What does being a bystander of abuse mean? As a bystander what can you do to help stop a situation of sexual abuse or violence? How can we normalize bystander culture like: checking in with friends, telling others when something seems wrong, and being respectful in talking to each other about our observations and feelings. What can we do better at our gyms? Today Cara Poalillo and Rachel Stewart talk all about learning how to recognize red flags in situations and how to speak up and tell people when something seems “off”. We discuss ideas for gyms in making their environments more safe and building a culture of open communication.
Rachel Stewart is a ninja, a survivor or sexual violence, and a professional sexual violence prevention educator and victim advocate. Today she shares about what consent is and how that can look in gyms. We also talk in depth about respecting survivors that we know of or don’t know of in our own communities.
Renee Caverly-Gillett is a Licensed Professional Counselor who specializes in trauma therapy. Cara Poalillo and Renee discuss how to cope with the news of Drew Drechsel and the ripple affect of grief in the ninja warrior community. How can we respond to what is going on instead of only reacting in anger? There are ways that we can still value and develop our own goals and identity without feeling in despair.
Cara Poalillo and Whitney Miller are back for part 2 in discussing sexual abuse and how to make make gyms safer. Whitney was a From Darkness to Light counselor and has taught on consent and abuse. Today we talk about everything from coach training and screening, state mandated reporting, spotting consent, and running large events. We discuss several resources that gyms can use in improving their safety plans.
https://www.d2l.org/ From Darkness to Light resources
In light of the devastating news in the ninja community, Ninjababes is honored to continue to share resources, cultivate safe spaces, and empower ninja athletes on and off the course.
As part of that effort, we are highlighting the resiliency of the ninjas in our community and using our platform so that they can be heard. Our hope is to diminish the stigma associated with victims coming forward to ask for help.
We applaud Stephanie Andrews for sharing her story with us and encourage others to share. If you would like to share your story on the Ninjababes blog feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Written by Stephanie Andrews
My name is Stephanie and when I walk into a gym you will see crazy hair and tattoos. You will see a strong woman who loves climbing, American Ninja Warrior, and physical fitness as a whole. You won’t see the strongest person in the room, but you will see someone who does not stop trying no matter what challenge I am presented with.
What you will not see is my past. You won’t see the girl who was manipulated for years in a relationship she should have never been a part of or, the journey she took to get where she is today.
Like many, I was shocked by the news our community received regarding our champion. I had no words and it took awhile to say what I actually thought, but one thing I knew was I had to make sure my community was okay. I have not competed in a few years but never really felt like I left, that’s what ninja does. Ninja gives you a place to fit in that you never really leave. When this happened I felt it was time to help the community that helped me by sharing my own story.
When I entered a ninja gym for the first time I was terrified. I scheduled a private lesson with Captain NBC and was hooked. I started going to class every week and eventually got into rock climbing and later competing in both sports. I was having some success and loved being a part of a community I had never thought I would. At the time, I was also in a relationship. I was happy until that relationship took a turn. He started becoming very jealous of me. He hated who I was hanging out with and what I was doing no matter how much I was loving it. I was even forced to take him to classes at my ninja gym and my climbing gym so he could see who I was hanging out with. Eventually, I even felt bad about doing what I loved because he hated it and things happened that were definitely not okay.
I did leave him, but it took me a long time to not only see the signs but realize that I was experiencing relationship abuse. I was manipulated into thinking that the moves I made in my life to better myself were bad because it was not what he wanted, when in reality everyone else was supporting, and even starting to look up to me. I realized that I was right and he was wrong, but he did damage. By the time I really got out my confidence was gone, I questioned whether I was wrong in everything I did and above all, I lost valuable time that I could have spent really making myself a better person.
For a long time, when I really got out of this relationship, the ninja community was my therapy. I dove as deep as I could into the community, working out more, competing more, and even becoming a course tester on 2 seasons of the show. Because of this community and the strength it has given me I no longer call myself a victim, but a survivor of what I went through. Even though to this day, I have never told my full story and I don’t know if I ever really will. However, when I read the news and saw what my community was going through I needed to help.
Many people asked me how I never saw the signs and the simple answer is: I was blind to it. If you love someone enough they can do no wrong and that is the place I was in. When I thought about it, I realized he was manipulating me into not only doing only what he wanted, but thinking how he wanted me to think as well. I even forgave him at one point for what he put me through, but looking back at it I should have never gotten into that relationship. As a result, every single thing I went through has made me stronger.
If I am ever asked for advice I usually tell people this: If you have a bad feeling: leave.
If someone you trust is telling you that what is going on is wrong: there is a reason behind it.
Most importantly: If something happens during your time with them that is wrong, tell someone you trust. Your voice should absolutely be heard and it can help someone else that may be going through the same situation.
I am a stronger person because of what happened to me and I can honestly say my past has made me stronger, but please, I beg all of you going through something SPEAK UP. You will be heard and your friends, your community, your support system, your tribe will stand behind you. They will lift you up as high as you need to be lifted to be the strong, powerful, amazing person you are.