As my 17 year old daughter finishes her final year of high school and excitement with discussion around colleges occur, I’m confronted with a frightening statistic:
One in 4 women are sexually assaulted during their college years
I won’t be there to protect my daughter throughout her college experience, which can be hard for a parent. And, if I could, she may not learn the life lessons and skills that she needs to survive in the world independently. So, what can I do to protect my daughter and support her growth?
Prepare your mind, control your life
There are important real life skills that will follow that can help keep our family safe, but the first and most important concept for safety, and for thriving in life in general, is a Survivor Mentality. Positive outlook, mental toughness, realization of self-worth, having a life purpose, the ability to overcome guilt and internal dialogue are all important components of a Survivor Mentality. In the paragraphs to follow, I’ll touch on these concepts further and discuss ways to strengthen these skills.
Practice Positive Outlook: be deliberate about a “can-do attitude” in everyday life. Be conscious about what CAN be accomplished versus what you cannot do.
A while back, a friend of mine was in a difficult spot somewhere within the vast Phoenix Valley. Without an address and without the ability to speak to my friend over the phone, I jumped in my truck determined to find her. After 40 minutes and 30 miles, I received notice of where she was. I was literally two minutes from her location and got there just in time to help. Call it what you want…fate, intention, a miracle, or positive outlook, but when you set positive intention in motion and take notice of what helps you achieve your goal, versus a sole focus on the obstacles, good things happen.
Grow your Mental Toughness: Practice stepping out of your comfort zone. Be deliberate about setting goals, accomplishing new things and recognizing those accomplishments each day.
Taking time to grow your mental toughness is not only part of survivor mentality, its also a vital component to embracing life. I feel like making the choice to stretch myself, as well as being forced to stretch myself in other instances, has opened up a whole new world in which I live in today. One activity that one of my teenage sons and I engage in is outdoor survival. We bring nothing but a knife, a small fire rod used to create sparks, and the clothes on our back. Not only have we survived in stormy environments by creating shelter, finding and catching food, and making fire, but we also now see a whole new world of opportunity and resources in the wilderness that we had been blind to before.
Be conscious about your worth and the reason you have for living: recognize 3-5 things you love about yourself every morning, what accomplishments you’re proud of each day, and 3-5 things you are grateful for before laying down to bed.
Even when things are going well in life, practicing the skills above can have a very positive impact on what a person will and will not accept in life. That includes even the subtle lines that are crossed by those looking to find another victim. Recognition of your worth and/or devotion to something greater than yourself, like a life purpose or God is often the difference found in those who do survive, even when found in the most dire positions in life. Being conscious about gratitude during tough times, transforms the situation.
Overcome Guilt: NO MEANS NO
It does not matter what someone else did for you. It does not matter what situation you willingly put yourself into. You have the right to determine what you do and what happens to your body at ANY moment. It is important for each person to truly understand that concept.
“I would fight back, but…” “I would say no, but…” Your best chance to fight back and survive is now. Each person has the right to change what they do at ANY moment.
Strengthen your internal monologue and mentality through exercises: As negative self-talk starts in everyday life, consciously replace unhealthy thoughts with healthy thoughts; see adrenaline and the fight or flight response as an asset; practice Mindfulness to steady scattered thoughts and fear
When it comes to adrenaline and the fight or flight response, the way you view this feeling and the chemical reactions going on inside your body has a tremendous impact on its utility. If you view this as negative, it can have very negative side-effects. However, focusing this heightened awareness for the positive can give you a strong advantage. See it as an asset!
When scattered thoughts become overwhelming in a survival situation or while delivering a talk to a large group of people, exercises designed to control the scattered thoughts that can come with the surge of adrenaline can make a big difference in keeping your head straight. A mindful focus can help in all scenarios. Click to read more on Mindfulness.
In addition to the Survivor Mentality, as our children leave for an exciting part of life in college, some additional awareness around risk can allow our children to avoid learning the skills required to keep them safe the hard way, as well as help them avoid the mental anguish and lasting fear that can accompany assaults. Just having knowledge and awareness is a major component of Choosing Your Fate. According to Sexual Assault Statistics from Campus Safety, college risk situations to be aware of are:
- The first 4 semesters with 84% of the sexual assaults and unwelcome sexual coercion occurring during that time
- Dates, where 13% of rapes and 35% of attempted rapes occurred
- 90% of acquaintance rapes occur while under the influence of alcohol
- Students in sorority houses are 3 times more likely to be raped than those living off campus
- On-campus dormitories increase the likely to be sexually assaulted by 1 1/2 times, as compared to living off-campus
- 38% of college-aged victims assaulted in college, were victims prior to attending college. For more on breaking the cycle of Learned Helplessness, visit The Other Side of Helplessness
Quick tips for new students attending college are as follows:
- NEVER leave your drink or food unattended. Date rape drugs are often used to incapacitate a victim. Important to note, bar tenders and bouncers are not necessarily your friends and could be in on targeting victims.
- When you go “out,” go with GOOD friends, not acquaintances or others that may cause you to find yourself in a compromised position.
- You are more likely to let your guard down with familiar people. Seventy percent of women attacked, recognized their attacker. DON’T LET YOUR GUARD DOWN
- The parking lot is the most common place for an assault: Be aware of your surroundings; give yourself space to react around “blind” corners or vehicles; have your keys in hand when approaching your car; obtain an escort when in dark or remote areas and when experiencing uneasy feelings; check inside your vehicle before leaving.
- The element of surprise and tactics requesting help or assistance are both commonly used to size up and attack a victim. Be fully aware of surroundings. Accept that NOT helping or stopping to answer a question is not rude. It may be vital in keeping you safe.
- Police Impersonation: Be aware, especially at night and when in remote areas. If in doubt, dial 911 to verify police presence. If in a remote area, turn the inside light on in the cab to acknowledge the officer and drive to an area where others are present. Only roll down the window an inch or two to allow transfer of information.
- Concerned your being followed? Take four right hand turns or get off and on the freeway to verify being followed. Call 9-1-1 and go to a public place.
If, despite the measures taken to be safe, a bad situation occurs, the following self-defense tips are important to know.
Your best opportunity to fight and draw attention to the situation is right when the attack begins. Never submit to being taken to a second location.
- If you have a chance to get away from a bad situation by running, RUN
- Draw Attention to the situation. Even if threatened to be quiet, alert others to what’s going on. “Help me! He’s attacking me! Call 9-1-1!”
- Always Fight Back. Move, twist, kick, hit and bite when necessary. The groin, throat, face and eyes are all vulnerable targets. Continue to face your attacker versus giving them your back, which could put you in a more difficult self-defense situation.
For more information subscribe at CYFworld for access to upcoming videos on self-defense and to Unite and Share your experience and perspective on Choosing your Fate!
If psychological suspense novels are your thing, take a look at Lulled, which also helps to uncover scenarios that can put a woman at risk, the impact of assault, and the ability to overcome when life’s toughest scenarios take place.