• Yehudit Zicklin-Sidikman

On Being Response-ABLE



I know I throw the word around a lot. So, for those of you wondering about its origin, here you go: When I was going through the process of becoming a public speaker, the amazing Erin Weed who was coaching me, taught me about the importance of finding “my word.” One day, she looked at me and said, “Yudit. You keep saying ‘responsible.’ But you’re not saying it the way everybody else understands it. You’re not telling me that I’m responsible for the behavior of a person who decides to treat me violently or abusively. What you’re telling me is that you want me to have the ability to respond. You want me to be “response-ABLE.”

You want me to have the ability to respond. You want me to be “response-ABLE.”

And that was it.


I know that I have said it before but it warrants repeating. I have a right to take care of ME. I have a right to say, “Excuse me, I need a glass of water right now. So, I’m going to go get one. I’ll be right back.” This is part of taking responsibility for my well-being, and it is a huge part of what we teach in ESD.


Is being response-ABLE something that applies only to women? No. Men and boys need all of this too. We can say that the majority of violence is perpetrated by men. Fine. I hear that. The statistics support that. And a lot of the violence perpetrated against men and boys is by men. But that doesn’t mean that the majority of men perpetrate violence. Even in the cases where violence is being perpetrated by women, well, men and boys deserve to learn how to protect themselves too. Which means that men and boys deserve to have a set of tools they can use to stay as safe as possible. To me, being response-ABLE is a human right.

To me, being response-ABLE is a human right.

When it comes to taking care of myself when someone else is not treating me fairly, with respect, or in any way that I am not okay with, I want to have the ability to respond.

I want to be able to respond when I decide, “I’m not okay with this.” And "this" gets very complicated in many different systems. “This” may refer to physical violence, standing too close, not letting me get a drink during a meeting, take a bathroom break when I’m in a class, or even saying “no” to a training partner in a martial arts class.

Does this remove the responsibility of the other person for their actions? Absolutely not! And were roles reversed, I would be responsible for my actions. Here is where the confusion develops when thinking about responsibility. So simply: I am responsible for myself and caring for myself. I am not responsible for how others treat me. I am entitled to know how to respond when I am not happy with how others treat me.

I am responsible for myself and caring for myself. I am not responsible for how others treat me. I am entitled to know how to respond when I am not happy with how others treat me.

Make sense?