GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas --
It is a common misconception that domestic violence happens to ‘other’ people. According to the Cosmopolitan article, “14 Misconceptions about domestic violence,” other pervasive misconceptions include the idea that abuse is a private matter and the women who stay are weak-willed.
According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, “Domestic violence is the willful intimidation, physical assault, battery, sexual assault, and/or other abusive behavior as part of a systematic pattern of power and control perpetrated by one intimate partner against another. It includes physical violence, sexual violence, threats, and emotional/psychological abuse. The frequency and severity of domestic violence varies dramatically.”
Cases like this are not uncommon. In the beginning, the relationship was filled with love, hope and promise. There was laughter and the feeling of a true connection. As time went on, a subtle shift began, and it was completely unnoticeable. It came in the form of frequent criticism and undermining the partner’s self-confidence. It was the result of one partner reminding the other of their incompetence and inability to make sound decisions. Due to those claims of incompetence, the seeds of control and abuse began to grow. In a blinding flash, a verbal argument escalated into a physical altercation. Hands wrapped tightly around her wrists and her husband overpowered her physically. In a moment of rage, there was screaming and desperation to get free. This struggle resulted in a 200 pound man pinning down his wife leaving her helpless and unable to breathe. As quickly as it started, it was over and the damage done. Perhaps the altercation ended with physical pain or bruises, but it could also result in deep, emotional scars, shame and feeling helpless.
NCADV states one in three women and one in four men have been physically abused by an intimate partner. Additionally, they describe that it is prevalent in every community with no regard to socio-economic status, gender, race or religion. This violence is happening and it is shrouded in secrets and pain.
Two women on Goodfellow Air Force Base understand the vulnerability of the violence described and recognized the importance of empowerment. They created proactive opportunities for change. Each organized training classes to bring awareness and tools to women with the sole focus of preventing women from being victimized.
U.S. Air Force Capt. Elizabeth Guidara, 315th Training Squadron student, took her own personal experiences with domestic violence and decided she would fight back. She learned of abuse in her own family, took those feelings of helplessness, and used them to inspire action. She explained that learning of the violent abuse in her family history hit close to home, and it created intense determination to empower herself and others.
“I want to share my story because I want to show that I connect with it,” said Guidara.
Guidara is the first Air Force officer to complete the Marine Corps combatives training in Quantico, VA.
“I went for two months to learn combatives – anywhere from unarmed manipulations to knife fighting to bayonet techniques. It was the discipline I loved and the combat mindset.”
To put her skills to practical use, she started her own program teaching a biweekly course at the local women’s shelter, guiding techniques and skills to assist against physical intimidation whether from a partner or a stranger.
Megan Fowler, 17th Training Wing violence prevention integrator, also championed empowerment and organized efforts to provide classes in the Rape Aggression Defense system on Goodfellow Air Force Base.
“In addition to the nine hour course there are also three hours of simulations. During the simulations there are trained aggressors. They aggress toward the women for the women to train and perform the movements correctly and to build that confidence,” described Fowler. “It’s really empowering for them to realize that they can affect their own situation no matter what it is.”
Fowler discussed RAD’s primary focus is on risk reduction, risk avoidance and risk awareness. She explained the importance of not practicing the moves on significant others addressing that violence can come through random acts, but it can also occur from intimate partners.
“The ultimate goal is to empower these women and get them to know how to defend themselves if they ever get into a situation with a stranger or someone they know,” Fowler concluded.
The next RAD class takes place Dec. 9 at the Goodfellow Resiliency Center, building 104. These classes are open to military, civilians, contractors and dependents. For more information contact Megan Fowler at email@example.com.
With NCADV providing staggering statistics that an average of 20 people are physically abused by intimate partners every minute, both Guidara and Fowler are creating opportunities for empowerment against feeling helpless. Their goal is to prevent even one person from becoming a victim to violence.