Silver CometIt’s Front Line Friday. Due to the recent stories of women being attacked on trails while trying to exercise, I decided to feature Jennifer Riis-Poulsen, founder of Powerhouse Self-Defense.

Just this month there have been multiple stories in the media about women being attacked or almost attacked. Forty-two year old Tina Waddell was on the Silver Comet Trail in Paulding County when she was brutally attacked. You can read about it here. Then just days later, Pearl Ryder was jogging on an Atlanta trail when a man jumped out behind her. Pearl, fortunately, had been trained in self defense and she kicked into defensive mode, startling her would be attacker and scaring him away.

Jennifer is passionate about training women to know how to defend themselves. After reading Rescuing Hope, Jennifer reached out to me. She wanted to do what she could to help combat sex trafficking.  The mission of her organization is:

to reduce the number of individuals that are emotionally, verbally and physically assaulted each year, globally, by empowering them through its Self-Defense & Empowerment Program.

I hope you enjoy getting to know Jennifer today:

When did you first learn about the issue of sex trafficking?

When I first put my Personal Safety & Empowerment Program together, I looked into statistics on violence against females in the USA. It was a great shock, not just to see that sex-trafficking was on the list, but that the statistics were so high and involved so many young girls.

What books have you read on the issue?

I didn’t read any books in the beginning. I found all my information on line through various websites such as Polaris Project. The first book I read was ‘Rescuing Hope’ just a few months ago.

How have you gotten involved in the fight?

I got involved by creating a Personal Safety & Empowerment Program to educate girls and women on awareness, which includes recognizing harmful behavior and the warning signs.

Do you work directly with survivors and if so, how?

Yes I work directly with survivors. Some women that come through the Powerhouse Program have been victims of trafficking. I am very proud of these females for taking my program as it is a step in the healing process.

What is the hardest part of what you do?

The hardest part is to hear the heart wrenching stories. My work can be quite emotional because I am dealing with females that have had real experiences of violence from which most people are protected.

What is the greatest blessing for you in your work?

My greatest blessing is to see a smile on the survivor’s face and to see their confidence building within them with my very own eyes.

What do you feel is the weak link in the fight against trafficking?

I think denial plays a part in this. Many still associate sex-trafficking with countries and places far away. They do not want to believe it is happening right on their doorstep.

If you could only share one thing with readers about this fight, what would it be?

Awareness is key in this. Awareness that sex-trafficking is no longer an issue in a foreign country. It is here in the USA and that it is a $9.8 billion industry here.

If you could address a room full of teenagers about this issue, what would you share with them?

Firstly, I would ask them to look to their left and then to their right. Make them aware that potential victims could be sitting amongst them. Awareness is important. Make them aware of the danger signs, also how to identify a victim.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?

I created a Program to prevent violence against girls and women, including sex-trafficking and sexual assault. The most important part of this education is in awareness, which is why my emotional self-defense component is crucial. Learning human behavior and recognizing unusual behavior and situations, including some very subtle warning signs, can help reduce the statistics on the number of girls that are trafficked each day.

To learn more about Powerhouse Self Defense, you can follow them on Facebook or visit their website.  Jennifer and her team of trained instructors would love the opportunity to equip you with skills to protect and defend yourself so you won’t become a statistic. Jennifer has trained me and my daughter and I can say you’ll benefit from her training.