshman year that we talked about, and they study universities and colleges and dissect what’s actually happening, and why. I heard about it, and only just started reading it, and I’m excited for you to read it too. It’s really great. It’s chock full of information. And maybe if we’re lucky, we’ll get an interview with the authors right here on this podcast. But in the meantime, pick up a copy of this book and dig in.

As a wrap-up, sexual assault is a huge issue for people heading off to college or just leaving home for the first time. And you can still have fun and be safe. Just know your facts. Know the tools that you have in your self-defense toolkit, and pick and choose wisely. That’s it. I love you. I know most of you don’t know me. But I do love you. I’m with all the other people who love you. You’re worth protecting, stay safe, and have fun. And I’ll see you next time.

Wrap Up

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.