Female Disruptors: How CJ Scarlet, the ‘Badass Grandma’, Is Shaking Up How We Think Of Body Safety & Self Defense
Love yourself. Because I blamed myself for decades for my childhood victimizations, I positively loathed myself. This self-loathing led me to constantly sabotage my own efforts to find happiness. But then I found that the more I served others, the better I felt about myself and the happier I became. I grew more confident and my self-esteem soared, until one amazing day, I realized that I genuinely loved myself — every single bit of me, heart, body, mind, and soul. It’s a beautiful thing to genuinely love oneself, and it’s the absolute best thing you can offer to the world. When you love yourself, people can see it and it gives them permission to love themselves too. It’s very attractive energy.
As a part of our series about women who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing CJ Scarlet, aka the Badass Grandma.
CJ Scarlet is the parenting coach and danger expert to the stars. The author of Badass Parenting: An Irreverent Guide to Raising Safe, Savvy, Confident Kids and it’s twin, PG-rated version entitled Heroic Parenting, helps parents transform their kids into little badasses who can protect and defend themselves from dangerous people.
CJ knows first-hand how violence can destroy lives. A survivor of childhood sexual assault and rape as a college freshman, CJ spent years dealing with the emotional aftermath of these experiences. After taking her power back, she became an advocate for others who had been victimized, running a child advocacy center for abused children and serving as Director of Victims Issues for the North Carolina Attorney General’s Office. Over her 30 years as a victim advocate, CJ has helped thousands of survivors claim their power too.
The former roller-skating carhop, forest firefighter, and U.S. Marine photojournalist holds an interdisciplinary master’s degree in humanities with an emphasis on human violence. Named one of the “Happy 100” people on the planet, CJ’s story of triumph over adversity is featured in the bestselling books Happy for No Reason and Be Invincible.
Thank you so much for doing this with us CJ! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
After experiencing several victimizations as a child, I grappled for decades with the trauma, until I took my power back in 1990 when I finally sought help. I became an advocate for other survivors and obtained my master’s degree in human violence so I could understand why people do the awful things they do to each other and how to best help those who’ve been victimized. I ran a child advocacy center for abused children and served as Director of Victims Issues for the NC Attorney General’s Office.
After helping thousands of crime survivors, I felt confident that I had a good handle on how to protect myself and others from predators. And then I had grandchildren. Suddenly I was filled with fear and worry for their safety. I felt utterly helpless. How to protect them? More importantly, how to teach them to protect themselves?
I wrote my books, Badass Parenting and Heroic Parenting, to teach every parent how to empower their children to avoid bullies and other predators and handle themselves in dangerous situations. I sleep soundly at night now, knowing I’ve done my best to protect not only my own grandchildren, but children everywhere.
Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?
Body safety and self-defense for children are very dark topics that are, rightfully, taken seriously. But most experts in this field use scare tactics to get the attention of their audiences, which leads many people to avoid them altogether.
As the Badass Grandma, my aim is not to terrify my GenX and Millennial audience, but to empower and even entertain them by providing my important body safety expertise and advice in a fun, snarky, approachable way. My books, group and 1:1 coaching programs, webinars, videos, etc., are all designed to help parents transform their kids into little badasses who know how to handle themselves in dangerous encounters with bullies and predators.
To protect as many kids as possible, I’m targeting influencers and celebrities who are parents, who will influence other parents to learn what I teach about empowering kids to be safe, savvy, and confident. To reach this audience, I’m in the process of transforming my Badass Grandma brand to appeal to these VIPs (Very Influential Parents).
We all need a little help along the journey — who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?
For years I insisted that I was a totally self-made woman, but later came to appreciate that I had helpers every step along my journey. I want to give a special shout-out to the buttheads — the people who tried to thwart me or sabotage me and, in some cases, harm me. I want to thank them for being some of my greatest teachers, not only showing me how NOT to be, but also challenging me and sharpening my sword.
Each of us is like a rough, uncut diamond or a block of stone. The only way to transform them into precious gems or masterpieces is to put them under stress and chip away at them. The buttheads in my life did exactly that for me and I am truly grateful to them. Interestingly, since I came to understand that my “enemies” are actually my teachers, I don’t seem to attract them anymore.
Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.
- Love yourself. Because I blamed myself for decades for my childhood victimizations, I positively loathed myself. This self-loathing led me to constantly sabotage my own efforts to find happiness. But then I found that the more I served others, the better I felt about myself and the happier I became. I grew more confident and my self-esteem soared, until one amazing day, I realized that I genuinely loved myself — every single bit of me, heart, body, mind, and soul. It’s a beautiful thing to genuinely love oneself, and it’s the absolute best thing you can offer to the world. When you love yourself, people can see it and it gives them permission to love themselves too. It’s very attractive energy.
- Be present. I spent most of my life obsessing over the past and worrying about the future. I spent almost no time in the present moment. My greatest teachers in this have been my 3 grandchildren. When I was a young parent, I was constantly doing — cooking, cleaning, making meals; helping with homework; constantly telling my sons to hurry, hurry, hurry. But as a grandma, I find I’m much more patient and present — “being” rather than “doing.”
- World peace begins with inner peace. To make the greatest impact and help heal our planet, you have to get your own house in order first. Claiming your power, working to heal from old wounds and traumas, and offering forgiveness to yourself and others (when you’re ready) positions you to have the greatest influence.
How are you going to shake things up next?
I’m going to make empowering kids with the knowledge and skills to protect and defend themselves from predators THE thing to do. One way I’m going to do this is to write a school curriculum that teaches body safety to kids in every single grade and to young people when they’re in college.
I volunteer to facilitate a 30-minute program called “Funny Tummy Feelings,” which teaches first graders about saying “No” when someone makes them uncomfortable or tries to harm them, and helps them choose safe people to tell if something does happen. It’s an awesome program, but it’s a one-time, very limited conversation and it’s simply not enough to keep kids from being victimized. I want EVERY child and young person to learn basic tools and techniques for avoiding and thwarting bullies and other predators so they’re never victimized at all.
Do you have a book/podcast/talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us?
I’ve read so many books that impacted me and led me to this point, so it’s hard to choose just one. Here are my top 3:
- A Return to Love by Marianne Williamson. This book taught me that loving myself and unleashing my inner badass are the best things I can do to help heal our world and influence others.
- The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks. This book revealed the ways I was constantly sabotaging myself and how to overcome them.
- Untamed by Glennon Doyle. By sharing her own remarkable story and struggles, Glennon reaches into your gut and presses down hard on your own pain points. Her message is all about self-love and claiming your power.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
I’m doing it already! My movement is to ensure every parent knows how to talk to their kids about body safety from the time they’re toddlers so their children won’t be victimized and so they’ll teach THEIR children that same information — breaking the vicious cycle of violence that has led to where we are today.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“To get what you want, give it away.”
This is my own quote that I coined after I overcame a terminal illness by performing acts of kindness at the command of a Tibetan Buddhist lama. I had become so consumed by my own physical and mental suffering, I forgot that everyone is fighting a hard battle. Performing daily acts of kindness opened my heart to the suffering of others and connected me to them. Not so coincidentally, within 18 months after I started this daily practice, my condition went into remission and I feel better today than I have in decades!
How can our readers follow you online?
My website, where people can contact me, is at www.cjscarlet.com
My social media accounts are:
- Twitter: @realbadassgrandma
- Instagram: @realbadassgrandma
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!