Monday, January 28, 2013

Fun with Fakes

Jay Leno's The Tonight Show has an occasional segment called "Fun with Fake Surveys."  Some of the show's writers go to a local mall and pretend to "survey" shoppers. They would collect a few bits of info from those who responded (the "target") in return for a gift card. Info like your name (first and last), college you attended, home town, marital status, hobbies, etc. Then another actor would use that info to pretend to be someone the target had known from college, or met at the beach, or who works out at the same location. The fake friend would begin a conversation, and it would lead to a compromising situation when other actors playing bosses, new husbands, or creepy road rage stalkers joined in.  They wanted to see how far the target would take the charade for their "friend."

To see what actually happens, you'll have to see the show. Fortunately The Tonight Show is available online, free, at NBC's website. I'll even make it easier for you, here's the link to the show that prompted this blog post.

On another but related note, hardly a week goes by without a Facebook Friend request to add my date of birth to a FB app.  Your birthday is one of a handful of pieces of information that can unlock a whole host of other information that can let another person pretend to be you. That's identity theft, and it is bad. In my life, the only people who need to know my date of birth are family, moderate to close friends, the IRS, my employer (for the IRS), my bank (also for the IRS). And anyone doing a criminal background check (I always pass, thank you for asking). I decline the FB app requests.  I recommend that when you sign up for services such as FB that really do not need your birthday but insist you put down some date or you don't get to use the service, do not provide your real birthday.

I recommend you carefully consider what information about yourself you make available, to anyone who may be asking. Even if it seems innocuous. Information trafficking is a big black market business.

I wonder how many people the Tonight Show actors approached to get the three featured targets on this episode. How many said no, or gave only partial info (like refused to give their last names). I wonder if any gave fake info, so would know immediately that the person approaching, pretending to know them, were bogus?  Anyone up to calling The Tonight Show's producers to ask?

Friday, January 25, 2013

How to Undermine A Great Self-Defense Success Story

Last night Kiro 7 News had a story of a 14 year old girl who fought off a potential rapist. She was walking from her bus stop when a guy grabbed her and tried to drag her off. She fought back, and she won!

Kiro 7 interviewed several people on the street for the version they broadcast last night. Most expressed concern and fear about the attack. Two of the comments are more noteworthy.

One was from a woman who stated she was glad the girl was able to fight off the assailant, BUT not everyone would be able to do that. She's right. Not everyone can, BUT I'll bet she'd be surprised how many women really can fight back with really simple techniques (BTW, several of my five week self-defense courses are just about to begin, if you want to learn those skills). It dismays me when women just write off the possibility.

The second noteworthy comment was the very last one. "What was a 14 year old girl doing out at 1:00 in the morning?" Indeed, that was often brought up by some of the online comments from viewers. That may be a good question for her parents, but it in no way, shape, or form lessens the responsibility of the attacker for his actions. Regardless of why she was out, the attacker should be brought to account for his misdeeds.

The report rape for sexual assault is already too low (somewhere between 15 and 30% are reported to law enforcement). Women and girls who are targeted are less likely to report if it includes getting scolded by the "well-meaning but clueless" brigade. So I wag my finger at Kiro 7 News for not only including that comment, but making it the very final statement on air.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

"She Asked for It," or How to Release a Rapist

Anne Munch has certainly seen her share of rape cases. A prosecutor for the state of Colorado, she  she spoke to a full auditorium at the University of Washington on October 19, 2012, about the all-too-often occurrence of victim blaming in sexual assault.

First she asked the men in the audience what they did on a daily or weekly basis to avoid rape – there was dead silence. "Nothing, right?" Same question to the women and answers popcorned out: go to parties with friends, carry pepper spray, don't walk alone at night . . . Ms. Munch asked the guys, "Did you know women – your sisters – think like this?" You could almost hear jaws dropping.

Only a short while into her career as a prosecutor, Munch realized that in addition to the victim and the accused, there was always a 3rd party in any rape case, which she dubbed The Unnamed Conspirator.  It's a petri dish for enabling predators, made up of societal attitudes towards rape victims and women in general. And it is these overall societal attitudes that guide police and prosecutors, judges and juries, in determining how to let the vast majority of rapists off the hook.

[Note: this concept has been around a long, long time. At least 3 or 4 decades. It's generally called "rape culture."]

Munch cited 2 cases from Colorado that she had worked on.  Both cases had incredible amounts of physical evidence and no indication whatsoever that the women had consented to sexual activity.

In the the first case, three out of 12 jurors would not vote to convict. The Unnamed Conspirator likes safety "rules", and the victim had broken a biggie. One of these societal "rules" is that if you don't go out alone at night you won't get raped. This survivor had ventured out, all by herself, at 9 pm in a small resort town to get a slice of pizza. Uh-oh. The Unnamed Conspirator: "She should never have been walking alone at night." Hence three women on the jury refused to vote guilty, even though the defendant's culpability was clear.

Munch believes the way to negate The Unnamed Conspirator is through education, which is why she now travels around the world speaking, training, and consulting on sexual assault and domestic violence cases.  The two most pervasive and insidious myths she works to banish are:
  1. Sexual assault can be prevented by following a large and highly restricting list of "rules" (one of which was referred to above), and
  2. Men cannot control themselves (so women become responsible for some men's actions).
Let's return to the Real World, where neither of the above "rules" are true. Vulnerability by itself means nothing. It's only significant when someone tries to take advantage of it. In other words, the only person responsible for a rape is the rapist.

In every self-defense class I teach, you will not be getting those "laundry lists" of people and places to avoid, activities to not engage in, or limiting dress codes.  Because they do not work -- they do not keep you safer.

And the second Colorado case – it had a pile of evidence as high as the Rocky Mountains but never came to trial. The accused's name was Kobe Bryant. Celebrities will rarely be held accountable for bad behavior (and that's a whole 'nuther blog post).

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Lessons from the Cat #5: Talking about Powerful Women

Lilith
Lilith, my cat companion of almost 19 years, moved onto her next life last month. Her mission was to explore strange new tablecloths, to seek out new crevices and closets, to boldly go where no cat had gone before. Mission accomplished!

Since she came to live with me at the age of 5 weeks, Lilith was a fearless and headstrong explorer. No cupboard was off limits, as far as she was concerned. Nor was she was aloof, far from it! She was fearless as well as demanding in getting lap time and pettings. For a while I had to pet her tummy for at least 15 minutes before I would be "permitted" to do my morning yoga. Even then, she felt entitled to play with my hair whenever I was in "downward dog." My clever cat of steel was featured in this blog post about a year and a half ago, and in this one a year ago. Lilith is sorely missed.

Last month I began a few revisions to my website's home page. The goal is to make it more informative and easier to navigate. I was working on my sub-heading, playing around with words for women finding their super powers of protection. I used the phrase "super shero." Sent the draft around to a couple of friends. One in particular disliked the phrase. She felt it too contrived and off-putting. So we were brainstorming alternatives. My friend came to this conclusion:
It's a crying shame there's such a paucity of terms for positive images of female power. Would be nice to have lots of choices from which to select the one with the perfect nuance. 

If only the whole world knew who Lilith was. If a woman learned to project such presence, it would never occur to anyone to even think of messing with her. The only figure I can come up with who's maybe even a distant second is Elizabeth II, Queen of England.
I have to agree, there are few truly positive adjectives for powerful women. Especially in a public venue.

Lilith watching . . . 
Most of us don't consider women when we think of powerful, intriguing, or even interesting people. Last week I taught a self-defense class for teen girls at a local high school. They paired up for an exercise, but first I asked them to introduce themselves to their partner and think of who they'd want to have dinner with tonight if they could pick ANY historic figure. Only two (of 12) picked women.

How do you talk about powerful women, or do you even positively talk about powerful women? Might you want to change that?