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How Being the Victim of a Crime Changed My Life for the Better

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I’m going to start this piece by saying I am South African and proud to be one, but crime is a daily reality in this country.

I work as the communications manager for a national emergency response coordinator comparable to 911 in the US, and because of this I thought I’d know how to handle myself if I were ever the victim of a crime.

I was wrong.

In November my cousin and I were ambushed by a robber as we prepared to leave the house for a business meeting. I was then trapped alone in the car for 45 minutes while the man pushed my cousin from room to room, deciding what he would steal.

Thankfully, when I didn’t arrive for the meeting, my colleague came to the house. This led to our attacker’s arrest, leaving us traumatized but physically unharmed. Aside from psychological counseling, what has helped me overcome the experience is becoming a student of a taekwondo blackbelt named Sean Cremer.

I met Sean several years ago while working as a journalist. Shortly after the robbery, I asked if he could train me because I was resolved never to be helpless again. When I asked, I truly expected Sean to turn me down, because after all, I am a quadriplegic.

To my deep gratitude and surprise, Sean took me on with no hesitation. This got me thinking about the unconscious limitations society places on the disabled, without us even realizing it. In fact, when I told an old friend (who also happens to be a paraplegic) about my training, his immediate reaction was, “But we’re in wheelchairs, we can’t do that stuff.”


Several months on, I am now confident that in a life or death situation, I could put an attacker down. But training has become about much more than combat. The rigorous exercise has enabled me to get in and out of cars unaided, as well as on and off the toilet.

These were things I used to consider impossible.


What’s more is I have found a level of camaraderie with Sean and his other students that those unfamiliar with martial arts probably wouldn’t understand. The tenets of taekwondo are courtesy, integrity, perseverance, self-control and indomitable spirit. This group exemplifies these values.

They have shown me that if I have the courage to try, I can go well beyond my own or anyone else’s preconceived limits.

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Originally published: March 6, 2015
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