Sunday, October 31, 2010

Are You Scared Yet?

Today's beautiful sunny Seattle afternoon will, in a few short hours, give rise to little goblins and ghouls and ghosts shrieking and wailing. "Trick or treat!" is tonight's theme, but alas it will extend a few more days past tonight. Indeed, bigger goblins and ghouls and ghosts have been shrieking and wailing for months, hoping to scare you into voting their way just 2 days post-Halloween.

Even though after Tuesday's elections all the campaigning ads will slither back into the crypts, their tricks will still linger in the air like the stench of sewage. While we all claim we hate those attack ad, fact is they work. Seems like no matter who you vote for, we are (again) facing the End of Civilization. If you want to check out how much truth, or lack thereof, is behind your favorite political messages, visit PolitiFact.com.

A few weeks ago I was chatting with a marketing manager for one of America's largest retailers. Prior to that he'd been in marketing for one of the major TV broadcasting companies. He left because he was fed up with "the scare." As much as possible, news just had to be presented with maximal scare value. Even the weather had to be scary.

A critical aspect of "the scare" is to present the event, but give you absolutely NO clue how to accurately assess or mitigate any risk you could face (other than stay at home and keep glued to your TV). (Strategic Living's Self-Defense 101 and Weekend Workshop classes cover these bases for your personal safety concerns.) One antidote: stop watching TV news. You'll not only feel safer over time, you'll be better at assessing real risks and engage in more enjoyable and productive activities. To help you, artist John Boak created these little posters that you can tape to your TV screen. Not only do they remind you to keep the TV off, they'll nicely obscure your view.

Get your information from real life, not from entertainment.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Sometimes Even the Experts Mess Up

This security expert did, and boy it was a whopper. 
Security expert Michiel Oakes admitted killing Mark Stover. Oakes said that Stover was stalking his girlfriend and she was very afraid of Stover. This girlfriend, Linda Opdycke, was Stover's ex-wife.  Oakes said he did it in self-defense. The jury wasn't convinced, and convicted Oakes of first-degree premeditated murder.
For more backstory see this article on NPR, and this from The Seattle Times.
For those of you who may be stalked in the future, here are 3 mistakes to avoid:
No Documentation. According to this story, Oakes never reported any threats by Stover to the police. If you believe you're being stalked, get an evidence trail going, including what you've reported to police. A history that others can refer to really helps your believability. And maybe you can get some help!
Going to Stalker's Home, Armed. If you go to your stalker's house wearing a bulletproof vest and carrying weapons, it will be hard to convince anyone except your mother that you acted in self-defense. (In fact, if I did that, my mother would probably be the first to turn me in for stupidity.)
And Then Hiding the Body. Nothing screams guilt like a cover-up (whether or not that's accurate). Really, this is the stuff of bad TV and movies. 
Stalking is serious.  I've had students in my self-defense classes who've been stalked, and even years later many have never regained their full peace of mind. If you are being stalked, or someone you know is being stalked, do report and report and report, keep documents and a diary and any phone messages, and let everyone in your circle know. Before you end up, losing, on center stage in a bad drama.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Beware Spectres Bearing Olive Branches

Today's news resurrects a two decade-old sore, and NPR's Nina Totenberg called this incident "stranger than fiction."

Virginia Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, confirmed that yes she did leave a message on Anita Hill's answering machine. In that message she asked Ms. Hill to consider offering an apology and full explanation for her testimony during Justice Thomas' confirmation hearings in 1991. In a subsequent statement to CNN, Ms. Thomas purported that her message was intended to offer an olive branch, and no offense was intended.

Ms. Hill has reported that no apology will be offered any time soon.

Read this CNN article for the backstory and current update.

When you offer an "olive branch," the implication is that you want to make peace. If you want to make peace, there's been some conflict that you wish to resolve or at least mitigate. We can call that process "de-escalation."
Now there are several general principles of de-escalation. One is that you do not insist that the other person is wrong. That would not serve to mitigate conflict, would it? In fact, it usually pisses the other party off. So much for striving for peace.
So when Ms. Thomas then asked for an apology, she was not really offering an olive branch. Granted, and I'm going out on a limb here, it looks like Ms. Thomas believes that an injustice was done. Maybe she is looking for redress. Frankly, history may remember Justice Thomas more for Anita Hill's testimony than for any scholarly and enlightened opinions he's written from the bench, and maybe she's feeling aggrieved about it. Maybe she's fishing for political points (Ms. Thomas is the founder of Liberty Central, a conservative nonprofit lobbying group linked with the tea party).
Whatever her reasoning, she should at least honestly name what she's doing as confrontation. (In my 5 week self-defense course we go over these, and other verbal skills, in lesson 4.) Even though it's almost Halloween, this is not the time (and it is NEVER the time) to disguise a a wolf in an olive branch's clothing.

Monday, October 18, 2010

"Mixed Signals" is the new "Yes"?

Heck, this article is so short I might as well insert the whole thing:
A 24-year-old man arrested Oct.11 for kidnapping, attempted rape and gross sexual imposition said the woman he was visiting had actually been giving him “mixed signals,” according to an Elyria police report.

Melvin Jackson III, of Elyria, got naked and tried to have sex with the woman at her Washington Avenue home, the report said. The woman said she invited Jackson over to watch movies, but he began to touch her inappropriately, got undressed and refused to let her leave the room. The woman was able to run to a neighbor’s home and call police.
Good self defense on her part! She escaped and called the police.

Now, go to the story in The Morning Journal of 10/15/10 to look over the readers' comments. As of the evening of Saturday, Oct 16, they are short and to the point: that poor guy was set up or played. Like, "everyone knows" if a woman invites a guy over to "watch movies," she's "asking for it," right?

For all you women reading this, who cherish your freedom of association guaranteed by our great nation's Constitution (including the right to watch a movie with whoever you'd like without that being mistaken for a promise of sex), you are almost certainly sending "mixed signals" to someone. Yes, there are still those who assume that being alone and together means you want "it" (and they're not always men).

So here are just a couple of red flags that you should be looking out for. While it's not an all-inclusive list, these are 3 biggies:
  • He makes snide or even outright nasty comments about women in general, or about ex-girlfriends,
  • He seems to want to get intimate very quickly, and gets upset if you're not comfortable with his timetable, and
  • He ignores you when you have objections or otherwise say no to his plans.
For those of you in the Seattle area, this is covered in Session 4 of Self-Defense 101.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Goes to Show You Never Can Tell

When I arrived at Bellevue College last Saturday, I felt something amiss. The staff, usually calm and friendly, seemed just a tad frazzled as we exchanged greetings.  I went to set up my room for the five-week self-defense course I'd be teaching that afternoon, then returned to the front for my roster.  As  passed the front desk manager, he said, "We really could've used you this morning! We had one woman stab another in class.  It was an anger management class."

That's generally not what I'd expect in a continuing education facility known more for high tech than high crime. Goes to show you never can tell for sure what can happen even in safe spaces.  And why the first rule of self defense is to be aware and open to possibilities.

Read the story here.

Friday, October 15, 2010

"You've got to fight for your life, for sure."

Earlier this week, a woman was attacked while jogging in Seward Park. When she saw a man on an isolated trail and her intuition told her to get out of there, she turned.  However, he ran after her, caught up to her, and attacked. The assailant punched her in the face, and she fought back while screaming. Her voice attracted the attention of another man who rushed over, and the assailant fled.

"[S]he encourage[s] other women who find themselves in a similar situation to trust their intuition and do whatever it takes to fend off an attacker. "You've got to fight for your life, for sure," said the woman."

And she's sure the police will find the culprit.  "In the meantime, she said she and her neighbors are organizing a self-defense class for women in Seward Park, which they hope to offer in coming weeks."

Way to go for proactive empowerment!

Read the story in The Seattle Times.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Follow the Money, Even Where There is "None"

Listening to the radio, hearing yet another story from a war-ravaged country. Another woman, widowed with small children, has turned to prostitution to feed her family.

In all these stories about the costs of war, there's one question that's ignored.


Why is there always money for prostitution, but rarely for food?

If you want to see who holds more power, follow the money. Rather, follow who chooses how to spend their money.

Monday, October 04, 2010

And Now, A Word from My Mother

I have to admit, I don't always agree with my mother. OK, that's an understatement, we often butt heads.  But, when she does make a good point, it is stellar. And one such stellar bit of advice came many, many years ago. I don't recall the context at all, she was discussing finances (which she rarely did).  Her piece of advice is to all young women (and if you've taken one of my self-defense classes, you have heard me say this) is very simple:

Whatever life brings, whatever relationship, marriage, partnership, etc., you  find yourself in, make sure you ALWAYS have a bank account in YOUR NAME ONLY.  And make sure that it contains enough money for you to rent an apartment and cover living expenses for at least a few months.

Nobody plans on entering into an abusive relationship. However, life does not always go according to plan, and for that you have to plan. Are you with me?

If you are trying to leave an abusive partner, you'll need cash.
One common characteristic of abusers is control of household finances. You will need your own bank account, in your name only, so that the abuser cannot withdraw all funds to leave you high and dry. And it is a LOT easier if you have your cache before committing to any relationship, since once you're in you don't know how easily you'll be able to accumulate necessary funds.

I've taught self-defense classes in homeless day shelters and in transitional housing facilities. I've met women who lost everything -- and became homeless -- because they had to leave their partner but had no funds. There are many, many more women who do not leave their abusers because they are even more afraid of living on the streets.

So take charge of your own destiny, and have some cash cached away. Because, without cold cash, it really sucks to find yourself between an abuser and the cold streets.