06/03/2014 10:42 am ET Updated Aug 03, 2014

It's Not Easy


It's not easy.

When I filed a restraining order for harassment and stalking in 2003, I had already been teaching self-defense for a few years. I was ashamed that I had fallen into this crazy-weird cycle (when you experience it, you see how insane it is) and yet I knew better. I was considered an "expert," but even I got sucked into it. I was embarrassed. And I was constantly on high alert. Every time my phone rang I jumped and my stomach dropped.

It's not easy.

The endless questions circled in my head: How had this craziness happened? Shouldn't I have seen it coming? Didn't I know better? Had I somehow created this? Was I to blame in some way? Why wouldn't this guy just leave me alone? Isn't that what normal people would do? Why was he continuing to bother me? None of it made any sense to me.

But I knew I had to do something about it, I couldn't live like that. I followed what I teach. I set my boundaries. I told him that if he contacted me again, I'd seek legal action. I had my attorney (a friend) send him a letter stating it. And when he called me and left a voicemail after the letter, I did what I knew I needed to do. Set a stronger boundary by filing a temporary restraining order.

Then the day came. It was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do: Face him in court. But I had to do what I said I'd do. Argue my case. Stand up for myself. Tell him to leave me alone and show that I meant it. Even if my voice and hands were shaking, I had to say "no, it's not OK." Lessons I still teach to this very day.

It's not easy.

I didn't know if I'd get a permanent restraining order or not (I didn't), but I needed to create a trail on this guy. Just in case he did it to someone else, the police would have a record of it. And maybe the next target would be helped. Could be helped. Because they've done it before, and will do it again.

When he broke the temporary restraining order, I kept a record. When he called and left a voicemail over a year later, I called the PD. I showed them my files, asked for their assistance and they made it a criminal case. They left him a voicemail telling him exactly that, and I never heard from him again. Well, other than a "can we be friends?" Facebook private message a few years later.

(Really? What part of restraining order was unclear?)

One thing I know: if I set a boundary and someone crosses it... my request doesn't matter as much as what they want. That person is showing me that they don't respect or value me, they only want what they want, and felt OK taking it. And that isn't OK with me. And it's one of the single most important lessons I learned and teach in every single defense class or television show I do.

I went to court with a friend in our 20's. She woke up in her apartment to the maintenance guy in in her bedroom sniffing the underwear in her drawer. She screamed and after he dropped the panties and ran, called me to ask what to do. She filed a police report when I said, "You know he could do this to someone else next." Her decision made, she didn't want it to happen to anyone else. And I stood by her side as protection and strength in that courtroom because...

It's not easy.

A policeman I interviewed recently told me that predators start out as Peeping Tom's. Underwear Sniffers. Then maybe Flashers. As they gain confidence and don't get caught, they move up in the chain... and the stakes get higher. Unless someone or something stops them.

I salute all women that have taken a stand against someone purposefully harassing, stalking, abusing or hurting them in any way. Setting the boundaries. Calling the police. Doing due diligence to stop the madness.

It's not easy.

But know this: I will always stand by your side, in person or in spirit. I'll have your back.