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I was raised in many different communities across the southwest United States. I was raised by a strong independent mother who encouraged me to be strong. Even with that support what I saw were girls and women treated as objects and unimportant to men. I have been physically and verbally assaulted several times. At first it was terrifying, but after many years I got sick of it and begin to fight back.

I had a great experience of working at a domestic violence and sexual assault resource center for women. I learned so much and saw so much pain that it poured over into my personal life and once again I felt that feeling of being unsafe because of my gender. There are different types of violence against women and these are not specific to my region, but a global problem. There is financial abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, and physical abuse. Most of this abuse comes from a tradition of "machismo", which is the idea that men have to be rough and tough and that they are entitled to treat women badly. This attitude puts women down so much that our whole culture condones this behavior. What I came away with from working at the women's center is that we need more programs that PREVENT violence. This year I became a certified self defense instructor and now I teach women and girls how to fight back if they are attacked.

My outline for ending violence against women starts with teaching prevention. We need to have the knowledge of how to deal with emotional abuse AND physical abuse. It is very important to feel capable of physically defending ourselves. It is EQUALLY important that we understand what emotional abuse looks like and how to stop it. We are taught at a young age that if we are nice we will be happy, but what we need to learn is how to solve our own problems, be aware what impact violent behavior has on us, and stay out of abusive relationships.

This education needs to start in school when girls and boys are creating their first romantic or physical relationships. We need a curriculum in our school system that teaches self reliance, critical thinking, problem solving, and healthy relationships. I have created a booklet that teaches both emotional and physical self defense. It will be published in a few weeks and will be free to read online at Bookemon.com