Today’s headlines provide plenty of topics for the national discourse. Since October 2017, when #MeToo, originally created by social activist Tarana Burke, gained steam through social media to shed light on the prevalence of sexual assault and harassment, the topic has garnered more attention.
“One in four women will experience sexual assault in their lifetime. We believe the numbers are higher, and [the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network] research shows that about 68 percent go unreported,” says Heidi Nauman, an assault prevention trainer. “One in four girls and one in 10 boys will experience an assault. It is a life changing experience, which can lead to anxiety, depression, behavior challenges, illness, substance use and suicide, and they often end up repeating the behavior to others. [The] personal cost is immense, and the cost to society is in the billions [of dollars] in the U.S.”
Eden Prairie’s Al Horner, a former Navy SEAL, created Not Me! Training, an assault prevention program educating children and adults how to avoid and escape threatening situations. He developed the program after a friend asked him to share the personal safety lessons he learned as a Navy SEAL. Horner agreed and offered safety tips to his friend's daughter and her friends, who were about to leave for college. The success of that initial session led to word-of-mouth endorsements and the eventual creation of Not Me! It’s been more than 12 years since the Twin Cities-based program’s launch, and individuals, schools, churches and businesses have sought out the program.
Nauman of Chanhassen is involved with outreach and training with Not Me! “I became involved after attending training for college-bound girls and their moms at a Twin Cities private high school,” she says. “I felt that this course was vital and one of the most important things we needed to share with women.”
Impressed with the training, Nauman contacted Minnetonka High School (MHS) principal Jeff Erickson in hopes of bringing the program to the high school. A plan was set in motion. “Many girls showed up the first year and said that the [University of Minnesota] Campus Police had recommended in their orientation that they find a Not Me! training before going to any college,” Nauman says.
MHS has hosted classes for senior girls and boys with their parents for the last five years. “More public schools began to realize how important this was to bring assault prevention to families, and Chanhassen, Chaska, Waconia, Eden Prairie, Wayzata and Edina are also providing this to their communities in school and community education programs,” Nauman says. Initially, the program was aimed at attendees around 18 years and older. Thankfully, that has changed to include young children. Southdale Pediatrics and Wayzata Children’s Clinics hold Horner’s programs at least quarterly for children in grades K-8. “Pediatrician's love our programs and say they have never had anything like this before for prevention,” Nauman says. The adult program is now designed for participants ages 15 and up.
Area resident Kari attended two programs—first to preview the content as a potential class to attend with her college-bound daughter and to refresh her own safety skills. “It was just what I hoped for in terms of being prevention and education focused and also teaching simple, memorable physical self-defense skills,” she says. The second session, attended with her daughter, was through a community offering in Excelsior. Kari sought a shared experience to foster dialogue with her daughter, as well as with her daughter’s dad and some of her friends.
Training topics include avoiding dangerous situations, understanding instincts to avoid danger, learning ways to escape an assailant, discovering how to respond to weapons, understanding actions to take in an active shooter situation and much more. “Personally, I gained confidence and skills I believe help me recognize and avoid potentially dangerous situations, as well as easy, practical skills that would help me minimize harm if I was faced with a bad situation,” Kari says. “I also learned actions I can take to help others if necessary.”
“When my middle daughter took it at MHS a couple years ago, she was very happy for the opportunity, but shared with me that, unfortunately, she already knew a handful of girls who already had been raped,” says Lynn, mother of three daughters. “She expressed that having [training] sooner might have made for different outcomes to high school girls, as well as those going off to college. Now that she has been in college for two years, she has shared that several other close friends she has met have experienced rape, as well, even before they went off to college. All of these friends of my daughter never reported the rape, which again makes me believe that the statistics of one in four are dramatically wrong.”
The program also addresses sex trafficking, which reaches its tentacles into our communities and through social media and internet sites. “Even though greatest threats—80 to 90 percent—are assaults by people we know, communities are very concerned with [sex] trafficking and exploitation,” Nauman says. “Minnesota is [ranked 13th] in the nation for trafficking, and the classes cover stranger assaults, how to recognize [a threat] and [how to] stay safe. The internet and social media play a big part in youth trafficking, which has an average age of 12, which is why we talk about that with kids and parents in the classes.”
“So many of the women who attended classes asked, ‘What do you have for my kids?’” Nauman says. “[Horner] found that the greatest threat to children is groomed sexual assault, 90 percent by people they know and 10 percent by strangers.” Over the last five years, Horner and his wife, Diane, worked with experts to develop an assault prevention program more palpable for younger children. Super Hero Kids (“Short, fun, not scary”), offers training from K-8.
The Super Hero Kids Foundation was created to bring the training to children and families at subsidized or no cost in schools and other non-profits, according to Nauman, who serves as assistant director and trainer. “Our goal is every child will learn how to recognize when rules are being broken, how to get away and how to tell whether it is someone they know or a stranger,” she says. Chanhassen, Chaska and Waconia community education programs offer training for children in grades K-4 ($20 per person and adult/40 minutes) and 5-6 ($30 per person and adult/75 minutes).
Students in grades 7-8 are divided into Safer Daughters and Safer Sons groups (accompanied by an adult, both $30 per person/90 minutes). Given that young teens begin to experience more freedom with their environment, relationships and the internet, the training addresses the importance of learning how to tell (and who to tell) when an uncomfortable situation or assault has occurred and highlights issues surrounding internet safety and peer pressure.
To broaden the reach, online training options for adults include the Full Course ($49), a 140-minute session exploring how to avoid danger, utilize prevention tools and choose the wisest course of action in a situation, employ escape techniques, defend against weapons, learn about easy-to-use self-defense products and more. Shortcut to Safety ($19) is a 35-minute version of the program. Private training ($79 per person) is also available for two or three hours. Trainers will come to the clients or help arrange a venue. Corporate training is also offered.
“As parents, we have so much to teach our children, and sometimes they need to hear things not just from us in order for important lessons to sink in,” Lynn says. “It takes a community to raise families. That is what has always motivated me to search out a program like this. This class offered more than just awareness and training. It teaches awareness of surroundings in order to avoid situations that could go bad. It teaches common sense that can be applied to all areas in life. It gives confidence to young women to trust their instincts. I really loved how it teaches young women to look out for one another, having buddy systems to work together to keep themselves and their friends safe.”
Lynn stresses that girls and women aren’t the only ones who benefit from training. “This program should definitely be seen for teaching life skills for both genders of all ages. The statistics for assaults on boys/men is supposedly lower, but, truth of the matter is, they deal with such things, as well,” she says.
“We also host the boys/dads program at Minnetonka each year, and Chanhassen/Chaska Community Ed. hosted one last summer at Chanhassen High School, and boys came from all over the [area] when they were looking for something for self-defense before college,” Nauman says.
“Awareness is the most crucial piece to training anyone—girls/women and boys/men of any age,” Lynn says. “There is no difference when it comes to young boys/men. Everyone needs to be taught to look out for one another.”
offered by Heidi Nauman of Not Me! Training and the Super Hero Kids Foundation
Trust your gut when something doesn't feel right, and get away from it.
Be engaged with your environment. Put phones and earbuds away until you are in safe places.
Park in well-lit areas near entrances.
Use security services when you can at night, have a friend with you and travel in groups.
Be especially vigilant in environments where there is alcohol or drugs. Keep drinks with you and covered, and don't accept something that you did not see poured or opened.
Learn simple escape moves, and practice them.
If you have been sexually assaulted, dial 9-1-1 or call the National Sexual Assault Hotline 1-800-656-HOPE. By calling this number, you will be automatically connected to your closest rape crisis center.