How Different is The Brave Version of Yourself from Reality?

A few days ago, an article was published in the New York Times entitled, “I Was Groped on the Subway.”  My mind immediately flashed back to this past January, to Delhi and a country where sexual harassment is so prevalent that there are ‘women only’ train cars in their railways.  My assistant, Sajji, and I accidentally boarded a train car inhabited overwhelmingly by men.  For the next 30 minutes, our time was occupied, at best, by hypervigilance, awkwardness and outrage.  So while I was reading the NYT article, it was deja vu, except that the NYT writer was telling a story that happened right here in the good ol’ U. S. of A.

I invite you to read the whole article here: but thought the writer made several great points:

Point 1.  How we think we would act can often be very different from what we do in reality.  My takeaway (and one also made in the article): Practice what you would do before it happens.  Ask your husband or boyfriend or even some girlfriends to role play a subway/train groping scenario and work through what you would actually do.  When training self defense to girls in India, this is what I do to teach them.  After you’ve taught yourself, spread the knowledge: bring this up to your daughter, your mother, your sister, your niece, and help them work through the scenario(s).

Point 2.  Every situation is different.  Consider how your personal response to harassment such as groping might substantially differ depending on the situation, and take that into account as you take control of your personal self defense.  For example, when surrounded by people you know, are you more likely to speak up and out, taking courage in the presence of supporters?  How might you respond when you find yourself in the same situation but alone or surrounded by strangers?  Your personal self defense is your responsibility – don’t wait until a situation happens before considering: a) what could happen; b) how you would respond; and, c) what you would be prepared to do.

Point 3.  Groping is predatory behavior.  Creeps who grope utilize the same techniques as creeps who prey on children: there is an element of surprise, an element of manipulating the situation so that the intended victim is rendered unable to move, and the ever popular Plausible Deniability (“I didn’t do that – you imagined it,” “it was an accident,” blah blah blah).  Lucky for the article’s writer, there were police officers witnessing the incident.  I say lucky because, as we women know, when a crime like this happens, and there is no physical evidence and it is just our word against someone else’s, guess what?  So, take a minute to really consider this.  My takeaway: Women, stand up for yourselves and be prepared to make a stink and discourage this behavior.  Men, if you see this being done, man up, step in, and let it be known you don’t like this, either.



Brothers Making a Difference for Women

In a sea of stories showcasing the brutality of men against women and girls in India, there appears an island:  the Kant Brothers.


Since 2001, the three brothers, Rishi, Nishi, and Ravi, have been proposing legislation, demanding that laws be enforced, improving access to services and empowering victims to take action. They have taken on violence against women, honor killings, human trafficking, child labor, slavery — a cluster of connected problems that are deeply socially-entrenched – through their organization, Shakti Vahini (

I have not worked with their organization (yet!), but I see great potential in Shakti Vahini, and in the men who run it.  The fact that their work recognizes that men’s mindsets in India have to change for substantive reductions in violence to occur sets a great example for men the world over.  From an article about their efforts:

‘ “Law-enforcement, administrative officials, the state government, the law makers, they all have the same patriarchal views,” Ravi says. “We have to fight the mindset of society.” In large part, their work means dealing with the police. “One big challenge is working with law enforcement agencies,” says Ravi. “They are the first response agency whenever there is a crime against women. They need to be sensitized day in and day out. They need to be sensitized at a mass level. The mindset has to be changed. This is a major challenge.”  The Kants have plenty of experience with what it takes to make this happen. The organization has been involved in training of more than 6,000 policemen across India, and has developed specialized training units and intervention teams to work closely with the police.’

Fabulous.  I wish them great continued success.


Men – The Other Half of the Sky

My heart never fails to break when I gaze into the eyes of a girl I’m training who has recently been rescued from unspeakable acts at the hands of men.  While Green Tara Project’s mission focuses on empowering women and girls, there is a very important point to acknowledge:  men are critical in ending violence against women.

I’m encouraged to see dialogue far and wide by men addressing their part in ending violence against women.  Over the next few weeks, I’m going to share some of the organizations or efforts that have caught my eye.

MyStrength – Their tag line is “Men Can Stop Rape.” MyStrength is a project of the California Department of Health Services and the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault (CALCASA), a statewide coalition of rape crisis centers and prevention programs founded in 1980.  Their mission is to provide leadership, vision and resources for rape crisis centers, individuals and other entities committed to ending sexual violence.  Check them out at: