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.