Self Defense as Self Care

Hi everyone I'm talking today about how to prevent a sexual assault sexual harassment or any unwanted contact. And I'm going to be giving you tips. Today is tip number one: The unwanted hug.

I'm Susan Harrow media and communications coach and over the past 30 years I've helped thousands of people with both verbal and non verbal communications. Yes I'm part of the #MeToo movement and also I've started a new hashtag called #NotMe and this is dedicated to all the women who have prevented sexual assault or any kind of sexual or any kind of unwanted advance.

And so I'd like you to share your stories about when you've actually prevented that so we can start to become empowered and training ourselves to not let this happen in the future.

So tip number one is the unwanted hug. Someone is coming toward you and you don't want to hug them you step back and you extend your hand so you have to have a little bit of awareness to do this so you want to make sure when you're in a social or work situation to be to insert to notice your physical boundaries like how close is a person because you really you want to maintain that what we call in Aikido “maiai” which is harmonious distance, whatever that is for you.

So to prevent a hug step back offer your hand to shake their hand. And also you know this is an important thing in terms of meeting someone exactly in the middle. So you don't want to be too squished up or extended too far into the future. So you meet in the middle and your energy is exactly aligned so you're connecting in a way that's equal.

That's tip number one. Tip number two to stop a hug is, let's imagine somebody starts to come in toward you, you can use humor you can say, “Oh I've never been a hugger!” And again you're stepping back. Then what you want to do is not just stand there but move on to the next thing immediately. Again you can extend your hand or you can just start to have a different conversation. But that's the humorous, that's the sweet, that's the gentle approach to stop a hugger.

Just like, “Oh gosh I've never been a hugger!” The woman who told me this said that it always works.

The third approach to avoid the unwanted hug is a little bit more strategic so you have to have this planned in the future. It's the notebook and pencil strategy. Use a notebook and pencil like this. I don't know if you can see… there we go…the pencil is sticking out of my notebook. So let's imagine you're exiting a meeting you have your notebook with your sharp pencil sticking out like this and somebody comes in for a hug. You position your notebook and your pencil to be exactly into their stomach or wherever so they can't advance.

This is another thing to use to be thinking about to avoid the unwanted hug whenever you're going to a meeting. You know you can also do this with your purse if you didn't have the sharp pencil. But you have your purse between you so it just gets in the way. This is a gentler way, this is a gentle way, a less direct way of preventing a hug. The most direct way is the first way which is stepping back and extending your hand.

So those are my tips for today. I’m Susan Harrow at and the course for girls is called True Shield: Verbal Self-Defense For Girls. I'm going to be giving you many more tips so please stay tuned and subscribe to the channel if you like these tips and I look forward to talking to you and helping to share more in the future.

Oh, and I would love to hear from you! So please share a time where you have a strategy or a phrase or situation where something has happened where you've been able to escape or prevent or handle something with grace and or just handle it, so you stay safe and so you are the in control of how you would like to be touched.

Please email me the link to your 1-2 minute video and I’ll post it here. (trueshield (at)

And, if you have a story about how you've prevented a hug please share!