Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Pattern, Interrupted

A man walked into the women's locker room--and Denise was there alone. To listen to the MP3 file, click here. And read below.

Denise works in an medical research lab. Her job entails working with special mice, ones with no immune system that needed special germ-free rooms. To gain access, all the scientists and technicians have to go through special locked locker rooms, shower, and put on surgical clothing. Afterwards they needed to shower again before changing into street clothes. Denise was finishing up one Saturday afternoon. She had showered and changed, and was just drying her hair, when the door unlocked and a young man entered. Men are not supposed to know the combination to the women’s locker room (and vice versa), let alone enter! She did not recognize the man, though she knew most of the scientists and technicians. She looked straight at him as she began peppering him with questions: who are you, who do you work for, how did you get the combination, why are you here, who’s your supervisor. She stepped forward. She gave him no time between questions to answer. She repeated those questions over and over, loudly. The man turned red, began backing off, and stuttered that he really didn’t mean anything, just wanted to see if the women’s locker room looked like the men’s. She kept up her machine-gun pace of questioning until he turned and ran.

Denise used four self-defense pattern interrupts here. A pattern interrupt is where you violate a potential assailant's expectations of how you will act as a victim, which decreases your risk for assault. (1) the Question/Conversation Web, where she kept control of asking questions, putting the man on the defensive. (2) the Broken Record, where she kept repeating the same statements (here, her questions) over and over again. (3) Asserting her space when she stepped forward, deflating a possible assailant’s expectation of a cowering victim. And (4) direct eye contact, again deflating expectations of a cowering victim.

Was Denise afraid? You bet she was! But she was able to find within her the resources to turn some of that fear into anger and direct it at the guy who entered the women's changing room. Can you think of instances where someone's tried to make you afraid when you should be angry at their manipulations?

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