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Violence Against Women:
How to Care for Yourself

By Dr. Penelope Neckowitz
April 24, 2024

A Response to the Recent Viral Implosion of TikToks About Random Acts of Violence Against Women

Violence against women is not new. Over the centuries, women have lived within a culture where laws are dictated by men. The recent Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v Wade is a potent reminder to women that their bodies are subject to the whims and biases of the patriarchy. Our political climate is one in which acts of violence against women have been dismissed without consideration of the deeper cultural and societal impact of the trauma and possible victimization this may produce.

The recent viral TikTok trend highlighting instances of women being randomly punched by men on the streets of New York has sparked a crucial conversation about violence against women. While this specific trend may have started in one city, the fear and vulnerability it evokes is universal for women everywhere. When a woman becomes the victim of violence by a man, whether it's a random attack or a targeted incident, it triggers a range of emotions that deeply affect and undermine one’s personal safety. The shock and disbelief of such an unexpected assault can shatter a sense of security in familiar surroundings. It forces women to confront a stark reality: that our safety can be compromised simply because of our gender. My daughter was one of those multitudes of women who were punched in the face. She was punched with enough force that 3 or her front teeth were cracked and had to be replaced. This attack happened in Boston while she was waiting for an Uber with a friend and neither of them saw it coming. Much of the time these attacks do not involve robbery. They are just violence—violence in its starkest of realities!

So what are the responses to this kind of traumatic event? A head injury can often result in temporary retrograde amnesia, meaning that there is a loss of memory of the actual event. Even if there is no retrograde amnesia, oftentimes there is disbelief, especially if there is no anticipatory lead-up. It is not uncommon for women to question whether the event actually happened or whether they may have fallen. It makes women wonder why their usual ability to scan the environment for threat (which women have had to develop to survive in this culture because of their perceived greater vulnerability) didn’t serve them, only intensifying the feeling of vulnerability. The nervous system becomes dysregulated and often women feel thrown off their course, shaky, even depersonalized… all part of feeling as though the ground under you that you have always thought to be solid is pulled out from under you.

If the dysregulation to the nervous system is not addressed, it is not uncommon for fear and anxiety to ensue: the fear of walking alone, especially at night, even though many of these attacks have happened in full daylight, the anxiety of encountering strangers, wondering if they pose a threat, all can put the nervous system into flight or freeze. This constant vigilance takes a toll on emotional well-being, reinforcing a narrative that women must always be on guard. Anger and outrage are also common emotional responses, since these attacks not only inflict physical harm but also undermine our autonomy and sense of dignity.
In the aftermath of such traumatic events, it's common for women to blame themselves or question their choices. In a patriarchal culture that often places the burden of safety on women, it's crucial to reject self-blame. No one should ever feel responsible for someone else's violent actions. We must shift the focus away from victimization and self-blame.

Dealing with this kind of traumatic event and the possible emotional responses in the aftermath, it is essential to consider the following avenues for healing and empowerment.

Nervous System and Emotional Regulation

Learning about emotional regulation and developing coping strategies is essential for healing. Emotional regulation involves understanding and managing one's emotions effectively. It's about recognizing when emotions become overwhelming and learning healthy ways to process and express them.

Practices like mindfulness, meditation, and embodiment help you to stay grounded within one’s body, deep breathing, movement practices for moving difficult emotions, journaling and expression of difficult emotions can be immensely helpful in calming the nervous system and restoring a sense of inner balance. Visualizations that involve a connection to safety, learning to recognize when you are dysregulated and learning to pause, to center, to resource yourself or reach out for support to counteract possible dissociation, rest when your system feels overloaded, not feeling pressured to talk about the event until you feel ready- all are important tools to settle your nervous system and help you re-experience safety and emotional spaciousness.

Emotional Wellbeing

Please consider seeking professional support when your emotional regulation tools aren’t enough and when you experience ongoing trauma within your body. Trauma is not necessarily the event, but the body’s reaction to the event and how those emotions get stored within the body. Therapy and counseling offer valuable tools for processing trauma and building resilience. Somatic and movement therapies as well as EMDR are often useful ways to access the trauma within the body and to become more grounded and reduce dissociation and depersonalization.

Remember that the event you have just experienced may leave you feeling disempowered and like your control has been ripped away from you. As you work with the feelings that arise from the attack, it is important to remember that consent in relationships of all kinds is essential. The attack removes your “No” but you can learn to recover that and embody that in all your relationships. Even if you choose to work with a therapist or counselor or coach, remember to give yourself permission to go at the pace which works for you and even there, pay attention to what your body tells you: if it is a “no," it is a “no” and if it feels like a “yes," go with it!

Self-Defense and Safety Measures

Learning self-defense techniques and practicing situational awareness without becoming hypervigilant can also help you to feel more empowered and less fearful.


Connecting with other women who share similar experiences can be incredibly validating. These connections help to break the silence and reduce the stigma associated with violence against women. Doing this can help you to feel less like a victim and to reduce your self-blame. In addition, through the support of others, you will be able to share your concerns and fears, learn new tools for emotional regulation and be supported in your learning to practice them.

Education and Awareness

Understanding the root causes of gender-based violence and challenging harmful stereotypes can be empowering. Education empowers women to recognize their rights and demand safer spaces.

Advocacy and Action

Supporting organizations and initiatives dedicated to ending violence against women can turn outrage into meaningful change. Advocating for policy reforms and community interventions is essential for creating safer environments and may help you to feel like you are doing something pro-active that in turn allows you to feel more empowered.

By addressing self-blame and emphasizing the importance of emotional regulation in healing, you can resource yourself and gain valuable tools and insights to navigate these challenging experiences. It is our imperative as women to foster a culture of empathy, understanding, and empowerment. Together, let’s work toward a future where every woman feels safe and respected. Let us continue to have meaningful conversations about safety and how to care for ourselves while raising awareness for all women everywhere.

Penelope Neckowitz, PhD is a licensed psychologist and therapist, a certified Erotic Blueprint Coach™, an Embodied Female Pleasure™ facilitator, and a long time pleasure researcher and pleasure activist. She is committed to helping women connect to their erotic life force energy and live more freely with less shame and greater freedom of expression. You can learn more on her website https://www.penelopeneckowitz.com/.

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