True Story: Assertiveness Saved the Girl

She wanted to be free

Jessica had faced a week full of deadlines, irritated customers, and snarky co-workers.  It was finally Friday night, and she smiled at her friends from across the table, happy to vent over the challenges of the week.  They frequented this small-town bar often because of the live music, the dancing, and the excellent service.  It also helped that most of the group lived within walking distance.  She loved summer nights like this one.

As the evening progressed, one acquaintance, Joe, proceeded to get a bit too drunk.  His girlfriend wasn’t present tonight because they had argued earlier. He took some woman out onto the dance floor and danced with her a bit roughly, and returned when a couple of songs were over.  He decided Jessica was next, and told her so.  She smiled and shook her head.

“Come on, dance with me.  Let’s go.” She cringed away from his whiskey-breath.  He grabbed her wrist and pulled her to her feet.   Jessica did not want to go with him.  She also didn’t want to seem like a “bitch” in front of the group.  He ignored her protests and continued to pull on her.

“Joe, I don’t want to dance.  I’m tired.  I just want to sit with our friends.  Let’s go back to the table.”  She tried to free herself, but his hands turned to vice grips and painfully clamped down on both of her wrists and she felt no choice but to go with him.  They were almost to the dance floor, so she did her best to smile, hoping that if she danced a bit, he would release her now sure-to-be-bruised wrists, and she could escape and maybe wait him out in the bathroom.  To her dismay, he kept one wrist and the other hand snaked around her hips and pulled her body snugly against his sweat-soaked shirt as he began to stumble back and forth.

“I’m in hell.”  Jessica thought, now panicking as she tried to push away with all of her might, to no avail. She was stuck, and her “friend” Joe wasn’t taking no for an answer.  Terror set it as she wondered what would happen when it was time to walk home.  Jessica realized that she was in danger, but didn’t want to make him angry.  She felt frozen and trapped.

At that moment, Melissa stepped in, though she was new to the group and didn’t know Joe or Jessica well. She danced her way between them.  Joe drunkenly grabbed Melissa in an effort to forcibly dance with her.  Melissa put her hands up and shouted “Don’t touch me!”  Still dancing, Joe grabbed her wrist again and attempted to pull on Melissa.  Melissa yanked her hand back and planted her feet. “Joe, you’re getting grabby.  Jessica doesn’t want to dance with you and neither do I.”  She pointed to the table of friends curiously looking on.  “GO. SIT. DOWN!”

The above is a true story.  Assertiveness can be awkward, and yes, sometimes it feels rude.  Joe calmed down and apologized to Melissa and Jessica.  None of their group thought Melissa was being rude to Joe.  In fact, they all have more respect for her since this incident.


Melissa had recently taken the Empowered course at her office, and used the 3 Steps to Assertiveness effectively with Joe:

Step 1: Name it.  Name the behavior (“Joe, you’re getting grabby…”)

Step 2: Claim it. Name how it affects you, or the situation. (“We don’t want to dance with you.”)

Step 3: Command.  Treat them like they’re two, and tell them what to do. (“Go sit down.”)


Learn assertiveness as well as non-verbal cues to diffuse any confrontation in your life.  Join an Empowered Personal Safety course.  Take free and paid self-defense classes.  Boost your confidence.  Be safe. Be Strong. Be EMPOWERED!