Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Power Posing

This really cool video by Amy Cuddy (a researcher at Harvard) talks about body language and power.

Amy Cuddy: Power Poses from PopTech on Vimeo.

You can feel powerful by expansive body language. Cuddy's work is placed mostly in a business context, but it is easy to translate this to personal safety and self-defense. Strong body language helps deter assault, and makes you stronger in case you do need to defend yourself.

Body language is a key component of my self-defense classes. We focus on a few aspects, mostly eye contact and smiling, where to place your feet, and posture. These critical elements of non-verbal communication convey an impression of power, and are your first line in physical skills self-defense.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Good Men Did Nothing

We can take away several lessons from the tragedy unfolding at Penn State's football program. Former coach Jerry Sandusky is charged with about 40 counts of sexual misconduct. Two other highly-placed college officers are charged with perjury for their role in covering up Sandusky's deeds. And it's likely to get worse as more victims will probably come forward.

Long-time head coach, the legendary Joe Paterno, will be retired after this season. When many college football programs are plagued with blatant disregard for regulations and players' lawlessness, Paterno was known for keeping his staff and students straight. Football, after all, is more than just a game. Right?

Parents and children's caregivers should take away at least these four lessons:

First, learn something about the other adults in your child's life. Teachers, coaches, clergy, nannies, babysitters, tutors, whoever. Most adults who work with children mean all the best and are good people. A few are not. You can talk with them about their motivation for working with children, but more importantly pay attention to this person's behavior. Specific behaviors to watch out for include an eagerness to spend special time with your child, excessive and/or expensive gifts to the child, reluctance to have you present when they are with your child, and ignoring clear boundaries and exhibiting defensiveness when it's brought up. They may know your child's tastes and preferences better than you do, and exploit that.

Second, teach your child. Make sure they understand the difference between "telling" for safety and "tattling," as abusers try to keep kids quiet. Talk on a regular basis with your child about good and bad touch, and how to tell. Emphasize that there are no secrets allowed. Strategic Living's KidSafe classes work with children and their parents on age-appropriate skills to stay out of harm's way without arousing fear.

Third, listen to your child.  And learn to listen without always expressing judgment. Often children do not tell because they fear they will be blamed and punished (and abusers encourage this view). Sometimes children won't say anything, but their behavior screams that something's wrong.

Finally, say something. Report. This can be very difficult. Mr. Sandusky's targets were young boys from disadvantaged homes, who are less likely to report and involve the police. Sometimes parents do not wish to further traumatize a child by reporting (a good advocacy organization, such as the King County Sexual Assault Resource Center, help families through the process). Even if you do your legal duty by reporting to someone in greater authority, as Coach Paterno did, consider if you truly satisfied your moral obligation to follow through.

Because we know what it takes for evil to flourish.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Choice of Voice: Reason #2

Your voice is your most critical self-defense tool.

In this news story, a woman out walking was assaulted. Her screams attracted the attention of another woman, who came to her aid. They were then able to fight off the attacker, who ran. According to this report, the woman was not seriously hurt but was shaken and upset.

And that illustrates Reason #2 (of 6) of why your voice is important: because it can attract attention. Attention can mean help. Help can thwart an attack. Thwarting an attack can mean less pain and a shorter recovery time from trauma.

Attracting attention sometimes also results in the attacker getting caught. And attackers don't want to be caught. What do you want?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Pepper Spray: Different Types

Stephanie Schriger (a/k/a Real Tough Cookie) knows her personal safety products. She makes available an array of pepper spray, personal alarms, stun guns, safety lights, and more, to women looking to augment their personal safety.

Do you know the difference between a stream and a cone? Which is best for the street, and which for more confined quarters? How much do you need? Stephanie's most recent blog post outlines the types of pepper sprays, and gives guidance for those looking to buy.

And while carrying a non-lethal weapon is a good option for many women, you still should be prepared to defend yourself without one. Just in case.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Gaslighting: New Trend in Home Decor, or Mental Manipulation?

If you answered new trend in home decor, you're about a century out of date.

Gaslighting is a form of emotional manipulation. It is a way of telling people, especially women, that their opinions and perceptions are out of whack with "reality." Out of whack with the reality that the manipulator wants to believe, that is.

For a clear and articulate recent article on this topic, read Yashar Ali's piece in The New Agenda: http://www.thenewagenda.net/2011/09/17/a-message-to-women-from-a-man-you-are-not-%E2%80%9Ccrazy%E2%80%9D/comment-page-1/#comment-76411. Read the article to find out how "gaslighting" got its name.

Whenever anyone tells you that you are "over-reacting," "too sensitive," "too emotional," or "I was just joking, don't you have a sense of humor" (and there are infinitely more variations), they are minimizing and discounting your feelings and perceptions. This is substantially different from someone saying to you, "Wow, I have a totally different understanding of this!" Both may be ways of expressing disagreement, but the former is an aggressive way of denying that your perspective is valid.

Sometimes the person doing the gaslighting is feeling defensive because they don't care to be "wrong." Other times, if the person does it on a regular basis, it is plain abuse. Once seen for what it is, it's simple. Until then, it's crazy-making.

In today's self-defense class, we talked about how body language can be used to try and intimidate and invalidate others in a work environment. How to clearly recognize it, and how to use your own body language to minimize its effect on you. How to tell someone, "hey, you're discounting my opinion, quit it!" And your options, in case they don't.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Violence Reduction at Turkish Soccer Games: Ban Men

Today's news from Turkey: soccer clubs whose fans have been engaging in unruly and violent behavior are being "sanctioned." Their male fans are banned from certain home games, and only women and children under the age of 12 are allowed in. For free.

Read it: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=140639405&sc=emaf

Some of the highlights:
Before the game, Fenerbahce and Manisaspor (names of the teams) players tossed flowers at the fans. The visiting team was greeted with applause, instead of the usual jeering, the Anatolia news agency reported.
"This memory will stay with me forever," Fenerbahce captain Alex de Sousa said. "It's not always that you see so many women and children in one game."
Manisaspor midfielder Omer Aysan added: "It was such a fun and pleasant atmosphere."
How interesting! Seems the soccer players also enjoyed the change.

I believe that much "social violence" is a learned (and socially, if not legally, rewarded) behavior. It will be fascinating to see if this changes the behavior of Turkish male fans over time.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

And Now, Yet A Third Word from My Mother

Monday morning I heard on my local NPR station that the Oregon Supreme Court ruled against a free speech claim. They declined to allow this constitutional protection to cover stalking behavior.

Check out the story here: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=140404459&ft=3&f=140404459

I'm sure most, if not all, of you have heard from one parental figure or another that your freedom to swing your arms around ends where your little brother's nose begins. Or some variation thereof. The point being that your freedoms cannot take away those of somebody else.

While the precise wording defining stalking varies from state to state, a basic definition is "a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear" (http://stalkingawarenessmonth.org/awareness). Over the years I've had several stalking victims in my classes, and it ain't pretty. It took a LONG time after any apparent sign of their stalker faded for them to feel kinda secure. Even then, if the perpetrator contacted them years later, maybe online or a chance meeting, all the original fear and insecurity came rushing back. Being stalked causes a person to change her or his activities and habits, sometimes even compels them to move to a different apartment, city, state, or coast. The prevalence of anxiety, insomnia, social dysfunction, and severe depression is much higher among stalking victims than the general population, especially if the stalking involves being followed or having one’s property destroyed. [Eric Blauuw et al., “The Toll of Stalking,” Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 17, no. 1 (2002):50-63.] In short, stalking robs the victim of their "pursuit of happiness."

Two more thing to note about stalkers, and these are traits they hold in common with many other abusers. First, they feel they are the offended party, and will loudly proclaim that they are the real victims here. It is their rights (to smack their little brother's nose) that are being abridged. And, second, they will exploit the legal system to further perpetrate harm. Or try to.

Thank you, Oregon Supreme Court, for being the good mom and telling a big brat to stop swinging his arms around the playground.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Sue Bird: Super-Shero

Sue Bird has a favorite super power. As she told Jon Fisch in a recent interview:
Q. If you can have one super power, what would it be?
Bird: Probably be invisible. People always want to be a fly on the wall. I could just stay in my form and just be invisible.
You can read the whole interview here: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/storm/2016197126_dishin14.html

What would be your super power, if you could be a super-shero?

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Superheros in Seattle - No Joker!

Phoenix Jones himself.
Read the Weekly article for yourself.
A few months ago The Seattle Weekly published an article on "Phoenix Jones" and his group of Rain City Superheros. Jones, the group's de facto spokesman, calls himself the "Guardian of Seattle." His goal is to keep us all safe by fighting crime in a superhero costume. Just like in the comics.

So, according to this article, he and his cohorts roam around Pioneer Square and Belltown as the 2:00 closing hour approaches, helping the party-hardy stay out of fights.

Jones seems aware that his costumed approach, while garnering press today, will eventually wear thin. "The goal is for the people to be inspired by what I do. The goal is to inspire people to not put up with petty crimes."

So there is some discussion about whether or not he actually does help solve crimes, or keep our streets safer, or is he a total wack job running around in a rubber suit. That's not the discussion I'm interested in.

While Jones and his colleagues are roaming around downtown city streets, most assaults against women are committed in their homes, or in someone else's home. Where Jones and his cadre of superheros are not. All the superheros on the streets will not protect you against the abusive boyfriend in the bedroom. So, at times, many of us will have to be our own superheros.

If you were to be a superhero, who would you be? What would be your super power? Who are you sworn to protect? I've been asking students in my self-defense classes that very question. Let me know. Evil-doers need not apply.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

You Are Not Perfect: Reason #5 Why Rape is Under-Reported

Today's not-so-news is that the prosecutor's office is going to ask to have the sexual abuse charges against Dominique Strauss Kahn dismissed.

Read all about it:  http://www.usatoday.com/money/world/story/2011/08/AP-source-DA-likely-to-drop-Strauss-Kahn-case/50085112/1

Their issue is that the plaintiff was not completely honest about aspects of her past.

However, none of the lies that diminish her credibility had anything to do with the facts of this case.

So, ladies, this has some serious repercussions for us all. Did you ever lie, even a little, about how many calories that "sliver" of cheescake had? Or about how much you spent on that outfit? Did you ever exaggerate, ever so slightly, about your last vacation or last night's date? Sure these may have seemed harmless at the time, but your credibility is now totally, irrevocably, damaged should you ever have the need to press charges of rape.

And guess what else? A number of rapists actually seek out potential victims who would make less credible plaintiffs.

Learn how to better prevent rape, as well as get better DNA evidence, in a self-defense class.


Thursday, August 18, 2011

Do You Need to Defend Yourself from Canvassers?

You know, those people hanging out on street corners, clipboard in hand, collecting signatures (and sometimes money) to save the children, the whales, the unborn, the undead, . . .

Apparently in downtown Seattle some canvassers are getting too aggressive. Councilmember Tom Rasmussen is considering a law to do something about it.

Hear about it, and some opinions, on KUOW-FM, where yesterday Mr. Rasmussen and others answered questions posed by host Ross Reynolds and listeners who called and emailed in.  http://www.kuow.org/program.php?id=24293

Sure some canvassers are annoyingly aggressive. However, I don't see the need for a law to deal with them. A simple "no thank you" and walking on should do the trick. (Yes, I do teach that, and other verbal safety skills, in some of my self defense classes.)

For instance, I am walking around Westlake Mall (seems to be Canvasser Central these days) and am approached by a young man (or woman) asking for just a few moments of your time to save the children. I will make a snap decision: to give them some of my time, or to say "no thank you" and walk on. Either choice is fine, as long as it is MY choice and I'm not just getting sucked into it because that's what good folk like us do. My choice would be to say "no thank you" and walk on, secure in the knowledge that I'm already doing the right thing because have a charitable giving plan already in place. If that canvasser then feigns shock that I don't care about the children, I will WALK ON. I do not feel I need to answer to him. I owe him nothing, and will not get sucked into a time-wasting, energy-draining conversation web.


Remember the sage advice of Eleanor Roosevelt: "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent." It's up to each and every one of us to spot emotional manipulation and deal. It's just the right thing to do.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Why Rape is Under-Reported: Reason #11

Because sometimes those charged with keeping a safe environment act with indifference.

Here's a current example:  http://www.news-leader.com/article/20110816/NEWS12/110816008/Lawsuit-filed-against-Republic-School-District-over-rape-claim
and http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2011/08/17/297888/missouri-school-sued-for-allegedly-making-special-ed-student-write-apology-letter-to-her-rapist/ (same story, 2 articles).

In this story, a special education middle-school girl is penalized for reporting harassment and assault by a classmate. She's even made, by school authorities, to write an apology and hand-deliver it to her rapist. Then she's expelled from school, for allegedly making a false report.

When she's allowed to return to the school the next year, she is again harassed and assaulted by the same boy. School authorities again do not believe her, but this time her mother takes her to a Child Advocacy Center for an exam. Seems the exam showed she had been raped; semen found on her is said to match that of the boy. Boy is arrested, charged, and plead guilty.

Family files lawsuit against School District. School District replies that the girl failed to use reasonable means to protect herself, the suit against them is frivolous, and hence the School District defendants are entitled to be awarded attorneys' fees.

So, it's the girl's fault. Again.

And that's still another reason that sexual assault is rarely reported.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Car Stalk

I usually don't get to hear NPR's program Car Talk on Saturday mornings. I'm generally off teaching a class at that time. But this past Saturday found me chasing a "sick" cat, trying to get her in the cat carrier to go to visit the vet. Soon as she heard the sound of the carrier door open, she dashed upstairs, faster than I imagined, and under the bed, in a place impossible for me to reach. So, a very frustrated me got to listen to the radio.

It was the final caller that really got my attention. Myrna's question was about finding a possible GPS device put on her car by her soon-to-be-ex-husband. Turns out her to-be-ex was a control freak, in that he read her mail and email, and always insisted on knowing where she was going and had been. And now that there's a nasty divorce in process, he's reaching out.

Tom and Ray had some funny suggestions (hey, this is a comedy show). They surmised that the devise was certainly affixed to the car's undercarriage by a magnet, and would be apparent once a mechanic got the car on a lift. They suggested she park her car in front of her to-be-ex's best friend's house overnight, or attach it to other cars (even a different car each day), to mess with his tracking.

You can listen to the show here (http://www.cartalk.com/Radio/WeeklyShow/online.html) until the next episode comes out. Segment 10.

I'm glad Myrna felt secure enough about her safety to be light-hearted about this guy's possible stalking behavior, but other women whose partners are putting GPS devices on their cars may not be able to take it so casually. As a self-defense teacher, I regularly have students who've been stalked, and it's a harrowing experience. I recommend that if you believe that your car is being tracked via GPS, please contact your local domestic violence hotline for advice, especially if their stalker has a history of threatening or committing violence.


And my partner finally crawled under the bed, hauled out the cat, and took her to the vet. She's fine now. But we knew that, she's got her sassy back.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Discombobulated State of the Kosmos: A DSK Report

The Dominique Strauss-Kahn (or DSK) story has followed a partly unpredictable course. First of all, most sexual assaults are not reported, including those committed by members of the cultural elite. Second, most assailants are not caught if the assault is reported. Even if arrested, most assailants are not prosecuted. So I was initially impressed at the speed of this beginning of this story, where the hotel maid reported, the police found evidence, and an arrest worthy of a TV drama (as the plane that DSK was on was preparing to take off). Wow, I thought, are the planets and stars in some special alignment? Did the Universal Law of Karma supplant the Golden Rule (he who has the gold . . . rules)?

But more recently the Kosmos has returned to business as usual. Irregularities have been found in the past of the maid. She is a poor immigrant. Seems she lied on asylum papers. She knows people who are serving time in jail. She has multiple cell phones.

None of which have anything to do with the rape charges. All of which may derail the prosecution's case.

As any number of women who have tried to prosecute rape have found out, stuff like that matters to a significant number of potential jurors. As a culture, we like our victims stainless. And if the victim comes across as less than a madonna (not to be confused with pop icon Madonna), if they come across as a real person with warts and fears and the possibility that 20 years ago they may have inhaled, they are not deserving of justice. (That's why assailants will often seek out targets who they think cannot withstand a caustic public scrutiny.) Very few people will actually come out and say that, but actions such as votes in a jury do speak louder.

Currently, it's estimated that between one in eight to one in five women will be targeted for sexual assault sometime in their life. If you are one, here are my recommendations should you choose to report and prosecute, regardless of whether or not you fought back, evaded rape, or complied with the assailant's demands.
  • First, find a sexual assault advocate. One who is experienced and believes you. Preferably not on the police payroll, but from an independent group. In the Seattle area, good choices are the King County Sexual Assault Resource Center and Harborview Medical Center. University of Washington students can contact SARIS.
  • Second, get your own lawyer. Yes, rape is a crime against the state. And a good lawyer can help you navigate through the criminal justice maze.
  • Finally, get a REALLY good therapist. You'll need one.
PS - I was thinking of writing on DSK's peanut gallary (i.e., those public figures who insisted that a man of DSK's standing would NEVER commit rape). Jon Stewart, however, did such a good job, and as I always say if you can't beat it, link to it.

Ruckus over Rihanna: Criminal or Candor?

Rihanna's recent video, Man Down, is stirring up some controversy. She portrays a woman shooting a man who raped her.



(If you can't view this here, watch on YouTube: http://youtu.be/sEhy-RXkNo0)

Cartoonist Darrin Bell (Candorville) not only got a really clear message ("don't rape!"), he sent out an equally clear message ("don't excuse rape!") in last Sunday's strip.

What do you think the message is here?

Monday, July 04, 2011

The Chilled Butter Maneuver: Self Defense Lesson #2 from the Cat

Lilith is one cool cat. And she's not afraid of you.

Lilith, a 17 year old with spring and verve of a cat a quarter her age.
Indeed, Lilith will readily come over to any visitor and "allow" herself to be adored and petted. She is fine and mellow when she recognizes that appropriate due is being paid to her by adoring fans.  She is the Queen of the house, and she knows it.

But don't let her outward appearance deceive you -- Lilith has a core of razor steel. What she wants, she gets (like cheese, milk, and chocolate ice cream). And what she doesn't want, well . . .

At the risk of understatement, cats do not like taking their medicines. Pilling a cat, rare as it is in my household, is still onerous. Each cat has its own means of resistance, and Lilith's is among the most effective.

Most cats struggle from the moment they realize you're holding the dreaded pill and looking at them. But not my Lilith. She purrs. She headbutts and rubs her cheeks against my hands as I maneuver her in place between my knees. She purrs some more, and as I shift my attention ever so slightly to get the pill in my hand ready to launch, she springs. Her move is not at all explosive or drastic, it's  more like she's the proverbial greased pig. One moment she's "securely" nestled in my grasp, and the next she's disappearing under the couch.


Her key is relaxation and timing.

Lilith, secure in her knowledge that she'll triumph, lulls us into believing we've got her. Relaxation also gives her speed and slickness when she makes her move. But her suppleness alone isn't quite enough -- Lilith can recognize when our attention is just a bit distracted, and she picks that moment for a successful escape.

Sometimes in a threatening situation, your best recourse is feigning compliance. You go along with the assailant's demands, watching for your opening. Waiting for that momentary distraction (or the chance to create one). And, should that window open, you will be ready to spring into action.

(For practice in what "springing" actions would work best, take a self-defense class. Two 5-week courses are beginning soon: one in Bellevue this coming Saturday July 9, another in Seattle on Monday July 11.)

Sometimes that window will not open. You have to realize that in self-defense sometimes your choice is between bad and worse. That's the reality. After-care is crucial (and that's a topic for another blog post).

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

On The Bravest Woman in Seattle

On Jul 19, 2009, two women were attacked in their home in Seattle's South Park. Both were repeatedly raped. One of the two, Teresa Butz, died. Isaiah Kalebu is now on trial for these crimes.

Eli Sanders of The Stranger wrote a touching and compelling article about the survivor's court testimony. The title is The Bravest Woman in Seattle. He describes the grace and tears with which this woman testified about her life with Teresa, and their hopes and plans for the future. And then about the events of that night, which took all that away. At times Sanders ventures into details nobody would want to read, and spares us graphic depiction of the worst. The survivor relates how they understood what was happening, and why they made the safety choices they did.

This is important. Over the past 2 years I've been approached by students (and others who know I teach self-defense classes). Usually this isn't during class time, but afterwards. In quiet tones, they ask about what they, if ever in that situation, could do. They don't want to appear to be victim-blaming, but they wonder why the two women didn't "succeed" in fighting back against only one assailant.


These people should read Sanders' article.

Each person, when faced with assault, has to make their best choice. Sometimes the choice is between bad and worse. It's simple to look in from outside, after the facts and feelings, and decide what somebody else should have done. Personally, after reading this account from the survivor, I can't say that I would have done differently. After reading this account, I doubt you could say otherwise.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Slutwalk Seattle (Part 1)

"You can't miss the crowd, it's MASSIVE!"

I overheard this man giving driving directions while marching in today's Slutwalk Seattle. To get a sense of the crowd, take a look at this YouTube video (from SeattleRex):



If this doesn't display correctly, you can watch on YouTube at http://youtu.be/u5_psd0YZHc.

TV news reports the past couple of days had been mentioning the upcoming Slutwalk, describing it as women protesting against rape by dressing provocatively. While I'm glad this rally was publicized, I have to scold the media for their description. Yes it's a protest against rape, and a protest to end victim-blaming and slut-shaming. Participants were welcome to dress as they pleased. You can see from this video that some (women and men) wore their fishnet stockings and pasties, most wore the usual PNW attire, like jeans and North Face jackets.

I'll post more later, but one final note for now. The rally was held at Westlake Center. Towards the end of the rally, some participants who had entered the shopping mall were asked to leave because of "indecent exposure." The Center received a loud mass "f*** you!" from the crowd.

Friday, June 17, 2011

A Class Act

Last March I blogged about University of Washington basketball "star" Venoy Overton's near-miss with felony charges. Earlier this year he was slapped on the wrist for providing alcohol to two 16 year old girls and pressuring them into sexual acts. No rape charges were brought against Overton because the girl who reported apparently did not clearly communicate a lack of consent at the time, as she had bowed to the situational pressure. He pled to providing alcohol, and was let free providing he stay out of trouble.

Overton did not stay out of trouble. He is now charged with pimping a girlfriend. According to the article:
Prosecutors said Overton admitted to the charge during a police interview after his arrest.
"I'm not gonna turn down money from a girl," he said, according to the police affidavit.
He told detectives that when he first met the woman, he told her she had to pay to be in a relationship with him.
A real class act.

UW basketball coach Lorenzo Romar, in a press statement, expressed extreme disappointment. "My staff and I spent an extraordinary amount of time and energy attempting to mentor Venoy prior to his recent graduation, so this news is especially troubling." I'm not clear if Romar is disappointed in Overton, or in his own misjudgment of Overton's character. I'd guess both. Must be tough realizing he helped empower a sex criminal.

On The Grill, Part 1

It can be easy to forget first things first. In self-defense there's so much emphasis on the "bad guys," like recognizing them, avoiding them, confronting them, defending against them, etc., that we put aside why it's important.

Which is to enjoy daily life with more confidence and less anxiety. For me, this time of the year, that means the backyard barbecue.

Sitting outside on my deck, dinner fresh off the grill, glass of wine . . . what's not to like? This time of year it's all about the salmon and the asparagus. I do very little with them: some olive oil, salt & pepper. That's all we need. The salmon should be able to stand on its own, without additional dressing. Sometimes  toss the grilled asparagus with balsamic vinegar and grated manchego cheese.

I've also tossed whole potatoes on the grill, again first tossed with olive oil, salt and pepper. The starchy ones come out light and tasty. Purple Vikings are nice, small russets would also be good.

Two weeks ago we grilled tri-tip steaks. I like them rubbed with spices and grilled quickly over direct high heat. The spice rub this time was ground cumin, dried oregano, smoked paprika, crushed Sichuan peppercorns, and salt. You don't need a lot of the Sichuan peppercorns, and the unusual flavor adds an intriguing and playful dimension to the cumin and oregano combo.

So get out there and enjoy.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

A Slutwalk By Any Other Name (Part 2)

Much has been made about this movement's chosen name. While the choice of Slutwalk has offended some, it's also created a LOT of debate and discussion and controversy and buzz. That's publicity.

Patrick Williams of YOU ROCK! Communications puts it this way:
About 15 years ago, Taco Bell got a lot of attention by claiming they had bought the Liberty Bell and renamed it the Taco Liberty Bell.

A few years later, Burger King advertised a left-handed hamburger that generated a lot of curiosity and interest.

Both of those 'news' items turned out to be promotional stunts and they both generated lots of publicity.

Any time you can do something outrageous, you have a chance to attract the kind of media coverage that money just can't buy.
I think there's been too much discussion on the name and less on the focus, but hey that seems to be what it takes to get attention and to spread the word to people who wouldn't give "Rally 'Round Against Rape" a second yawn.

And the focus of Slutwalk, from my reading, is that women are not asking to be raped, regardless of what they are wearing. Some criticize the movement as encouraging women to dress "like sluts," and yes there will be some who advocate that look. Every mass movement is made up of lots of people with their own agendas and foci. You can go through all the blogs and Facebook pages and postings and find plenty of examples of "public sluttiness." If that's what you're going to zoom in on, you've missed the point.

As a self-defense instructor, I don't tell people how to dress. Besides my lack of fashion sense, I feel that can too readily be construed as victim-blaming. I do suggest how my students may be seen by others, and how some attire (or other aspects of appearance) can be used as a handy excuse for somebody else's bad behavior. Or how it could attract someone looking for a target. And then recommend safety strategies they can use to compensate for possible increased risk.

Women do not ask to be raped. Ever. Period.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

That Weiner Dog! - Ooopsie!

I've been told that my original .m4a file was not playable by several people.  Ooops!  Hate it when that happens.

The original post was revised, and here is the new link:

http://www.StrategicLiving.org/That_Weiner_Dog.mp3

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

A Slutwalk By Any Other Name

“You know, I think we’re beating around the bush here,” the officer said, according to one attendee. “I’ve been told I’m not supposed to say this, however, women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized.”

That was the unfortunate comment, made by Toronto police constable Michael Sanguinetti on January 24th to a small group of students. Blogged and tweeted around the world, this comment spawned a global movement. Slutwalk was born.

Sanguinetti has since apologized, and is reported to have been disciplined and will receive additional training. Presumably he had received training before this event. The Toronto police asserts that their officers are taught that nothing a woman does contributes to sexual assault. Yet this slip of the tongue did happen. Despite the fact that the vast majority of women who were assaulted were not dressed like "sluts," whatever that means (see yesterday's blog post for what it really does mean). Despite the fact that dress does not cause sexual assault. And despite the fact that the person committing the rape needs to be accountable for his own actions. Period.

Despite all the good cops out there, it's those thoughtless and arrogant ones who are featured in the nightly news. Still another reason why few women report rape to law enforcement. Why I'll be at Slutwalk Seattle this coming Sunday. And why I still continue to teach self-defense classes.

Monday, June 13, 2011

A Slut by Any Other Name

First, let me make it clear what I mean by "slut." Slut is a noun with excess baggage. Slut is used as a negative judgmental label applied by Person A onto Person B. Generally Person B is female, and Person A is often but certainly not always male. Person A disapproves of Person B's general appearance, style of dress, or some other behavior. Person A then labels Person B as a "slut," frequently to justify their own bad, if not abusive, behavior to Person B.

The label "slut" actually tells more about the mental framework (prejudices and stereotypes) of Person A, and little about the woman at whom this epithet is hurled.

Much has been made about Slutwalks reclaiming the word "slut." I can't say that I'll be going to Seattle's Slutwalk to "reclaim" anything. I do not care to reclaim, reframe, or rehabilitate the word "slut." I want to quash this word as a weapon. I want to nullify its negative energy, neutralize its power, negate its impact on women.

And any weapon can be overcome. With a little preparation, we all can learn to minimize its impact. Because nobody deserves to be targeted for rape.

That Weiner Dog!

Are you tired of bad Weiner's weiner jokes yet? Alas, I'm not quite done. This very short ditty is a contender for the William Hung Perfect Pitch Award.


That Weiner Dog

If you were amused, feel free to share. If not, please direct your ire at Apple for making the technology readily available to anyone, regardless of ability or good sense.

Friday, June 10, 2011

But is Weiner a SLUT?

Perhaps I'm not paying attention, but here's what I'm NOT hearing:

"Anthony Weiner is such a slut!"

"He's just asking for it!"

"He looks like he wants to be raped."

For those of you truly isolated from mass media, Anthony Weiner is the Congressman from New York who tweeted pictures of his crotch. To a whole lotta followers. By accident, he said. Bad judgment at best.

But who is getting called a slut? Why, the new "slutrepeneurs," those women who are coming out of the woodwork to sell the text messages and photos and tweets. At least according to Susannah Breslin, blogging on Forbes.

So men who distribute risqué photos are entrepreneurs while women are slutrepeneurs?

And the moral of this story is that (once again) men have interesting, even endearing, character slubs, while women are, well, just sluts.

And that's only one reason why I'm going on Slutwalk Seattle on June 19th. Hope to see you there.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Compare and Contrast: Unwanted Penetrations and Pete DeGraaf

Seems that Kansas State House Rep. Pete DeGraaf is having trouble telling a flat tire from a rape.

The Kansas legislature passed a bill banning insurance companies from offering abortion coverage as part of their general coverage (women who would want that coverage would have to buy that separately). During the debate, Rep. Barbara Bollier “questioned whether women would buy abortion-only policies long before they have crisis or unwanted pregnancies or are rape victims.” (As we already know, insurance companies just love to cover "pre-existing conditions.") Fellow Rep. DeGraaf replied that women should plan ahead for situations such as rape; after all, he plans ahead and carries a spare in his car. Just in case his tire is violently and unwantedly penetrated.

Check out this story in ThinkProgress.org.

While there is nothing wrong with planning ahead for unwanted situations in life (that is what a SIGNIFICANT part of self-defense training is about), Rep DeGraaf's comparison is totally bogus. Do we ask people to similarly plan ahead for heart disease, by forcing them to buy separate insurance? How about car accidents - will I need to purchase ER coverage because by law it can't be included in my general medical policy?

The real point is not about planning, it is clearly a blatant attack on women's abilities to control their own health care, particularly reproductive care. One of the oldest power ploys in the book. Don't fall for this one.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Do You Know TED?

TED Talks are Ideas Worth Spreading. At least that's their tag line. And it's accurate.

TED Talks are recorded and online, and free. The idea is to watch them, and spread them. They're given by highly thoughtful people, many of them established leaders in their fields, other new emerging intellects. As they say, riveting talks by remarkable people. Watch some, you'll certainly feel smarter.

Here are a few I've watched lately and I deem worth spreading:

Jim Fallon on the neuroscience of psychopathic killers:



Eve Ensler, author of The Vagina Monologues, on security:



Bruce Schneier, on "security theater," where what makes you feel safer may not actually be making you safer. So what will?



Do you have a favorite TED Talk?

Friday, April 22, 2011

Self Defense Essentials I Learned from My Cat, Lesson #2

Yesterday we had to have one of our feral kitties euthanized.

Unknown to us, Survivor had feline leukemia. We did notice the past 2 weeks he was more friendly (for a feral). Then he didn't show up for his usual feedings for about 5 days. Sunday Survivor reappeared, and this usually skinny kitty had a clearly bloated abdomen. He was surprisingly easy to capture and kennel that night, and we got him to the vet the next day. That's when we found out about the feline leukemia, but that wasn't causing the bloating.

We never did find out the exact cause of the bloating. Our vet said we could, if we wanted, do X-rays and a few other tests, but they would almost certainly not give us a diagnosis that would prove curable. Survivor's days were clearly numbered, regardless of what we did.

Survivor, a feral cat we fed for 8 years.
We were surprised at the speed of Survivor's decline. He went from an apparently healthy middle-aged feral to the threshold of his next life within the span of weeks. Our vet was not surprised.

"Cats in the wild try to hide signs of weakness or illness. That would mark them as vulnerable, and they'd quickly become prey to other critters, like raccoons, dogs, or coyotes. So by the time you see symptoms, they are already at a late stage of illness."

There are indeed many, many differences between us humans and feral cats in my back yard. But there still are universal laws of nature, and Survivor's predicament illustrates a fundamental one. Predators most often go after the old, the young, the weak, the ill. Not only in the great outdoors, but among us civilized apes.

Who among us are at higher risk? Basically, the same groups. Often those most dependent on others for care. Think elder abuse. Consider that almost thirty percent of sexual assault in Washington state happens to children under the age of 12. And a large percent of assault involves alcohol and/or drugs (which impair a person's abilities to recognize danger as well as fight back).

How often do you assess your vulnerabilities? Do you think about ways you can reduce risk to yourself and your loved ones? Do you know what it takes to keep the raccoons, dogs and coyotes at bay?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

What's Your IQ on Global Violence Against Women and Children?

Take this quick quiz to find out how much you do know about that part of global violence relegated to the inside pages (if at all) in most newspapers.

http://saynotoviolence.org/node/2138/take

Really, this will only take about 4 minutes of your time.

OK, taking a quiz by itself won't end the violence. But there is this marketing acronym: TOMA. That's Top of Mind Awareness. Those items you hear about or see most often get more attention and action. More action against violence is (to quote Martha Stewart) a good thing. Duh! (to quote Charlie Sheen, who I still do not fear).

PS - Want to learn what you can do to keep yourself safe, as well as actions you can take to make your community safer? Self-Defense 101 for Women.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Ke$ha: One Smart Cookie

Honestly, I'm not as hip as I once was. I just don't follow pop music like I used to, don't know who's hot and who's not. Partly, even after decades of discussion about how to appropriately represent women in media (as full participants rather than body parts), I do get tired of the same old "objectification of women" show year after year, just with different faces.

A while back I heard an interview on NPR with a new singer named Ke$ha. I didn't know anything about her music, but the interview was intriguing.  She seemed to be one smart cookie. I did check her out a bit on iTunes and alas was not similarly intrigued by her recordings (to her credit, though, the way she spells her name should give us all a clue on her priorities).

And just a few minutes ago I read this blog post from Hollaback!: http://www.ihollaback.org/blog/2011/04/12/keha-hollaback-hero/

Written by Melissa Fabello, a high school teacher, she talks about one Ke$ha song that actually addresses street harassment, and some of what she's overheard students saying:
I’ve overheard more than one female student quote the song and then turn to her friend like, “Seriously, why do they do that?” inadvertently inciting an entire conversation dedicated to the injustices of gender-based violence inextricably laced inside street harassment.  They share stories, vent, and leave the conversation feeling justified and validated – this is a problem, and I’m not alone.
OK, maybe I personally am not excited (after listening to this song) about the lyrics focusing on OLD AGE = DINOSAUR = CREEPY and I wish the emphasis would have been on they guy's creepy behavior (because young guys do this crap also), but if this generated discussion, there's some merit.

This is what the best of pop culture should be doing -- bringing up otherwise awkward topics. Inciting discussion and sharing of stories, that each of us is NOT alone. And that makes a discussion of harassment cool.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Running. Safety. Again.

One of my students asked about a situation she'd recently faced while running on a local trail. A guy on a bike seemed to be pacing her, trying to chat with her. The really chilling question she remembered was him asking where her car was parked.  ???? Why was he interested, she thought, can't be good. She told him a parking lot a bit further up, where there would be more people (and where her car was NOT parked). He rode off. As she ran past the lot she could see him there, waiting. She left him waiting and went on (apparently he didn't see her go by, or he didn't follow).

The class brainstormed other options, just in case.  One woman suggested that she tell every other runner and jogger she meets something like "hey, did you see that guy on the bicycle? The one asking women where they've parked their car, and then waits for them. Really creepy! Spread the word." Soon you can get a buzz going, and people will actively be on the lookout for the guy. This is a GREAT suggestion, as it gets people more aware as well as looking out for each other.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Rules of Engagement for Using Physical Skills Self Defense (#3)

As I wrote 4 days ago, there are no "rules of engagement" in self-defenseThese are tools you can use to keep safe, and they work. Most of the time. Your mileage will vary depending on the situation and your skill level. And this is the most important tool of all.

Use your voice. Use it early and often.

This is your single most critical weapon. Assault is a battle of power and control. When you use your voice, you command power. If you've been reading this blog for a while, you've seen this before. If you've taken a Strategic Living self defense class you know the importance of your voice and practiced using it.


Yell direct commands at the assailant.
Words like "no" and "stop" and "back off" and "let go" give the message that you are taking your power and using it.

 
Afterwards, find supportive people to tell. This can include family and friends, crisis clinic hotline or sexual assault advocates, and law enforcement. Your choice, your voice.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Rules of Engagement for Using Physical Skills Self Defense (#2)

As I wrote 2 days ago, there are no "rules of engagement" for self-defense.

Once you begin fighting back physically, keep going until you’ve cleared your escape. You can think of this as fighting until your assailant is either on the ground, stunned, or running away (do NOT run after them). In most cases, this is 1 or 2, up to about 5, good techniques. Do NOT pause in the middle – you would be giving your assailant the time they need to recoup and remount their own attack. Stay in motion. Keep at least one of your weapons (hands/feet/elbows/knees) on the assailant at all times.

Take their balance.
If the assailant is off-balance, they will have difficulty continuing their attack. Remember to find where their “kangaroo tail*” or “third leg*” should be. Use your hip check* to send them downwards into that point.

You will be too close for your comfort. Most likely you will want to get FAR AWAY from the creep. Yet in a fight you will very likely be in hugging distance. Yes, that is where you want to be, and it will be unsettling. This proximity will give you your best position to fight back effectively.

Practice you physical moves so that they are smooth and reflexive.

And remember that all the smooth moves in the world are useless if your brain is denying  that somebody is in the process of harming you.

*Learn how to do these and more in Strategic Living's self-defense classes for women.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Rules of Engagement for Using Physical Skills Self Defense (#1)

First, there are no rules.

Rules are for sports and other forms of civil conduct. Assault is most definitely uncivil.

Your goal -- should you realize that is this one of the rare instances where you need to physically fight back -- should be to disable your attacker long enough to escape. Strikes or gouges to the eyes, throat, groin, and knees are most quickly and effectively debilitating. These targets are not pain-dependent, are easy to find, and you don't need perfect aim or great speed and strength.

Sometimes this is referred to as "dirty" fighting. I simply call it self-defense. Personally, I feel that calling self-defense somehow "dirty" bathes it in a transgressive mystique, simultaneously fascinating and transgressive. I don't buy into that usage. Self-defense should not be relegated to the fringe of indecency. (I prefer to reserve the phrase "dirty" fighting for instances of sports fighting where one contender uses illegal techniques to win.)

We are the only species on the planet that not only largely discourages females from learning physical safety skills, we also largely and deliberately disseminate MIS-information about women's abilities to fight effectively. The 411 on women's self-defense is emPOWERing.

Learn more about self defense classes in Seattle -- skills you can use.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Creepy and Kooky, Revisited

Two weeks ago I blogged about a Manitoba judge's sentencing for a rapist:

http://safetyinseattlenews.blogspot.com/2011/02/its-creepy-and-its-kooky-but-neither.html

Today I found this spot-on blog post that begins with the very same judge (blog written by Krista Ball):


http://kristadball.com/blog/archives/553

The bigger picture, aside from a single judge's sentencing, is the depiction of rape.  It's not about sex, it's not about a "misunderstanding," it's about power and control.

It's about teaching consent, so sorely missing because of embarrassment and/or shame around sex. Open discussion around these difficult topics would remove some of the stigma, and perhaps even result in a few more young women recognizing how to set their own boundaries and NOT GET RAPED.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Fuzzy Formula, or Still Another Reason Why Rape is Under-Reported

When can no "no" = yes?

When someone does not clearly communicate a lack of consent to sexual acts. At least under the law, according to the King County Prosecutor's Office.

I don't closely follow sports, but you'd have to be living under a rock in Seattle to miss the story of UW basketball star player Venoy Overton allegedly providing alcohol to two 16 year old girls and engaging in sexual acts with them. 

You can read the Seattle Times' story of his arrest for providing alcohol here: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2014433742_overton09m.html. Please note that he has not been charged with sexual assault, because:
King County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Carol Spoor called the case "highly problematic" because the girl participated in sex acts under "situational pressure."
State law, Spoor wrote, "places the burden on the victim to clearly communicate a lack of consent to the suspect, which she did not do."
Most of the articles on this incident focus on the loss to the team of this player, at least for the Pac-10 tournament.  However, UW basketball coach Lorenzo Romar is quoted as saying he'd put Overton back on the team roster should they be invited to the NCAA tournament (otherwise known as "March Madness").  Because his guy made a mistake, and this is a teachable moment.

As a teacher, I'm all for the teachable moment. Some mistakes, however, are more far-reaching than are others, and I am also all for appropriate consequences. For the girl who feels coerced, this experience will likely be deeper and longer-lasting than any repercussions felt by either the Huskies or Overton.

Every teenager and young adult will face "situational pressure."  (Heck, EVERY person will face situational pressure, over and over, in their lifetimes.)  These instances can feel like being stuck between a rock and a hard place: the choice often seems to be between going along with the group or not having friends. How do we help young people recognize what they want for themselves, honor that, and still live fulfilling social lives? 

This should be a teachable moment for young people, male and female, about consent.  But we won't be seeing that in the sports pages -- or any other media pages -- anytime soon. Sexual assault is the social-issue wolf disguised in the individual-sheep's-problem clothing.

Madness, indeed, is not limited to March.

PS - Learning to assert boundaries is sadly lacking in too many teen girls today. This kind of sensible savvy is practiced in Strategic Living's For Teen Girls Only Self Defense classes. Next session will be April 2 in Burlington WA, and then April 9 in Seattle on the UW campus.

Friday, March 11, 2011

I Do Not Fear Charlie Sheen!

Basically, because I am really, really, really far off his radar.  So that's easy for me to say.

I just read Should Women Fear Charlie Sheen Now?  According to this article, some women should have feared him over a decade ago.  Others may have cause to fear him now.  I would say the degree of fear is directly correlated with one's physical and emotional proximity to Sheen.  He seems to be a tad unstable, must be the drugs talking.

My professional advice: if you happen to see Charlie Sheen coming, just walk the other way.

BUT I also want to emphasize that if a woman does find herself in close proximity to Sheen and he DOES shove her or throw furniture at her (or both), SHE IS NOT TO BLAME.  Mr. Sheen, drugs or no drugs, is wholly responsible for his actions and should be held accountable for his choices.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Violent Girls: A Dubious Equality?

Last weekend I attended the Association of Women Martial Arts Instructors' annual conference. Great presentations on a variety of topics, including one relevant to this blog.  Silke Schultz presented Understanding the Roots of Aggression, about social conditions that lead some people to violence and possible ways to mitigate the effects of these negative conditions.

In passing, Schultz noted that in recent years the rate of girls arrested for violent behavior has increased.  This is probably not a surprise to you -- I've been hearing about it for over a decade now.  Actually, what I've been hearing from the media (and repeated by my students) is that girls are becoming increasingly and brutally violent, at astoundingly rapid rates.  About 5-10 years ago this issue was a media darling, with esteemed venues such as Newsweek declaring it a "burgeoning national crisis" (of course until the next burgeoning, or imminent, or catastrophic, crisis steals the headlines).

I am a big fan of gender equality, but media claims that girls are becoming just as violent as boys is not exactly the expression of equality I'd like to be seeing (if we'd like to exploit a different stereotype, I'd rather see that boys are becoming just as relationship-oriented as girls).

Because we live in the Information Age, with just a few clicks of the trackpad I found a paper from the US Department of Justice (DoJ) called Understanding and Responding to Girls' Delinquency.  This article was useful in elucidating issues around girls and violence.

First, as I've been saying in my self defense classes for a LONG time, the rate of violence in the United States is DECREASING.  Looking at the DoJ article's conclusions, the authors found that:
Available evidence based on arrest, victimization, and self-report data suggests that although girls are currently arrested more for simple assaults than previously, the actual incidence of their being seriously violent has not changed much over the last two decades. This suggests that increases in arrests may be attributable more to changes in enforcement policies than to changes in girls’ behavior. Juvenile female involvement in violence has not increased relative to juvenile male violence.
This article also mentioned that assault rates are overall decreasing, and the rate of decrease was more rapid for boys than for girls in some categories.

But what makes a "better" news story -- that girls are increasingly arrested for violence, or that girls are becoming more violent?  Apparently, the latter.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

From Home Alarm Monitoring's Blog

Got an email from one of my blog's readers a few day ago. His company, Home Alarm Monitoring, has its own blog about safety.  He thought that readers of Safety in Seattle would also be interested in this post:

http://www.homealarmmonitoring.org/year/10-types-of-self-defense-anyone-can-learn/

Written by a woman who was mugged right outside her home, she gives ten tips that she feels would have helped her at that time.  I like her emphasis on easy ways to fight back, and in my self defense classes have students drill these, and more.

Thanks, Allen, for sharing!

Thursday, March 03, 2011

AWESOME Online Resource

I was just surfing on the web this morning, and came across an ebook with a totally AWESOME title:

Self-Care and Self-Defense Manual for Feminist Activists

I haven't had a chance to read it cover-to-cover, but just leafing through the pages this appears to be a very thorough and articulate personal safety book.  Certainly better than 99% of what's on the market.

If you are concerned about social justice issues, if you want to be out there making a real difference in the world, and you want to keep yourself physically and emotionally together, download and read!

Monday, February 28, 2011

It's Creepy and it's Kooky; But Neither Mysterious nor Spooky

When we talk about date rape in my self-defense classes, I usually begin thusly:
Once upon a time, in a galaxy not at all far away, conventional wisdom said that rape was committed by lonely, horny guys.  Such a guy would encounter a woman who dressed a bit too provocatively and acted a tad too flirtatiously, and "lead him on."  So of course he couldn't control himself and whoops! his penis fell into her.
Little did I know that a judge in Manitoba was telling the same story! Except that Judge Robert Dewar was taking this tale literally when he declined to give a convicted rapist any jail time (the prosecution asked for 3 years incarceration).  Why?  Because he felt that "sex was in the air" at the moment and whoops! the poor guy couldn't control it.

Read the article here:  http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/breakingnews/rape-victim-inviting-so-no-jail--rape-victim-inviting-so-no-jail-116801578.html

This article is a pretty good example of how sleight-of-mouth can downplay the gravity of the offense.  For instance, defense attorney Derek Coggan stated that his client was just "insensitive to the fact that [the victim] was not a willing participant" in that night's sexual intercourse. After all, no force was used, no weapon shown, and they were both drinking.

Last I checked, rape was defined as sexual penetration where one party is not a willing participant.  Being an "insensitive guy" isn't a crime.  But being a rapist is.

The defendant will, however, have to write a letter of apology to the victim. Whew!  I was beginning to worry.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Fight Back = AWEsome!

Three days ago I was contacted by Kassi Rodgers, an editor for the Seattle University Spectator (their newspaper) about safety and self-defense in and around campus (as well as the greater Capitol Hill area). Her article came out yesterday.

And I was not the only one to notice that when women fight back against their assailants, they tend to succeed.

You can read the entire article here.

Did I mention that when women fight back, they tend to win? In this article, I also mentioned that more women are reactive than proactive. Yet waiting until something evil is on your doorstep is not the best time to learn to defend yourself.

You too can learn some pretty simple yet amazingly effective self-defense techniques. What are you waiting for?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

But That's RUDE!



In classes for teen girls I'm often asked what to do when some guy, either a stranger or someone they barely know, approaches and begins asking overly personal questions.  A simple "I don't want to talk at this time" is certainly polite, and right to the point. "I don't give out that information," said in a neutral tone, is also direct and sets a boundary without being nasty.

But some girls still take issue with a direct response. Because it's "rude." And I hear from some adults who work with girls that it's just "who they are."

Who are you, really?

Are you always the person you wish you could be?

Food writer Ruth Reichl faced similar questions, but in a different context. As the restaurant critic of The New York Times beginning in 1993, Reichl knew that her reviews would powerfully influence the rise and fall of restaurants big and small; a great review could mean vastly increased revenue and prestige. Restaurant kitchens, she found, had Reichl's picture plastered on the wall and a reward for any staff member who spotted her. Reichl's clever solution was to come up with disguises for her dining excursions. And her disguises went beyond wigs and makeup -- she envisioned what kind of person she'd become. With the help of an acting coach, she transformed herself. And it worked, sometimes too well. She found herself falling into her roles--often to the delight, but sometimes to the dismay, of her dining companions.(Reichl details her escapades in her charming book Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise.)

"Chloe" was a blonde bombshell who seemed to know precisely how to intrigue men. "Brenda" was warm, funny, kind, and approachable. Elderly "Betty" blended into the furniture, and was treated as a castoff. "Emily" was brusque and bitter. All different  personalities, yet along the way Reichl recognized them all as elements within herself (and she decides she wants more Brenda and less Emily). Reichl had the epiphany that controlling how others treated her could be as simple as changing the way she dressed and projected herself. She tested this out, and for her it worked.

Reichl was able to effectively reconstruct herself for a slice of time, over and over, in different guises.  She got her job done.

Do you know precisely what you would do in any given situation? Do you ever do things that amaze you? That disappoint you? Do you ever say things you wish you could take back the minute it came out of your mouth for all the world to hear? Do you ever wonder how you had the presence of mind to say exactly the right thing, and wish you could do it more often?

That's resilience in an uncertain world. Grace under pressure. Cool, calm, collected. What's not to like about those qualities?

As I tell my class participants, self-defense has a performance component. Regardless of who you believe you are, you all have the same job to get done, of keeping yourself safe. You can act. You can project yourself as a skilled, confident person on your own mission, and pity the fool who tries to mess with you.

Personally, I believe my time is valuable. I feel I should choose with whom to spend, not squander, my time. Otherwise I'll end up treated as someone else's entertainment, emotional barf bag, or -- at worst -- victim.

Monday, February 21, 2011

A Tale of Two Cases . . .

. . . both domestic violence, both violent assaults. One ends in murder, the other in resurgence.

This first article highlights the self-defense class given to honor a woman killed by her estranged husband. This class raised funds for a scholarship for a Jefferson County resident who plays softball, basketball or volleyball. The story never mentioned if Mary Daniels, the murdered woman, has a love of any of these sports, or why the funds were to go for softball, basketball or volleyball specifically.  I would have expected some sort of donation to a domestic violence education program or shelter. Nonetheless, good to see that about 100 women learned some skills.  Too many women wait until they need the skills immediately before taking self-defense seriously.

This second story is a bit different. The woman survived. Christy Martin is a fighter, literally. She's a boxer.  Her to-be-ex had been her trainer.  She told him she was leaving, and he declared that if he couldn't have her, nobody can.  He almost managed to kill her, but she was able to escape and flag down a passing car.  In her 40s, she was generally considered way past her boxing prime, but just over 3 months after being left for dead, she will again enter the ring.

Three essential keys to successful physical self-defense are (1) recognizing when someone has the potential to harm you and taking preventive measures, (2) knowing some effective physical skills, including escape strategies, and (3) attitude.  Attitude underlies the other two keys.  Success, and not just in self-defense, hinges on attitude. 

But, if you're a regular reader of this blog, that shouldn't be news to you.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

And Now, Another Word from My Mother

My mother would have been 90 years old this month. In her long life she experienced a lot as a member of the Greatest Generation: the Great Depression, Second World War and its Holocaust, the Baby Boom, better living through chemistry, the cultural upheavals of the sixties and seventies, feminism, the Cold War, Reaganomics, undeclared "wars" across the globe, declared "wars" on poverty and drugs. Unprecedented prosperity and change. She got her first computer at the age of 87. She outlived most of her friends.

She never outlived her values.


My mother always knew who she was and what she thought important. Regardless of the mores of the day, her certitude of what was right and what was wrong never wavered. She was not shy about conveying these values to her children. By the time I was 12, I knew precisely what she would reply to any request.

Mom and I disagreed often. She played very safe, which I felt was far too restrictive. I am more inclined to assess challenges and take calculated risks. But despite our differences, what I learned best from my mother was to know your own values and boundaries, and honor those first.

The first items on my Safety Plan worksheet ask about your goals and plans. What gives your life meaning? What do you value most? Because, regardless of their approach to risk, women who are clear on these will keep themselves safer.

PS - to learn more about planning for safety and other self-defense strategies, sign up for a self-defense class.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentines, Voices, Vivacity

Raise your hand if you feel there's not enough gratuitous, needless, and random violence in the world. Hmmm, not seeing a whole lot of hands out there. I thought as much.

Valentine's Day is not exactly the first holiday that pops to mind when thinking self-defense training. But it could be.

In all my classes, you use your voice. You also raise your voice, deploying words like NO and STOP and LET GO and BACK OFF. These are not exactly your positive relationship-building, Valentine-inspiring words. But they are important words to use at the right time.

If you are like virtually all my students, you want to recognize when someone means you ill. You want to have what it takes to say NO to people and events that will negatively impact the quality of your life. And you want to be someone who makes a difference.

You want to be able to say NO some of the time so that you can more confidently, more assuredly, and more enthusiastically say YES to people and events that will engage you, that will offer you growth as a person, that will provide exciting challenges. You want to say YES to good friends and productive opportunities. You want this world to be a better place, and you want to contribute to this work-in-progress.

One of the foundations of this work is in the relationships you forge with others, particularly those closest to you. True, February has become a "Hallmark Moment." But we do not have to wait for marketers to tell us when it's OK to treat one special person extraordinarily well for one evening. If I were Supreme Ruler of the Universe, Valentine's Day would be a Day of Service (similar to the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service in January) focusing on bringing vivacity and gusto into our spheres of influence.

My challenge to you for today: come up with one way you can make somebody else's today a tad better.

Sincerely, Joanne

PS - As my Valentine's Day gift to you, I've created a new handout on healthy relationships. Feel free to download it and share with family and friends.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

In the News, (Almost) Live on TV

Late yesterday afternoon I got a call from Gary Horcher, a TV reporter for KIRO 7.  He was looking for a self-defense expert to talk about safety for women runners.  Those of you living in Seattle probably have heard about the rash of assaults on women out running.  About a half dozen or so in the last couple of months. So I met with him and his camera man, we taped a short interview, then they filmed a little of that evening's class. Thanks to all my students who tolerated it, and to their credit Gary and camera did a really good job at being relatively unobtrusive.

So check out the story at http://www.kirotv.com/livestreamvideo/26692015/index.html

All my five week Self-Defense 101 classes for this winter have already commenced, but I do have another that will start March 22, a couple of one-day seminars on February 13 and March 20, a Teen Girls Only class on February 27, and a Self-Defense Weekend Workshop beginning Friday March 11.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Running. Safety. Both.

[NOTE: To listen to this podcast, download at this link: http://www.strategicliving.org/Sound_Safety_1-24-11.mp3]

Today's topic is women who run. Not with wolves, nor with scissors, but who just plain run. Or jog, or speedwalk, or walk. Whatever. You're doing it OUT THERE.

Because there's been a lot recently in the local media about women who've been assaulted while walking or jogging in some of Seattle's most popular parks.  And I'm asked if women should even be out running about before dawn or after dark (for instance, you can listen to an interview I did on KOMO Radio on Dec 21, posted on both this blog and on my website, where the host felt that maybe women should not be out and about at those hours).

I say it depends. I for one resent the idea that women are told that we have to severely limit activities because of a few creeps, and I do recognize that these creeps are out there looking for targets.  This is a real and serious threat. Consider what you are willing to face and how you will reduce your risk. If you are ready to acknowledge that yes the lack of light plus fewer (if any) other people around do put you at higher risk, and you are willing to take that risk and be ready to fight back, then yeah go for it. Some ways you can reduce your risk of being targeted in the first place are to find a workout buddy or group (or start one yourself), or choose routes that are more likely to be visible and populated.

And, speaking of running, I'm also often asked about listening to music. Now, listening to music on your mp3 while running does put you at higher risk, because you're seen as less aware of who's around you, and you know what, you probably are.  So why do people still do it?  Well, it's been shown over and over that music enhances your workout. It energizes you, it gets you into a groove, it makes you happier and you have a better workout. And, to be honest, if you went out running with your iPod, about 99.98% nothing bad will happen and you will return home safely.

As an aside, that's a testament to the incredibly safe world we live in today. But that's a topic for another blog and podcast entry.

I say if you are ready to acknowledge that yes the impairment of your hearing and hence attention to your environment puts you at higher risk, and you are willing to take that risk and be ready to fight back, then go for it. But consider what you willing to do to reduce your risk.

For information on upcoming self-defense classes, visit Strategic Living Safety and Self-Defense Training.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Using Your Voice

In mid-December I offered a self-defense clinic for runners at Road Runner Sports at Greenlake. Lots of people participated (I was told that this was one of their best-attended clinics ever), and the organizer took this little video clip.  WARNING: one instance of foul language happens!




Road Runner Sports hosted this free clinic in light of the spate of recent assaults on women runners recently in some of Seattle's most popular parks.

To learn and practice these skills and more, sign up for a self-defense class today.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Why Rape is Under-Reported: Reason #1

I'm occasionally asked why rape is under-reported. Not asked very often, because most of us know without ever having to be explicitly told. Most of us recognize that rape victims, far more so than victims of any other crime, are made to bear a disproportionately large responsibility for their victimization.

A recent article illustrates this: http://www.cnn.com/2010/CRIME/12/28/bahamas.baseball.rape/index.html?iref=obinsite. Actually, it's not the article, it's the comments. A college baseball player is accused of rape. The article is pretty bare-bones. But the comments on the article tend toward the vitriolic side, against women who report rape. See, there's a vocal segment who feel that rape is an entitlement. Not that they'd actually phrase it that way, because rape is a crime. But what counts as rape?

Or how about this article (http://detnews.com/article/20101110/METRO/11100371/Alleged-rape-victim--14--taunted--kills-self), where a high school freshman accused a popular senior of raping her. After the allegations because public and her identity revealed, other students in her school were polarized and she was subjected to verbal attacks. Apparently the possibility that the rest of the alleged perpetrator's life could be ruined (by his own actions no less) evoked more sympathy than anger at the possibility that he was a rapist. She killed herself. The county prosecutor initially decided to drop the sexual assault case because the one witness was gone, but since then another victim has come forward (http://www.myfoxdetroit.com/dpp/news/local/joe-tarnopolski-facing-new-allegations-20101111-wpms).

Or this article in the New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/29/world/europe/29iht-letter29.html?_r=3&ref=julianpassange&pagewanted=all), where the author asked some of her friends (women in their 30s) if they thought the charges against WikiLeaks principal Julian Assange were rape. The responses were resoundingly no. One woman said that these charges "cheapen rape." Really? How?

FYI, at least in Washington state, and probably most if not all states in the USA, having sex with someone without consent IS legally rape. That includes the victim having too much alcohol or drugs in their system to give consent. How about when they're sleeping -- where's the consent there?

Or look at the reactions of many prominent personalities when Al Gore was implicated in sexual assault. Now I like polar bears and the polar ice caps as much as the next environmentalist, but to give their most celebrated proponent an a priori pass just because of who he is, well that's too much.

Almost half of all women and girls who are raped either tell only one other person or nobody at all.

Most rapists are someone the victim knows, often someone the victim (and their friends) like. And, judging by the way we treat victims, it can't be rape if that person is well-liked, right?

It's not only the general populance that has issues with sexual assault victims. This recent article took a comprehensive look at how reported sexual assaults were handled by law enforcement, and found that the actual rate of false report of rape is much lower than that assumed by many people, particularly by law enforcement. This article notes that
[O]ne of the most important challenges for successfully investigating and prosecuting cases of non-stranger sexual assault is the idea that many—or even most—reports are false. As long as this belief is accepted by law enforcement professionals, prosecutors, jurors, and others, our efforts to improve the criminal justice response to sexual assault will have only limited impact. Only those cases that look like our societal stereotype of “real rape” will be successfully investigated and prosecuted.
I teach an annual weekend workshop for rape victims. Each year I ask of those who did report their rapes, by a show of hands, how many have had positive experiences with law enforcement during the reporting process. A few raise their hands. And then I ask how many have had negative experiences. And all of those who said they reported their rapes report negative experiences with police or prosecutors. The predominant issue is that the victims felt that they were being accused by law enforcement personnel of being to blame.

The #1 reason why rape is under-reported, not a big surprise, is the prevailing cultural undercurrent of blaming the victim.