I Am Power(Ful)

Family & F.I.T.  |  Debbie Hatch


Don’t be fooled by these silly faces. These are some INCREDIBLY strong and powerful women. We were strangers when we first met.  By the time we parted, each had given me a little piece of herself – a spark of power and energy I could call upon any time I need it.  Photo by 7th Sister Photography.



I spent the weekend, and half of today, at I Am Power – an annual empowerment and self-defense retreat for women hosted by Jarrett Arthur & Jennie Trower and Erin Brown.


Let me give you some background for how I, personally, arrived here.  In a nutshell, I was physically and emotionally abused from the time I was an infant through my first marriage.  I was also sexually abused from age 10 to 17.


I’m saying that out loud.
==> I’m not embarrassed.


==> I’m not ashamed.


==> It wasn’t my fault.

I know that now.


I’m not looking for sympathy, pity, or even acknowledgment.  I sincerely don’t need anything from you.


If it’s too much for you; if this story makes you feel uncomfortable, I respect that.  Stop reading here.  But this is MY story.  I can, and I will talk about it.  I will talk about it because I know I am not unique.  This has happened to many women.  Maybe your sister, mother, or friends.  Maybe you.  It’s happening now and this is a discussion we need to have.


I refuse to sit silent and let other women feel like they are the “cause of their abuse”.  I won’t let them think it’s “their fault” or they are “alone”; “the only one”.


They aren’t.  I’m not.


I was the person who broke the cycle.  I talked at 17 but – wow – I had absolutely no idea what the consequences were going to be.  I almost immediately regretted opening my mouth.  It was too late.


People judged me.  People had opinions.  People chose sides.  Going to grand jury at 17 is not something you want anyone close to you to have to endure.  Believe me!  That is another memory burnt into my mind.


So I shut up and kept the story to myself for 30 years.  It DOES make people uncomfortable.  It DOES change relationships.  It DOES make things different. I didn’t want to do any of those things.   It was just easier for me but also for everyone else in my life to stuff away all that garbage.


Only two years ago, interestingly this very month, did I open up about it, again.  I was with a group of encouraging, strong, beautiful women, talking honestly.  Many had experienced many of the same things I did.  We shared one big, horrible secret, and we had carried it alone for a very long time.  It was quite shocking how similar our stories really were.



Before and after

During….and After. This did happen to me. I can’t do anything about that. I am strong. I am powerful. I will never allow it to happen again without one hell of a fight!


I went to counseling for about a year when the shit hit the fan, originally.  That language provides a perfect description of what happened.  And I’ve spent the last several years working through fault and shame.  I’ve done intense mindset work with a coach and on my own, unraveling and addressing the story in my head.


To be sure:


I am a survivor.

==>  Always have been.

I am strong.

==> Always have been.

I am a fighter.

==> Always have been.


But, what I came to realize through integration of the mindset “piece” is this.  In the past I always fought for other people. Always!


My child abuse ended because I was trying to take care of someone else, not myself.

My marital abuse ended because I was trying to take care of someone else, not myself.

I would fight, no matter what, for the people I love.  I didn’t fight for me.


Let me be clear.  I have been married to an amazing man for over 20 years.  He would never hurt me and I am in no danger.  My life is amazing; but…the story is still there.  It IS part of me.  I originally signed up for the I Am Power Retreat because I travel a lot and I am frequently alone.  The world can be a dangerous place and I wanted to learn skills with which to protect myself.  What I didn’t realize when I signed up, was that the monster I’d be fighting would be inside of me.





Jarrett, Jennie, and the woman I am today went back to rescue a 10 year old little girl.

Yesterday, I exploded with rage.  It scared me.  A lot!  Both in its intensity and in how close to the surface it sat.   I screamed.  I cried.  I punched and clawed.  The strong woman I am today went back and fought for me, the little girl.

For the 6 month old baby that had to be rushed to the hospital.  For the 10 year old girl who someone should have fought for but no one did.  For me.

My partner, Marcela, took every one of my hits (she was holding a pad).  She was screaming with me – not for me to stop but to fight as hard for that little girl as I had ever fought for anyone.  She helped me stop quivering when it was over.  She reminded me to breathe.





The rage is  gone.  To say that it was replaced with love sounds so cliche, so esoteric.  Almost ridiculous.  But that’s the truth.  I have never experienced this level of self-acceptance, compassion, or deep-down peace.  I have never felt as worthy of love as I do at this very moment.



When this picture was taken, my eyes were closed.  This was one of the hardest parts for me – knowing an attack was coming but not knowing from where or what type of attack it would be.


Today I let a man attack me.  To be honest, I specifically asked for him to grab me and throw me to the ground.  There was no rage today.  There was merely a definitive line drawn in the sand.  This is me!  This is my body!  I alone decide when someone else is too close.  I decide when I’m not comfortable.  I have a right to stand up for those boundaries, and to fight for them if that is what’s required.


We don’t like to face the reality that we might, one day, be forced to fight.  We don’t believe it could happen to us.


Did you know, though, that the Bureau of Justice Statistics, in 2015, reported on average, there are 288,820 victims (age 12 or older) of rape and sexual assault each year in the United States?  That 82% of all juvenile and 90% of adult rape victims are female?  Or that females ages 16-19 are 4 times more likely than the general population to be victims of rape, attempted rape, or sexual assault?  It’s not something to be taken lightly or ignored.  If you are a woman, please attend a self-defense class (or multiple).  If you are a man, know that you may not always be there to protect the women you love:  help them seek training.


Rob grabbed me and threw me to the ground.

Rob grabbed me and threw me to the ground.

I wanted to face that reality today.  I did this because I wanted to prove to myself that I could survive and not just end up, 10 years old again, laying in the fetal position shaking from fear.


To quote Jarrett, “It’s time to redefine how we think of fear, and the misconception that fear must lead to shutting down or shrinking.  It most certainly does not.”


I have been hit.  I have been the punching bag. I have been kicked, and thrown, and acted upon. My defense against those things was to “merely” stand up – to keep coming back, to not cry, to shrink within my body and away from the physical assaults. To keep standing up.


THIS time I advanced. I BROUGHT the fight back rather than just taking it. Instead of being acted upon, I acted. That’s really what this feeling of power is all about. That’s the difference!!


I was fighting alone but I was not by myself.

I was fighting by myself but I was not alone. I borrowed power from Erin, Rachel, Kristi, Prisclla, Rosa, and Leilani.

We don’t have to be frightened all the time – nor should we.  I absolutely refuse to sit within the safe confines of my hotel every day.  A stranger has never hurt me.  I am not afraid to go out into the world.  It’s a magnificent place. Closing my eyes and pretending these situations don’t happen, though,  does nothing to protect me if something happens.


We have to face that reality too.  Having a safe place to learn and practice is critical.  The I Am Power Retreat happens each year.  You can do as much or as little as you’re personally comfortable with.  You can engage at your own pace.  You can share or not. This weekend was transformative for me.  I can assure you I don’t use that word lightly.  I would be thrilled to talk to you about the experience if you have questions or want to know more.


From empowerment to power.

From empowerment to power.


    • Shana on October 15, 2016 at 23:05
    • Reply

    Amazing and powerful, just like you…thank you for showing up and then really showing up, forever change by you, not your story, but the women you are ??.

    1. You have most certainly enhanced my life too, Shana. I feel truly blessed to have met you. xo

    • Sylvia on March 9, 2020 at 13:46
    • Reply

    I have nothing but love and admiration for you. I’m not sure I could fight for myself, or maybe it’s just too late for me. But I’m okay. That might be the reason I’m by myself.

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