Thursday, June 28, 2007

Power of Transformation

This tale isn't exactly what most of you envision when you hear the phrase "self-defense success story." However, our protagonist, let's call her Annie, considers this incident not merely a success but a life-transforming event for the better.

In her early 20s, Annie was a homeless drug addict. Her life revolved around getting drugs, using drugs, and--when really she had to--scrounging for food and shelter. One evening she was in the parking lot just outside a gas station convenience store. A guy she didn't know asked her if she needed a place to stay. She answered yes, and he replied that he'd see if he could find her a place. Then he left, and in what seemed like just moments, he returned and said she could stay at his home.

Just an aside. I do not get asked if I need a place to stay when I'm at the gas station. I'll bet many of you don't either. If you have in the past, think about what was different then. If you are now, do you want it to stop? How are you presenting yourself? I'll get back to this at the end of the podcast.

Now, back to our story. I'm betting that you've figured out the rest of the evening. Annie and The Guy (she never knew his name) went back to his house. After hours of talking and drinking she fell asleep on a couch. Next thing she knew, she was awake and The Guy was on top of her. When she tried to pull away, he drove his knee into her stomach, pinning her. He grabbed her head, one hand on her scalp and the other on her chin. He twisted slightly, and she just knew he was telling her to be still or he'd break her neck. She stopped resisting, and he raped her. Afterwards they chatted some more, as if nothing unusual had happened. As the sun rose he offered to drive her to wherever she need to be.

Fast-forward about a year. I met Annie and heard her story at a women's transitional housing program. She described that evening as an awakening. It all came together for her. She realized that her lifestyle of drug use and homelessness put her at high risk for assault and abuse. She saw her rape as God's message to her to change her ways. And she's in the process of doing just that.

That transitional housing program where I met Annie and many other women with similar experiences (both clients and staff) asked me to talk with their clients on self-presentation. Not surprisingly, the body language for personal safety overlaps with the body language for daily success in finding and keeping jobs and housing. How to carry yourself and project that you are not a victim wannabe, or that you would be a reliable employee or tenant. This is personal power. Three of the critical keys are how you stand, eye contact, and breathing.

I'm now working on an ebook on cultivating your personal power. If you have stories you'd like to share on how you used your personal power to thwart an assault or de-escalate an ugly situation, please contact me.

To listen to this as an mp3 audio file click here.