Martial artist and mother of two Mel Thomas was “born into” family violence. For more than ten years she endured the brutal abuse of her alcoholic father before she and her mother finally escaped.
But the abuse didn’t end there and Thomas was bullied at school because of the family violence — ironically by girls suffering very similar situations in their own homes. As a teenager she was violently attacked.
While her story may be awful, it’s certainly not unique and, as she points out, more than 40 percent of Australian women over the age of 14 have experienced violence.
Mel Thomas. Source: Supplied
When her first daughter was born she decided she wanted create a better future not just for her, but for all women and children at risk of violence, so she launched the KYUP! Project.
"As a girl and as a woman we have all the experiences that we feel and have from just being girls and women," she told Mamamia.
"Girls don’t need a laundry list of stuff not to do, they need tools. How to deal with a guy that standing to close to them on the train ... How to protect yourself. How to be safe on the street, in the home, going into the workplace.
"As a woman I know that here are so many areas where we can be dis-empowered and we need to take that back.
"And I personally found that martial arts and self-defence was a way to claim back my strength."
Thomas is the founder of the KYUP! Project empowering young women through self-defence. Source: Supplied
The KYUP! Project runs school-based martial arts courses teaching girls the principals of self-defence and self-worth.
It's not just about teaching girls to fight off potential attackers, instead it equips them with de-escalation tools and focuses on building self esteem as well as strategies to deal with past violence.