Emotional abuse and intimate betrayal can make you feel small – so how can you find your voice in the wake of deep pain and confusion?
Allyson Peterson is on The BTR.ORG Podcast sharing how self-defense, including martial arts, have helped her find her voice and experience empowerment. Tune in and read the full transcript below for more.
How Can I Find My Voice When I’m Experiencing Emotional Abuse & Intimate Betrayal?
Finding your voice does not mean confronting your abuser. In fact, that can be dangerous for you. Instead consider finding your voice by:
- Journaling about your experiences
- Sharing your story with a trusted friend
- Attending a BTR Group Session
- Listening to The BTR.ORG Podcast to hear other stories of betrayal trauma & emotional abuse
- Taking a self-defense course
However you choose to find your voice, know that your story is important. Your experiences are real, and we believe you.
I have Allyson Peterson on the podcast today. She’s an avid advocate for women and a staunch believer in self-defense. Allyson helps women find their voices to speak out against abuse. She has a black belt in traditional TaeKwonDo and teaches adult classes At John’s World, Marshall Arts in North Salt Lake, Utah, she helps teach the women’s self-defense classes as a much smaller woman in stature only. She understands the struggle of personal space and the need for all women’s voices to be heard and respected. Welcome, Allyson.
Oh, thank you. It’s good to be here.
Gaining the Courage to Find Your Voice
So Alison, how did you gain the courage to find your voice and be heard?
It was definitely a long time. Coming to start, martial arts was kind of people looking at me a little funny. They’re like, is that kind of a younger person’s sport? I came from a home of abuse. Some of the adventures that I’ve had out on the road and growing up and also at the grocery store even I’ve had experiences of men following me, pestering me. I’m short and tiny and an easy target.
It really was just no more. I do not want to be a target anymore. So I decided to attend classes at John’s World Martial Arts, mainly because they do a wide range of martial arts. I wanted to learn a lot of self-defense.
And I wanted to learn technique because when a guy is six foot plus, he’s got a lot of mass behind him and technique. If you know what you’re doing wins, you can get out, you can escape, you can defend yourself. Even with the enormous size difference, it was very, very important to me. And of course while I was there I went from this very scared to do anything. And of course you always feel dumb going in there and you’re like, you want me to do what? Do you punch you? Are you sure? To where I’m now? Today I’m teaching women how to defend themselves.
The Process of Finding Your Voice
The process of finding our voices is an interesting process. I think it takes time and it takes effort. How does learning self-defense empower you without actually hitting back? I’m very interested in this.
My biggest one is don’t be afraid to turn around and face your attacker. Whoever is tailing you, the easiest way to get out of something without him touching you is to face him eye to eye. For example, I was at grocery shopping. This guy just started following me with an empty cart and at first I was kind of like, okay, maybe you just need one item. But no, he just kept on following me. He wasn’t picking up vegetables, nothing. He was just very intently and very closely following me. And of course my hackles rose. I just turned around.
I looked him straight in the eye and I was like, do you need something? Can I help you? And that’s all it took. He left his cart and ran. I have friends who worked out the prison and he’s like, really? Honestly, if women knew the power that they have just by turning around and making eye contact, like Uhuh, I’m not going to put up with this. These men, they want an easy target. They want somebody who’s not going to scream, the person who’s going to freeze.
As soon as you put up who are you, what is your name, what do you want? And it’s the tone of your voice. You notice my voice changed when I said that I wasn’t nice to this guy, it really was just either you tell me what you want or you beat it. So that right there is power. Do not think you are powerless.
How Does Anne Use Her Voice?
I have a policy in my home that I do not open the door for door-to-door salespeople. I also don’t talk to them if they’re walking around and I love gardening. So I’m out in my garden one day and a man walks up to me and he starts talking and I said, I am not interested. Please go away. Immediately before he could even say three words, he said, oh, well you don’t.
I said, stop talking. I have told you to stop talking and go away. And then he’s like, well, and I said, you are still talking and you’re on my property. You need to leave now. And I thought it was so interesting that he kept trying to talk. I think the entitlement that men have that they can just talk to women, they can talk to women and we’re friendly, happy people, but in terms of like, I don’t want you on my property.
“Women have the right to tell you they don’t want to talk to you.”
I’ve told you I don’t want to talk to you. You now need to stop. What about this? Can you not understand? And then he walked off like, wow, she is crazy. And I thought, no, you’re the crazy one. A person has told you multiple times she doesn’t want to talk to you and to leave her property and you don’t. And then you think she’s the weird one.
No, you need to wrap your head around the fact that women have the right to tell you they don’t want to talk to you. I also hold a no contact boundary with my ex. And so all communication about our children goes through my father. How do you recommend that they avoid harassment and abusive contact? This might not be necessarily with their ex, but just in general.
“Abusers rationalize like crazy”
So I think it is fantastic to have a mediator, always to have a mediator, whether it’s your lawyer, a family member, a friend, somebody who’s got the balls to get up there and do what needs to be done and translate for you. Because I think the most intimidating thing ever is to be facing your harasser and have the presence of mind to be like, oh, I know exactly what I want to say to you.
I know very few women who can do that. Very, very few. I was abused as a kid and I still haven’t approached to my abuser. It really is. It’s that fear thing. I just don’t know if I would say the right thing. I mean, I know in my head exactly what I’d want to say, but whether it comes out correctly out my mouth is completely another thing. And really abusers rationalize like crazy.
“Finding your voice, being able to use it, and not freezing, is so important.”Allyson Peterson
And then you go away thinking, wait a second, am I a crazy one? Wait, I thought I wasn’t crazy, but I’m starting to think I’m crazy. Maybe I just imagined this. So put that between you and them. This took many years of training for me because I grew up abused. And so it was very difficult for me to find my voice or even say anything. And it really was when I started that martial arts training.
They do not care what your background is, but they are there to shape you, to give you that self-control, to give you that confidence, to give you that feeling like I can do anything. Finding your voice, being able to use it and not freezing is so important. Don’t freeze. Whatever you do, do not freeze. I think it’s the hardest thing to hear from women. When they tell me what they’ve gone through. They say they’ve been raped, they say they’ve been abused, they say they’ve been hit, and the first thing they say is, I froze in the moment.
If you’ve felt “Frozen” it’s not your fault
If they haven’t been trained, if they’re not prepared, it’s not their fault that they froze. Many women do that. That would probably be where you come in and say, learn self-defense before this situation happens. Find your voice before the situation. So when I was young, my mom told me, if you ever are being raped, look them straight in the eyes and say very loudly and very clearly, this is rape and I will prosecute. I can see you. I know what you are doing.
Oh, I’m being blunt about it. Is your friend being absolutely open and honest and real? So if you’re the one that knows absolutely that he’s being dishonest, say so.
“You can know in your own mind and you can leave. You can get out of that situation.”
Or if that puts you in a dangerous situation where he might harm you physically or emotionally, you don’t have to say so, but you can know in your own mind and you can leave. You can get out of that situation. We’re all on our own journey, learning about how to find our voice.
Allyson, with your history of abuse, you decided to do martial arts, which is what helped you find your voice. I’ve found that as I am healing more and more, I am starting to enjoy music more and nature and things that I didn’t do because all of my energy was focused on my ex-husband and how to help him and how to help my family. And now I can have a wonderful, peaceful family and still enjoy the hobbies that I love. That’s great that martial arts is one of yours. Maybe some women listening to this podcast would be interested in that and they can go to a local place and try a class.
Can Martial Arts Help You Find Your Voice?
I highly recommend martial arts to everybody. I think it’s kind of an essential social skill. It’s very important. Recently, I have felt that it is my empowerment as a female and as a mother to tell my boys, if a girl says, no, it is your job to walk away and forget about it, move on. It’s her right to say no. And of course they’re looking at me going, okay, duh. She says, no, I’m not going to keep pestering her. I’m like, good, don’t, because you have that right to say no. And everybody has that right.
Allison, thank you so much for coming on the podcast today.
Thanks for having me.