Last Wednesday, a man groped one woman and assaulted several others within a two-mile radius of my house in Ballard. This is the neighborhood that my teenage daughter and her friends frequent. It’s a horrible reality and one that, as parent, it’s my job to prepare and educate my daughter about. That’s why I’m taking her to a sexual assault awareness workshop for high school girls, parents and guardians this Thursday, April 28.
At this free two-hour event run by Seattle nonprofit Fight the Fear Campaign (FtFC), we’ll learn the red flags that often precede assault, as well as assertive communication, self-defense, de-escalation and boundary setting that are proven deterrents to violence. We’ll also learn self-defense tactics including the five best places to hit on the human body when making an escape.
Sexual assault survivors will speak throughout the evening, including Seattleite Jennifer Hopper. If her name sounds familiar, that may be because of a Pulitzer Prize-winning piece by The Stranger. The story, published in 2011, chronicled the brutal attack that left Hopper severly injured and her partner, Teresa Butz, dead.
For those worried Hopper’s tale may be too much for their teen to handle, consider this: One in three girls will be sexually assaulted before they turn 18. Usually, women are assaulted by someone they know with the attack often planned in advance.
Can I debilitate her? Can I isolate her from her friends? Can I stand too close to her and talk to her? This is what assailants think, says FtFC program coordinator Meggan Atkins.
“[At the event] we teach girls how to make themselves terrible candidates for sexual assault [by thinking things like,] ‘Is he trying to get me away from my friend?’ and ‘He’s a little too close,’” says Atkins. “The program teaches girls how to be confident and set boundaries.”
The first hour of Thursday’s event will teach attendees how to listen to their intuition and quiet those inner voices saying “be polite.” Trusting your gut and not worrying about how your actions may be perceived is critical to safety, says Atkins.
In the second hour, girls will learn how to physically fight back. Small, voluntary groups of girls will practice using their voices and hitting pads held by FtFC instructors on stage.
“We talk about how your strong voice centers you and startles your assailant and it’s where your power comes from,” says Atkins. “We teach girls that you can say ‘no.’”
If you go...
What: Sexual Assault Awareness Evening for Western Washington High School Girls
Where: Roosevelt High School Performing Arts Center (1410 NE 66th St., Seattle)
When: 7 to 9 p.m., Thursday, April 28
Tickets: Free. As of publishing, 229 seats remain. Reserve your seat.