When Criminologist Laurie Samuel, Ph.D., worked for the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) in Washington, DC she became alarmed at what she was witnessing. “I saw an escalation of violence against women. I saw stories in crime reports of both domestic and street violence where women were getting into situations which were preventable. It bothered me.”
Statistics reinforced what she saw. 2013 figures showed that about every 16 minutes a domestic violence-related call is placed to the MPD. In 2016, DC Safe, the city’s only 24-hour crisis intervention agency for domestic violence victims, served 8,155 domestic violence survivors. “I read about crimes against women who were jogging with headsets on, or they were walking home from the metro with a cell phone in their face. I read about women who were attacked by their partners. These crimes didn’t have to happen.”
Samuel decided to do something about it.
“I felt by the time I learned about the crime, the women already had become a statistic,” she said. “I wanted to help prevent the crime from ever happening.” She created the non-profit organization Cupid’s Sting, an interpersonal violence reduction education program. “We give women the tools they need to take ownership over their personal safety.”
What is Cupid’s Sting?
“Violence against women is not just a hashtag, it’s a continuing problem,” said Dr. Samuel. “By equipping women with tools to improve their safety, we can boost their confidence so they can protect themselves.”
Cupid’s Sting teaches women how to reduce victimization and abuse through dynamic and interactive workshops on dating abuse, interpersonal violence, domestic violence, sexual assault and street harassment.
National statistics are alarming. Every nine seconds a woman in the U.S. is assaulted. One in six women will be a victim of attempted or completed rape in their lifetime. Eighty-five percent of sexual assault victims know their attacker.
Samuel has taught lifesaving skills and self-defense workshops to women’s groups, in public libraries, at gyms, in apartment buildings and at Howard University where she teaches criminology. “In my workshops I teach the basics for survival. I teach breathing techniques that can keep us calm. I also show women how to take control of their body’s response to trauma – how to act instead of freeze. I show them how to think clearly and look for exits. The goal is simple: to get out of the situation alive.”
Her workshops also focus on showing women how to be better prepared on the street. “Be aware when you leave the house how you are carrying your purse. Ask yourself if can you run in the shoes and clothes you’ve chosen to wear.” Dr. Samuel also gives you tips about bar etiquette. “Always order your own drinks and keep an eye on your drink,” she says. “It’s so important to be mindful and aware of your surroundings.”
Cupid Sting’s goal this year is to partner with local businesses and community groups to protect and prepare friends, families and neighbors. “We hope to raise more than $25,000 to be able to expand our services throughout the DC community.” Dr. Samuel is seeking partners, sponsors, donations of money and space and volunteers. She is also investigating grant possibilities to assist with the expansion.
Dr. Samuel writes a blog called, “You Have the Right to Remain Informed” that focuses on crime tips for women, interpersonal violence, relationships, victimization and policing. To learn more about Dr. Samuel and Cupid’s Sting visit: www.ljsamuel.com or contact Dr. Samuel at 202-681-4485 or [email protected].
Pattie Cinelli is a nationally certified fitness professional and a journalist who has been writing her health/fitness column for more than 20 years. She is a holistic personal trainer, yoga and Pilates instructor who brings fitness to clients’ home and work. Pattie also works with clients and teaches classes at Sport & Health on Capitol Hill and the University Club. Contact Pattie at: [email protected] or 202-329-5514.