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Sex assault survivor: 'Fight like a Taz'

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CJ Scarlet, a sexual assault survivor, motivational speaker and author, addresses an audience about how to protect against becoming a victim of sexual assault, in the chapel at Mid-Atlantic Christian University in Elizabeth City, Tuesday evening.

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By Reggie Ponder
Staff Writer

Thursday, April 26, 2018

CJ Scarlet cites Australia’s Tazmanian Devil as a role model for protecting yourself from sexual assault.

Scarlet, a sexual assault survivor, motivational speaker and author, told the audience in the Mid-Atlantic Christian University Chapel Tuesday night that if you “fight like a Taz” when threatened with sexual assault you increase your chances of getting away by more than 80 percent.

Scarlet, who was in the Marines for six years, is a former director of the Kids First child advocacy center in Elizabeth City and has headed victim advocacy services for the N.C. Attorney General’s Office. She said she experienced numerous sexual assaults as a child and adult before making changes to her mindset and habits that she said has helped keep her safe.

Scarlet also said that learning to seek the happiness of others has enabled her to be happy herself and has helped her body heal from what had been diagnosed as a terminal heart condition.

Scarlet’s speech at MACU Tuesday night was held as a fundraiser for Albemarle Hopeline, the local nonprofit that helps victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. The event raised $560 in donations for the group.

Acknowledging that many sexual assault survivors blame themselves for the attacks, Scarlet emphasized that an assault is always entirely the perpetrator’s fault and the one who is attacked is never to blame.

She summarized her thoughts on protecting yourself from assault — which she describes in detail in her book, “The Badass Girl’s Guide: Uncommon Strategies to Outwit Predators” — by talking about what she referred to as the three “superpowers”: boundaries, intuition and moxie.

The first superpower is establishing and maintaining boundaries, she said.

“You don’t owe it to anyone to do what they want,” Scarlet said.

A second superpower is intention, she said, explaining that if your gut tells you something is wrong then you should trust that something is wrong.

“Heed that voice,” Scarlet said. “It’s your best friend and it won’t steer you wrong.”

The third superpower is moxie, she said, adding that boils down to taking action to keep yourself safe.

The first step in protecting yourself is to be clear about your boundaries and make it evident to a would-be predator that you’re not an easy target, she said. Remember, she said, that predators don’t want to get caught.

“This is their biggest fear and you can use it against them,” Scarlet said. “It’s called ‘failing the predator interview.’”

Predators often will interview someone to see if they are likely to be an easy mark, testing the person’s boundaries by saying and doing increasingly inappropriate things in order to gauge resistance, she explained.

“If you continue to giggle and make nice you will pass the predator interview,” Scarlet said. “You want to fail the interview.”

She said women often are taught from childhood to be nice and not to be rude, and for that reason might be reluctant to challenge someone who crosses a boundary with them.

But she has learned to get over that, she said.

“If I need to be rude to protect myself from being victimized, I’m doing it,” Scarlet said. “You must make the decision to protect yourself and claim your power. I’m giving you permission to fight dirty.”

Scarlet added that there might be times when you are not able to fight — when you deem it in your best interests not to fight. That doesn’t change anything: It’s still assault; it’s still rape, she said.

Still, she wanted to be clear that fighting back is an effective strategy when you focus on the attacker’s areas of vulnerability such as the groin, throat and nose.

Scarlet said if you were protecting a child you wouldn’t hesitate to fight like a tiger — and she encouraged listeners to consider themselves as worthy of the same protection.

After speaking at length about protecting yourself from sexual assault, Scarlet told the audience more about her journey to happiness and healing.

“I used to think of my illness as a curse by came to realize it’s a blessing that enabled me to learn about what is really important,” Scarlet said.

And what is really important, she has found, comes down to love, compassion and generosity. And the way to truly be happy is to focus on the happiness of others, she said.

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