My name is Alena and I’m from Russia. I joined Willpowered Woman as Impact Development Director last month. I have more than 5 years of experience in nonprofit organizations and have a diploma in social psychology and economics.
Unfortunately, intimate partner abuse is paid very little attention in my Country. There aren’t any crisis centers or women’s shelter to help survivors. Recently, a law was passed by our Government that decriminalizes intimate partner violence. If a woman involves the Police for the first time, a man will not suffer any punishment. Growing up in Russia, women are brought up under different stereotypes: women should cook, clean the house and care for children, but men need to rest after work; the message is frequently communicated that if a woman isn’t married and doesn’t have children, she will be unhappy and have a sad life. There are a lot of women in Russia who think it’s normal if their husband hurts or humiliates them.
I was in an abusive relationship. I met a guy who was jealous, humiliated me, didn’t let me meet with friends and constantly left me with a sense of guilt for wanting other people in my life. I found strength in myself and ended this relationship. For a long time after I could not have a relationship with anyone.
I’ve been in many situations where women’s rights were infringed upon because we are women. For example:
Every time in my life when I saw these situations, I asked myself: “Why does it happen so often? What should I do? How can I prevent it?” I found the answers through Willpowered Woman. We have to make a change and stand up to intimate partner abuse. We have to educate at high schools, universities and businesses to prevent intimate partner abuse. We have to develop women’s empowerment. I know we will! When I return to Russia I will be able to help many women in my Country and that really excites me. I look forward to working with the Willpowered Woman community!
Vulnerability is about being honest about our past life events that have shaped who we are and what we may be feeling in the moment. Personally, admitting how much I want something and going for it makes me feel vulnerable.
Let me put it in to context. Five years ago I booked a one-way flight from Melbourne to London. I went there to start a shoe business and to work in the fashion industry. I landed amazing jobs with the Headquarters of Burberry, Harrods and REISS. I ensured that I got different jobs to gain experience for my shoe business. After I gathered enough experience, I ventured to do the shoe business alongside my own sales and business consultancy. I worked hard to make these things a success, but then came “my quarter life crisis”. I started to question everything, I felt like my life had no meaning, so I started searching.
After a series of events, one of which I ended up in a violent marriage, along with my husband’s comments pertaining to something along the lines of, “I have the power to screw up your Green Card”, I escaped to a shelter for intimate partner abuse survivors. It was only then that I realized I had been a victim of violence my whole life. My father had been cruel and violent towards me my whole childhood and adolescence. It was at the shelter, with nothing, no visa, nowhere to live and very little money that I had to try and find all the solutions to my problems. It was there that I gained insight in to what it was like for a woman trying to get away from a violent partner. I quickly found out that essentially, without children, there were very few long-term housing resources available to me.
The only thing that kept me going through that very difficult period of my life was that I was going to do something about this. Women without children should be represented and I was going to be the one to bring it in to fruition. That is what I am doing now and I do notice that I feel extremely vulnerable asking for donations, putting our organization out there and sharing my story. At the same time, I think to myself who better to do it than me? I have so much insight and I have been through it all, so I can use that to help other women and create a community of survivors who were able to get their lives back.
Vulnerability is tricky. It’s not black and white, it’s grey. We want people to know who we are, but it’s also important to let trust build before we share our vulnerabilities. On the other hand, if we have been vulnerable with someone and in a disagreement, that person uses it against us, that gives us information that the person may be untrustworthy. It’s at that point we have the power to distance ourselves.
Through my experiences, I have learnt to observe what people do to better understand their intentions, as they may not have my best interests at heart. The one thing I can say for certain is, people often want clear-cut answers to life and I am here to say, it’s never clear-cut, it’s grey.
It seems that most people view vulnerability as an impediment. What we don’t realize is, in using both our vulnerability to feel more connected and our intuition to sense misguided intentions, we have the power to steer the direction of our relationships with others.
We are human, we will sometimes face hardship, that’s the reality. In those difficult times where we have been taken advantage of, we can realize that we are more resilient than we realize and hardships enables us to grow stronger. You will never know your own strength until you are faced with hardship and only then, will you be able to take that strength and do things you never thought you could do.
In our culture, there are perceived stereotypes that men need to be strong and fearless, and women need to be meek, polite and caring. In reality, a healthy life for men and women is to learn how to use both types of attributes interchangeably.
Another thing I have become more aware of is how I use things outside of myself to feel better, weather it be shopping, food or alcohol. Yes, I used to be a shopaholic and I don’t mean that I could tick a few things off the list, I mean that I could tick everything off the list. Then my Papou (grandfather) who was very near and dear to my heart passed away and I had a very strong reaction to my wardrobe. I felt suffocated by all of the clothes and shoes. I couldn’t use them to mask my pain anymore, it was no longer effective. So I gave my whole wardrobe to Goodwill and endeavored to live a life of simplicity.
All I can say is I have never felt more free. Thinking back, my wardrobe was my mask, I was more like a mannequin to be admired as opposed to a flesh and blood human being, one that felt her humanity and her vulnerability.
By Caitlin D'aprano
My experience with business, and life in general has always been, whatever I imagine, the opportunity appears in my reality. When you hear those random thoughts, like: "Wouldn't it be cool to do a collaboration with Google?", listen and become adamant about achieving it.
That is why having vision for business, weather you're starting out or are a pre-existing business, is extremely important. Having vision means that you already have the idea in your conscious mind, so when the opportunity appears, you have the ability to see it.
In 2010 I booked a one-way ticket to London from Melbourne, Australia. I was moving to London, the fashion centre of the world, to fulfill my dreams of working as a buyer in luxury fashion and to start my shoe and accessories business.
The shoe industry is one of the most difficult industries to start a business in, for the pure fact that you need 8-10 different components to create a shoe. Everyone told me that I couldn't do it.
For 18 months, I took 7 trips to Italy with the belief that I would eventually meet someone who wanted to help me create my first shoe design.
On the 7th trip, I was taking my flight back to London. The Italians were hard nuts to crack. I was finding it difficult to find a factory who wanted to work with a small business like mine. I felt a little disheartened, wondering if my dreams were ever going to come in to fruition.
I struck up a conversation with the guy sitting next to me. His name was Andy. I can't remember what I said that made him laugh, but he seemed to be having a good time chatting to me. It turned out that he was the head designer at a shoe factory in Spain. Our plane landed and we exchanged details.
A few weeks later, I found out that I had been accepted to BBC3's reality entrepreneurial program "Be Your Own Boss" But damn, I didn't have a product yet. There was the opportunity to ask Andy to make our first prototype and an excuse to have it done right away. So I asked.
Those days waiting for a reply were grueling and nerve wracking. What if he said no? What would I do? So I did what I always do when I feel scarce. I started putting together a list of other options. Until I received the email:
Yes we can do it for you but we need a last and a heel.
I had spent 18 months prior gathering the components for my shoe design and creating relationships with guess who? Last and heel suppliers. So I contacted them, got the heel and the last made and voila! My first shoe was in physical form.
Whenever you feel like giving up, that means that you're ever so close to achieving the next step, so keep going.
By Caitlin D'Aprano
When I was living and studying in Rome, I was living in this awful house on the outskirts. The area didn’t feel very safe and the house itself was not very nice. My friend Marieta was renting this cute little apartment in the heart of Rome, a 5-minute walk to class with cafés a step away. Marieta was due to finish her course in a week, so I called the landlord to see if the apartment was available. It was.
The only issue – it was way out of my budget, but I saw an opportunity. All I needed to do was show the landlord how he would be better off to rent me the apartment at a lower rate, than to not have the apartment filled at all. I did the figures and worked out that if he didn’t have the apartment filled for 10 days, that would be equivalent to giving me the price I wanted. So I got the deal! He lowered the rent from €1500 to €1000 per month.
Here are Willpowered Woman’s top 5 negotiating tips:
1. Do a competitive analysisPut together a list of businesses that offer the same services and find out how much each of them costs. Then you can figure out your target budget.
2. Pick the business you most want to work withFigure out which business you prefer and has the most of what you want. Then pick the best quoted price from having done your competitive analysis and then ask the preferred business to do the best price you found. Usually they won’t match exactly what you ask, so I am usually willing to go a little higher because they are my business of choice.
3. It gives you confidenceThere is always a certain hurdle within myself that I have to bypass in order to ask for the price that I want, but when I do it, I have noticed that it raises the confidence I have in myself.
4. There is no harm in askingIf someone says no, it’s not the end of the world, you either take the offer as is, or find something else that is better suited. Either way, you haven’t lost anything. The other thing to remember is that most people want to be accommodating.
5. It’s good practice to ask for what you wantI feel super vulnerable when I ask for the price I want. What if I am asking too much? What if they say no? What if they don’t want to work with me because I am negotiating? It’s good to find out that these doubts have never turned out to be true!
It is my belief that women absolutely must advocate for themselves and negotiate, whatever the circumstance, weather it be salary, in business, a holiday, buying a car, buying a house, you name it.
By Caitlin D'Aprano
Have you ever found yourself questioning your own memory after an argument with someone? Chances are, they were gaslighting you.
Gaslighting is a form of emotional manipulation through which an abuser makes you doubt your own sanity.
There are many warning signs that will help you figure out if someone is using gaslighting as a way of manipulating you. While most of the warning signs are very obvious to outsiders, it is much more difficult for a person in an abusive relationship to recognize and acknowledge them.
Here are the top six signs you are in an unhealthy relationship and may be a victim of gaslighting:
Or you can Like us on Facebook and look for future blog posts to learn more about the dynamics of an abusive relationship.
By Nabah Rizvi, aka: "Thoughts of an Angry Hijabi"
Let me introduce myself. My name is Caitlin D’Aprano and I am the CEO & Founder of Willpowered Woman. I am a lifetime survivor of Domestic Abuse. When I left my husband due to his violence, I decided to commit my life to empowering young women.
The thing with toxic people is that you can’t control what they do, you can only control how you respond to it.
I settled with my ex-husband in September 2015. We still haven’t signed the divorce papers. Well – that’s not exactly true – I signed them 10 weeks ago and apparently enroute to his address, they didn’t get delivered.
Yeah right – I don’t believe it for one second. This is probably just another ploy to control me. I had a good cry last night, but today I picked myself up and instead of worrying about it, I found a few fun events to go to this weekend! Nothing like being proactive to pull yourself out of a situation you don’t want to be in.
I have discovered through this very difficult situation of mine, that this is what empowerment is all about. Turning a shit situation in to an opportunity.
So, until next time – remember – the power is always yours, you have the power to make choices that make you feel empowered.
Willpowered Woman focuses on empowering women. We educate at high schools, universities and businesses to prevent intimate partner abuse and support women who have been affected in the San Francisco Bay Area. Young women learn to find their voice, healing, strength, autonomy and self-esteem to make lasting changes in their lives.
Young women are the most underserved community in the realm of intimate partner abuse, yet this demographic experiences the highest rates of intimate partner abuse. There are very few long-term housing options for these women when trying to escape the abuse. These women need housing and resources because 98% of Domestic Abuse cases involve the partner controlling finances, so the woman cannot leave.
What happens if we don’t help women without children?
Reproductive coercion is a huge issue in abusive relationships. The abusive man purposely jeopardizes birth control methods, uses force, rape and emotional manipulation to get a woman pregnant.
According to The Expert Review of Obstetrics & Gynecology in a 2010 study, 25% of women in an abusive relationship reported that pregnancy occurred due to reproductive coercion.
Willpowered Woman aims to provide resources for women without children, before they are forced to have a child with their abusive partner.
As reported by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), Women Describing their Experience of Reproductive Coercion:
“He was like: ‘I should just get you pregnant and have a baby with you so that I know I will be in your life forever’”
“I was on the birth control, and I was still taking it, and he ended up getting mad and flushing it down the toilet, so I ended up getting pregnant.”
The abusive man knows that when a woman is pregnant or has a child, he will be able to exert more control in the relationship, because the woman feels more vulnerable having to consider the welfare of her child and finds it more difficult to leave. The abusive man often uses the child as a pawn in order to coerce and scare the woman.
Having a child with an abusive man ties the woman to him for life. If the woman ends up leaving the relationship, the abusive partner often drags the woman through court with constant custody battles, false accusations, unnecessary psych evaluations, which often causes financial hardship to the woman or worse so, the woman is unable to obtain a skilled attorney in dealing with these very tricky and manipulative situations, which then results in loss of custody rights. The court system is predominantly a patriarchal system that works against women.
We at Willpowered Woman speak directly of these scenarios, as we have seen them first hand.
We believe that investing in our young women to let them have the best possible chance of leading a prosperous life with many opportunities, is the way to break the cycle of abuse for future generations. We aim to help young women foster and grow into empowered, confident women. We educate them to develop the ability to have an authentic reciprocal relationship with good communication skills, an ability to set boundaries and how to have a healthy intimate relationship, where they know that they deserve to be respected, loved and treated well.
Through our programs, we plan to help women find their potential with an emphasis on women’s empowerment, education and social entrepreneurship.