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.