TU113: Integrating Self-Defense, Neuroscience and Affirmative Consent to Build Empowerment and Heal Trauma

by | Jan 23, 2020 | Brain Science, Episodes, Guest Interviews, Neuroscience, Personal Growth, Therapy, Trauma | 0 comments

Show Notes

“Yes means yes is the new no means no!”

Often we doubt our gut instinct, question our right to take up space in the world, and live governed by fear -especially when we’ve experienced trauma. Meet the Safety Team, a group of ordinary women doing extraordinary work teaching women how to build resiliency and re-claim their sense of agency.

In this episode,

Co-host Dr Ann Kelley joins this powerful group of women as they teach us how to find our voice, feel more present and powerful in our bodies, build resilience, and heal trauma.

Who is The Safety Team?

Christine DiBlasio, Ph.D., is the president and co-founder of The Safety Team, as well as a 4th degree black belt in Karate. For over 15 years, Dr. DiBlasio has coordinated and presented workshops on violence prevention, risk reduction, and self-advocacy skills to middle, high school and college students, as well as to community and corporate organizations. She has been instrumental in curriculum development, with a strong focus on serving survivors of interpersonal violence and trauma so as to promote healing. In addition, Dr. DiBlasio created a college and high school internship program and continues to provide leadership training to these interns as well as to an expanding group of volunteers.

Dr. DiBlasio’s dedication to the Safety Team is an outgrowth of both her background in martial arts as well as her extensive experience as a practicing licensed psychologist with 30 years of clinical experience. Dr. DiBlasio is the clinical director of a large mental health outpatient practice, and in the context of this work, has provided psychotherapy services for survivors of interpersonal violence, trauma and sexual assault across the lifespan.


tu113 Darcy Richardson Photo

Darcy Richardson, MS, is a forensic toxicologist and Vice-President of The Safety Team, a 501(c)3 non-profit focused on the empowerment of women and the reduction of sexual violence. As a toxicologist she has provided expert testimony in over a thousand cases in both criminal and civil courts at the state and federal level. These cases have included assault and sexual assaults where her expertise is used to discuss the impact of alcohol and drugs on the ability to consent or to react effectively in dangerous situations. As part of The Safety Team she uses this expertise to teach women about Drug-Facilitated Sexual Assault (DFSA), and how to effectively navigate this risk. Research indicates that half of all sexual assault cases involve alcohol and/or other drugs, which means addressing DFSA in Empowerment Self-Defense (ESD) classes and curricula is an integral part of reducing the incidence of sexual violence overall. Darcy is a 2nd degree black belt in Karate and a 1st degree black belt in Arnis.


tu113 Christina Allard photo

Christina Allard, PT, is the volunteer coordinator, and instructor for The Safety Team, Inc. and a licensed Physical Therapist specializing in pediatrics and school-based therapy. She pursued additional training in childhood trauma and its impacts on development. She incorporates her knowledge of neuromuscular and somatic responses to develop movement strategies for emotional regulation in children and teenagers. Her interest in the therapeutic effects of movement sparked her interest in martial arts (brown belt in Karate) and her ongoing commitment to the empowerment model of The Safety Team.


tu113 Nancy Keller

Nancy Keller, MEd, CAS, is the treasurer, co-founder, and lead instructor for The Safety Team, Inc. and a licensed public-school educator with Winooski (VT) School District for more than 30 years. With expertise in curriculum development and instruction, she has created middle school programs for place-based learning in science and mathematics, as well as implemented a school-wide classroom-based program for physical activity. This program was designed to address the movement needs of those children who have experienced trauma, and was built upon her background in the martial arts (3rd degree black belt in Karate and 2nd degree purple belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu).

Along with her ongoing training in the martial arts, Nancy is currently a doctoral candidate in the College of Education and Social Services at the University of Vermont. Her research is devoted to women and gender studies, empowerment self-defense, and social justice. She recently completed a qualitative pilot research project that investigated the outcomes of those who have volunteered with The Safety Team.


What Does The Safety Team Do?

The Safety Team is entirely female led and female-focused. As such, it enhances the well-being, safety, empowerment, leadership skills and resiliency of women through empowerment self-defense trainings and offers a continuum of specialized, evidenced-based, therapeutic services to women who are recovering from the trauma of sexual assault and other violence. These services promote somatic reprocessing and healing while enhancing victims’ feelings of safety, personal power, and community connection.


Giving Survivors Their Power Back

Helping women reclaim their bodies by bringing awareness back into the body and encouraging women to take up space.

Affirmative Consent

  • Challenging the “No Means No” culture by shifting the terminology to “Yes Means Yes” in sexual consent. While this is a really subtle change in terminology, it is a huge change effectively.
  • The difference is that with “No Means No”, it means that I have a right to you until you tell me no. With affirmative consent, I have no right to you at all until I get that “Yes”.
  • And in terms of getting that “Yes”, it has to be enthusiastic, it has to be continuous, a0nd it has to be freely given.
  • Watch Tea and Consent-Affirmative Consent for a practical example of affirmative consent.


Moving Beyond the “Freeze” State

  • Keep in mind here, it is NEVER the victim’s fault.
  • The freeze response is a natural adrenaline response that intends to keep us safe. Through education about the neuroscience behind the freeze state, women understand that this is a natural response and that there is no blame or shame in this physiological response.
  • By empowering voice exercises as a group, women learn to assert themselves and give their brain the extra moment to decide how it needs to react.
  • By practicing strikes over and over, overriding the freeze response by creating muscle memory responses, women are empowered by the fact that their automatic body response will be defensive movements to keep them safe rather than the shut down, reducing re-victimization.

Trusting Your Gut

  • Your intuition always has your best interest at heart.
  • Pre-assault cues can help us recognize when we’re in the midst of a predator. We may even subconsciously pick up on the predator’s adrenaline rush! Neuroception is at work here.
For a deeper understanding of “The Freeze Response” and Neuroception, listen to
TU93: Polyvagal Theory in Action – The Practice of Body Regulation With Dr Stephen Porges
TU94: The Science of Self-Regulation – Breaking down Polyvagal Theory
TU110: Story Follows State – Investigating Polyvagal Theory with Guest Deb Dana

Future Directions

A long-term plan is developing an all gender presentation class that would include cis men.

The Safety Team recognizes the need for a cultural shift surrounding consent! We can move toward change through education and community.



Orchowski, L., & Gidycz, C. (2018). Sexual Assault Risk Reduction and Resistance. NY: Academic Press.

DeBecker, G. D. (2010). The Gift of Fear: Survival Signals that Protect Us from Violence. London: Bloomsbury.

Van der Kolk, B. (2015). The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind and Body in the Healing of Trauma. NY: Penguin Press.

Information and Useful Links:

The Safety Team Website

Circle of Six Phone App

Stalking information: Gavin DeBecker’s Threat Assessment Tools

Futures Without Violence

Project Unspoken: I Am Tired of the Silence

A Parent’s Guide to Teen Dating Violence

Jackson Katz: Silence and Violence

Students Active for Ending Rape

Coaching Boys into Men


Other Episodes That You May Enjoy:

TU24: Grief And Our Body’s Wisdom On Surviving It With Candyce Ossefort-Russell

TU102: Finding Neurological Safety through Relationships, with Guest Bonnie Badenoch (Replay)

TU52: Using Mindfulness, Movement and Yoga to Manage Arousal, with Guest Kelly Inselmann


Who doesn’t love special offers?


brain neuroscience, amygdala, course
Our advanced course on attachment and neuroscience has been recently released and is now available! And, since you are deep into these shownotes then you are one of us, so get 10% off by putting in code OURCLAN. 🙂
While this course is utilized heavily by clinicians (CE’s available!), all who are interested in deepening security in yourselves and your relationships are welcome to participate. It is a full 4 hours of curated content!


Want to help us keep going? We are now on Patreon and you can become a Neuronerd supporter and help the show continue to improve. 

Join our exclusive community of Therapist Uncensored Neuronerds for as little as $5 a month!

Increase your access, join a kick-ass like-minded community, get discounts on our courses and get exclusive content.

Help us create a ripple of security by supporting us in freely sharing the science of relationships around the globe!

NEURONERDS UNITE! Click here to sign up.


Recent Episodes

Dreams: What do they really mean?  An open discussion with Ann & Sue (200)

Dreams: What do they really mean? An open discussion with Ann & Sue (200)

From weird dream fragments to unsettling nightmares, our associations to each dream can tell us a little bit more about our unconscious. Tapping into these deeper meanings can help us explore who we are and help us navigate from unsettledness in the dream back to security. Co-hosts Dr. Ann Kelley and Sue Marriott discuss the power of association in dreams and connect those to our inner working models. For shownotes www.therapistuncensored.com/200 to join our ad-free feed www.therapistuncensored.com/join.

read more
Exploring Internal Working Models with Ann & Sue (199)

Exploring Internal Working Models with Ann & Sue (199)

The care we receive in early development can be a strong indicator of who we become and how we interact. While it is mostly unconscious, our internal working models play a role in how we navigate our relationships with ourselves and others. Co-hosts Dr. Ann Kelley and Sue Marriott use neuroscience and personal narratives to help make this science digestible and applicable in our daily lives.

read more
A Client’s Perspective on EMDR with Dr. Deborah Korn & Michael Baldwin (198)

A Client’s Perspective on EMDR with Dr. Deborah Korn & Michael Baldwin (198)

Michael Baldwin is an accomplished leader in the communications industry with over 35 years of experience. Despite his many successes, after years of suppressing his traumas, Baldwin reached a breaking point. Through his work with Dr. Jeffrey Magnavita, Baldwin’s life was transformed by the power of EMDR. He wanted to make the science digestible for all audiences and created visual “billboards” for various aspects of EMDR. After teaming up with EMDR specialist Dr. Deborah Korn, the two authored “Every Memory Deserves Respect” – a book dedicated to helping others understand and heal their traumas. In this discussion, Deborah Korn explores the ways that trauma may go unnoticed, the ways it stores in our bodies, and common fears that are expressed when beginning the EMDR process. As an experienced client, Michael Baldwin is able to provide personal and meaningful ways that EMDR has improved his quality of life, relationships, and confidence.

read more
What Tiny Humans Can Teach Us About Adult Relating, with Neonatal Therapist Sue Ludwig (197)

What Tiny Humans Can Teach Us About Adult Relating, with Neonatal Therapist Sue Ludwig (197)

As a certified Neonatal Therapist, Sue Ludwig has dedicated her life to not only the physical development but the emotional development of her patients. Ludwig brings intentionality to each moment by strategically working to regulate patients’ nervous systems during their time in the NICU. Her process focuses on the interconnection of the mind and body and aims to support the child’s development in vulnerable situations. She explains the importance of proper technique to avoid disrupting the nervous system, and the long-term effects on neurodevelopment. Through her personal and professional journeys, Sue Ludwig has learned the value of being present in small moments to build deeper connections and experience lasting results.

read more
Whole Brain Living, Psychology + Neuroanatomy + Spirit with Dr. Jill Bolte-Taylor – REPLAY (195)

Whole Brain Living, Psychology + Neuroanatomy + Spirit with Dr. Jill Bolte-Taylor – REPLAY (195)

Integrating psychology, neurobiology and spiritual awakening – this episode will inspire you as it has the 26 million viewers of the TED Talk, Stroke of Insight. Using neuroanatomy and her deep insights from a serious stroke, Dr. Jill Bolte-Taylor and Sue Marriott discuss the 4 interpersonal skill subsets in the brain. Also find out more about Whole Brain Living and the various ways it can be applied across the multiple settings by getting in touch with Bolte-Taylor. This a a must-not-miss replay from 2022, find more at www.therapistuncensored.com/195, www.therapistuncensored.com/join to get an ad-free feed and join the online community.

read more
Calling In the Call-Out Culture with Loretta J. Ross – REPLAY (194)

Calling In the Call-Out Culture with Loretta J. Ross – REPLAY (194)

“Call-out culture” – a term coined within the last few years, but a concept that has existed long before. With a society immersed in technology, there are many positives about the seemingly never-ending conversation, but with the increase in connection, there’s also an increase in the ability to speak negatively to and about one another. How do we educate others without tearing them down? In a divided world, changing our approach can help create social change. Loretta J. Ross, an activist, professor, and self-proclaimed “professional feminist” has dedicated years of her life to understanding how and why this culture has evolved. Follow along in her insightful discussion with co-host, Sue Marriott as they explore the intentions behind these actions, the root of the issue, and how to more effectively “call-in” without “calling out” using the “Five C Continuum” process.

read more
Addiction, Attachment & the Felt Sense Polyvagal Model with Jan Winhall (193)

Addiction, Attachment & the Felt Sense Polyvagal Model with Jan Winhall (193)

Jan Winhall provides new perspectives on the ways in which culture and trauma affect our navigation within the world. Using the bottom-up approach, she explains how addictions are regulation strategies and provides tools to connect deeper to our nervous systems, and ourselves. Follow along as Sue Marriott and Jan explore her “felt sense” model where she blends neuroception and interoception through a polyvagal lens.

read more
Attachment, Stress & Bootstraps – The Intersection of Poverty & Mental Health with Dr. Sharon Lambert (191)

Attachment, Stress & Bootstraps – The Intersection of Poverty & Mental Health with Dr. Sharon Lambert (191)

Attachment ‘insecurity” is partly a manifestation of unresolved stress patterns in the child and, by extension, the family. Therapists usually think of stress as interpersonal and dyadic, but you can’t isolate individuals from context. We talk about context a lot when it comes to attachment – the circumstances or setting which helps to understand a process more deeply. As Sharon Lambert says in today’s episode, you can’t “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” if you have no boots. Sue Marriott and Sharon Lambert discuss the unconscious bootstraps communities have that cause blame towards those who are struggling.
There is no doubt that poverty impacts physical and emotional health, and thus lifting children out of poverty is a direct intervention in their well-being. Today’s session also explores fascinating research on how people use mental health podcasts – join us! www.therapistuncensored.com/join Shownotes here: www.therapistuncensored.com/191

read more
Secure Relating, Not the Same as Secure Attachment with Ann & Sue (190)

Secure Relating, Not the Same as Secure Attachment with Ann & Sue (190)

You don’t have to be totally healed from years of therapy under your belt or a history of secure attachment to develop skills for increased intimacy and secure relating. This is something that anybody, no matter their history, can begin to learn. Channeling your inner awareness to recognize a heightened state of arousal or using visualizations to help stay in a regulated place helps tap into your right brain to connect with yourself and your humanity. Ann and Sue navigate their personal examples, self-regulating tips, breaking out of their defensive “competitive head”, and many more useful strategies to explore the ways we can move in the direction of secure connections.

read more
Healing Body-Focused Repetitive Behavioral Disorders with Stacy Nakell (189)

Healing Body-Focused Repetitive Behavioral Disorders with Stacy Nakell (189)

Hair-pulling, skin picking, and cheek, lip, & cuticle biting are self-soothing strategies that depending on the degree can become body-focused repetitive behavioral disorders. Learn about a new attachment-informed psychodynamic model for treating these painful, shame-associated behaviors in our conversation today with Sue Marriott and Stacy Nakell.

read more

What else do you want to learn today?

Get Your Modern Attachment-Regulation Spectrum (MARS)Bundle

3 videos, 3 handouts, and 7 podcast episodes to get you started on your path toward secure relating.

Success! Please check your inbox to confirm your subscription and access your starter pack.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This