Editor's Note: Jane Velez-Mitchell is the host of HLN's "Jane Velez-Mitchell" airing at 7 p.m. ET
I learned how to punch, kick and fight last night … and it felt great.
I am not a violent person. I see the effects of violence in our society every night in my show. Every single day we hear stories of women who are abused, beaten, raped, or even killed. Violence against women is an epidemic in this country -- an epidemic that is too often overlooked. Too often it is just another woman added to the long list of victims. It is up to us to change that point of view. It is up to us to speak up.
Susan B. Carbon, the Director of the United States Department of Justice’s Office of Violence Against Women, gave some sobering statistics:
More than five million women are stalked each year.
One in every four women suffers severe physical violence at the hands of a current or former spouse or boyfriend.
More than one million women in the U.S. are raped every year.
These numbers need to be shouted from the rooftops and repeated everywhere until this problem gets the attention it deserves.
But I want to talk about what you can do today. You can protect yourself. You can fight back.
The first thing you need to know is that danger is out there. Those terrifying statistics show that we can all be potential victims. Becoming conscious of that risk allows us to become proactive instead of reactive. It is not enough to respond to attacks. We need to prevent more attacks from happening.
I decided to go to a self-defense class. I didn’t really know what to expect, but my instructor, Gabrielle Rubin, was great. She taught me how to get away if someone grabs me and how to punch and kick if I really get into trouble. But she also gave me some great tips on just being more aware of my surroundings. And that is what I want to share with you. There are some very easy steps to take to avoid putting yourself at risk.
Try to keep your hands free. Don’t walk around talking on the phone or with a lot of bags in your hands. I carry a bag that slings over my shoulder. It keeps both of my hands free and is reusable so it’s better for the environment too. It is much easier to escape trouble if you can use both of your hands.
If you listen to music when you walk around only use one headphone. You want to be able to hear if someone comes up close to you. Gabrielle said, “Women have a sixth sense. Trust that voice.” But you need to be aware of your surroundings so that sixth sense can kick in. Don’t create extra distractions. Gavin de Becker talks about this in his book "The Gift of Fear." Too often we dismiss any rising fear we feel in an elevator when a strange person may get on with us. We tell ourselves it's nothing. Gavin's point is to trust that instinct. Get off the elevator and catch another one. You never know.
We also have power in numbers. We usually go to places in groups or pairs so why leave alone? Leave with your friends so you aren’t caught walking by yourself.
The most surprising thing to me was how much fun I had with Gabrielle. These classes aren’t scary or intimidating -- they are a blast! So do yourself a favor and learn some self-defense. Hopefully you will never have to use the punching or the kicking, but you can learn to be more aware and have a great time doing it.
On Tuesday, March 13, we will show my self-defense class on Jane Velez-Mitchell at 7 p.m. ET on HLN. Then we will have a live Facebook chat after the show to talk about other tips and tricks on what we can do to be safer, and bring some more attention to the violence women face. Hopefully you will learn something and then go to a self-defense class. Bring your friends! I guarantee you will have a good time and feel a lot safer.
We don’t have to be victims anymore. We can fight back!