Monday, October 06, 2014

I'm Sorry. (How Do You Like Me Now?)

One student told me that when a guy on the street bumped into her friend -- she's sure deliberately -- the friend apologized right away and asked the guy if he was OK.  I had to stop the story to make sure I heard it right.  So this guy, on purpose, almost knocked her over and SHE said sorry?  Yup, I heard it right.

Apologies carry a complicated burden.  A heartfelt apology can mend fences and relationships.  A sincere apology can save face and begin to heal hearts.  An inauthentic apology can infuriate the receiver.  And a social apology can superficially appease others and make you seem more likeable -- really?

I began to consider apologies after reading this article, where author Lindsay King-Miller describes how offering apologies has totally transformed how others relate to her.  Got some pithy quotes, too:
"So these days I apologize a lot. Everyone tells me all the time that I don't need to, that I have nothing to be sorry for, that I shouldn't be so insecure, but in between they tell me how likable I am. How personable. How pleasant. How I set people at ease.

"Apologizing is a survival skill in a society where women are penalized, personally and professionally, for being abrasive, for speaking their minds, for not smoothing their sharp edges down, for not fitting in. Apologizing is a way of saying I know I'm smart but I don't mean to be. I know I take up space but I'm trying not to. I want you to like me more than I want to be right.These are things the world demands from women. If you don't provide them, it punishes you. Before I started apologizing I heard all the time, secondhand, that people hated me. That this girl or that girl thought I was a bitch. That I was too aggressive and guys were scared of me. I never hear that anymore.

"People tell me that higher self-esteem would help me apologize less. I think No, you don't understand. I have to apologize because I can't let people know how awesome I actually think I am.  The world is not kind to women who love themselves as much as I do -- certainly not fat, queer, socially awkward girls. I am not supposed to have confidence. I am not supposed to think my opinions matter." 
Personally, I had never thought of apologizing for my opinions as a way to make others comfortable.  I despise the idea that anyone would expect me to express regret for being smart or projecting confidence.  But it happens, and consequences happen. 

King-Miller describes her younger self as brash, confrontational, emotionally needy, and sensitive.  She says she hated how people would shut her out to not deal with her intensity and neediness.  At some point, when in her 20s, she found herself apologizing for all the crying, saying that she was over-sensitive, it was no big deal. And she found that was acceptable.  And people liked her better. 

I do not know King-Miller.  I've never met her, and only know what she says about herself in this one article.  But I do know intelligent, articulate, and opinionated women -- who I would not characterize as brash, confrontational and emotionally needy -- who were too readily dismissed as abrasive when they spoke uncomfortable truths (and most truths will make someone uncomfortable).  Assertive women can get labeled aggressive. And there's a small yet vocal group of trolls who are eagerly watching to pull off-balance any women who dare to "lean in." 

I don't believe that women's only two options are to blurt bluntly or cower contritely. Yes it takes some art and energy coming up with more appropriate and effective ways of expressing myself.  I accept the fact that there always will be individuals who just will not like what I have to say, regardless of how I couch it.  And I am a native New Yorker, so there are limits on how much I'm willing to care about others' opinions.  But the article did get me thinking about how saying sorry can be used to stay safe.  

Yes, the apology can be a self-defense strategy.  It can be a tool of camouflage, of distraction, of social disguise.  It has a VERY big role as a de-escalation tactic.  In rare instances you have to chose between being right (and maybe physically hurt) and emotionally available (which may manifest as sympathetic, empathetic, or apologetic).  When you make safety your priority, learning the art of apology can pay off.  That's good self-care, an essential component of your toolkit.

To make the choice that best suits your goals, you want to have all options at your disposal.  When you have to take out your self-defense toolkit -- whether physical or verbal or emotional responses are called for -- recognize that sometimes your choices are between bad and worse.  Do you want to pick your best response, or will you let someone else will decide for you?


Friday, June 06, 2014

Pausing for a Moment of Reflection and Remembrance for SPU

Today our thoughts are with the Seattle Pacific University community.  Deepest condolences to the family and friends of the young man taken too soon.  Wishing a quick and complete recovery to all those injured.  And much thanks to SPU student Jon Meis, whose initiative and courage stopped the shooter and certainly saved lives.

Mr. Meis apparently saw the opportunity and stepped in quickly.  Many others would have paused too long, wondering if this was a real break and how long it would last and would they really have enough time . . . you know that old cliche about he who hesitates.

KUOW-FM broadcast an interview with Greg Crane, president and founder of Alert Lockdown Inform Counter Evacuate (ALICE).  They were discussing what to do if faced with an active shooter.  Mr. Crane says the best practices are pro-active.  Know what you can do, and practice.  Noise, movement, distance, and distraction all can slow down a shooter.  It's when someone takes charge that lives are saved, quotes interviewer Marcie Sillman.

How can you prepare yourself, just in case?  Start by listening to the interview, and you should get some good ideas.


Strategic Living and Fight the Fear Campaign to Offer Teen Girl Self-Defense Classes

Seattle's Fight the Fear Campaign (FtFC) is a community-oriented violence-prevention initiative.  FtFC provides free training in basic self-defense to those who cannot afford them.  Funded by Brandi Carlile's Looking Out Foundation, the goal is to make awareness, de-escalation, boundary-setting, assertive communication, and fighting techniques available to as many people as possible.
Fight the Fear Campaign logo

Strategic Living, LLC, is proud to be among the trainers asked to participate.  We have six classes on this summer's calendar for teen girls open to the public:  two are for girls ages 12-13, two for girls ages 14, 15, and two for girls ages 16 and up.  You can see more info and register online at our Fight the Fear page.

FtFC's mission is to make self-defense training easily accessible because the skills and confidence that it builds are a proved deterrent to violence.  All classes are run by experienced instructors who tailor each workshop to serve the specific, focused needs of each group.

You can find out more about other classes and programs at the FtFC website.



Thursday, June 05, 2014

Can Your Stick Family Car Decal Endanger You?

We've all seen them.  Decals, generally on minivans, showing stick figures representing family members.  Or sometimes representing parodies of family members.  Or a T Rex snacking on family members . . .


Some people like them, some are annoyed, most probably don't care one way or the other.

But do pedophiles care?  Will the decal draw the criminal element to your family?  Some people believe so.

Even a few police departments are warning about having these decals on your vehicle.

However, there is one little issue.  There are no cases cited where a perpetrator gleaned personal information from stick figures and used it to commit a crime.

As a self-defense instructor, I have a short list of "rules" I check before giving safety recommendations to students.  Rule #1 is that any piece of safety advice has to be based on evidence.  There has to be some proof that this reduces violence in the real world, not just as a hypothetical in the world between someone's ears.  No matter how logical or reasonable it may seem, if it does not exist in reality it does not get forwarded.

This suggestion that stick figure family decals can attract bad guys fails to meet that standard.

This piece of advice also ignores the substantiated fact that most predators who go after children are people already known to the family and do not need any decals to inform them.  You're better off learning how to assess the real people in your children's lives.



Wednesday, April 09, 2014

"Superpredators:" Blast from the Past

Students who have taken my six-week self-defense course for women already know this:  the rate of violence has been in decline for the past couple of decades.

But that was not at all obvious a couple of decades ago.  In fact, the early 1990s saw a spike in youth violence.  Some experts were predicting the worst was yet to come, and felt they needed to deploy hyperbole on what they saw as the inevitable.  The term "superpredator" was coined by political scientist John DiIulio to describe teens who were increasingly violent.  These teens were supposed to unleash chaos upon our fair Gothams.

It never happened.

Almost as if on cue, after these predictions hit the mass media, the crime rate began dropping.  And dropping.  And dropping.  Today's rates of violence are at record lows.


(if the embedded video is not visible here, go here.)

However, hyperbole won out over fact.  Punitive punishments and harsher penalties for juveniles became the law.  Panicky policy repercussions from that era have lingered a long while.

When you consider your personal safety risks, what do you value?  How do you distinguish the hype from the fact?  Predicting the future will never be easy, but you can do better when you winnow out the alarminst labels and recognize the "dog whistles" for what they are.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Watching for OutWatch

In local news, some residents of Seattle's Capitol Hill are getting fed up with street assaults.  According to this article in The Seattle Times, a new neighborhood watch group is in the works.  Dubbed "OutWatch" and modeled after Q-Patrol in the early 1990s (which was modeled after NYC's Guardian Angels of an earlier decade), the current plan seems to have patrols consisting of 4 persons.  Initially, at least 2 of the 4 are supposed to have self-defense training.

[Which is all very nice, except that self-defense may or may not be what they need.  I sure hope their self-defense training included de-escalation training and bystander intervention, which are more valuable skills for this endeavor.  I hope they are also planning on background checks for all volunteers.]

According to the article, it seems the patrols' primary aim is to escort people safely to their cars, homes, or other safe place.  This should be useful -- after all, the police do advise us to keep with a group to reduce risk of assault.  Simply having a presence can also remind us to keep safety and awareness of our surroundings in mind, as well as send a message that people are watching and won't put up with violence in their community.

I wish them luck organizing and sustaining this project. 

Friday, January 24, 2014

Entertainment with "Strong Seattle Values"?

My friend Kinny (you likely met her if you took some of my self-defense classes, as she often assists) is an inveterate newspaper reader, and just could not let Jerry Large's column in this week's The Seattle Times pass by without comment. 

I'll let her tell it.

Jerry Large's column touched on ethics and values in sports. All well and good until he wound it up with this:
"I couldn’t escape from real issues through sports that day, so I turned to other entertainment and settled in with my wife (who looks askance at football) to watch an episode of “Downton Abbey.” There’s entertainment for someone with strong Seattle values — the good old days, when aristocrats dressed formally for dinner and of course always behaved perfectly, never raising their voices, even to chide the loyal servants scurrying about their feet." (Full column: http://seattletimes.com/html/localnews/2022731774_jdlcolumn23xml.html)
This sounds like vanilla unless you've actually been watching "Downton" lately. A current storyline involves rape.

So I emailed him the following:
Hi Jerry,

I watched both the Seahawks game and "Downton Abbey" on Sunday, and after reading your column today I can't quite believe you did as well. One of the current "Downton" storylines involves the shocking, brutal rape of Anna the lady's maid and its horrific effect on her and those she loves.

Rape is a crime and it is NOT part of our "strong Seattle values."

Football players and fans consent to play and watch the game. Consent – by definition – is not part of rape. Its inclusion in an entertainment program is an ethical question worth as much, if not more consideration than problems in sports. Please ask your wife about the current "Downton" episodes. Though you may have been in the room with her, in my head you were paying a lot more attention to the Sunday funnies or Facebook than the TV. Or maybe you actually were hanging out in the kitchen for most of the program. I don't want to believe you were oblivious.

The football game was a lot less jarring. I loved Richard Sherman's emotional, adrenaline-fueled and completely genuine rant. A little honest trash talk (that wasn't even bleep-worthy) for once, instead of the usual boring platitudes, turns the world upside-down?

Rape: crime. Football: game. 

Sincerely,

Roseanne Kimlinger

What did you do today to challenge rape culture?

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

So You Want to Learn More About Domestic Violence and Beyond, Eh?


Seattle's Northwest Network is now offering a series of free webinars on various topics related to domestic violence and beyond.  I participated in the first one, which was a powerful combination of basic DV education and empowerment model advocacy.

What is "beyond DV?"  Why, healthy relationships, of course!  It's not sufficient to not be in an abusive relationship, right?  I can't speak for you, but I want my relationships to be fun and fulfilling.  How about you?

NW Network also has a library of on-demand webinars that are directly relevant to any self-defense instructor  — among the topics are strangulation injuries, and intimate partner stalkers, and battered women charged with crimes.  Not exactly light viewing, but highly educational.

http://nwnetwork.org/news-and-events/

From their website:  Founded in 1987 by lesbian survivors of battering, the NW Network works to end abuse in our diverse lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans communities. As an organization founded by and for LGBT survivors, we’re deeply committed to fostering the empowerment of all survivors of abuse.  The NW Network increases our communities’ ability to support the self-determination and safety of bisexual, transgendered, lesbian and gay survivors of abuse through education, organizing and advocacy. We work within a broad liberation movement dedicated to social and economic justice, equality and respect for all people and the creation of loving, inclusive and accountable communities.


Friday, January 17, 2014

More Self-Defense Successes for Women

Here are a smattering of #selfdefensesuccess stories that have across my screen these last couple of weeks.

Important to remember: I'll bet none of these women ever took a "self-defense" class (though at least one had military training).  The two most critical factors in successful self-defense are (1) the belief that it can be done, and (2) trying one tool after another until something works.

From Louisiana, a 72 year old woman routes armed attacker with nothing but her steely instincts and a fire extinguisher. Woman's son later describes his mom as "a pretty strong old fart." Yeah, that's how I'd have described my mom too.  http://www.dailycomet.com/article/20131231/ARTICLES/131239885/1320?p=1&tc=pg#gsc.tab=0

Now going north to Ohio:  woman uses voice, attracts bystander attention. Bystanders call police. Police arrive in time to see the woman running out of the house, followed by man with knife. Man is subdued and arrested!  http://www.springfieldnewssun.com/news/news/police-man-attempted-to-rape-woman/ncZbw/

Some self-defense stories are more graphic than are others.  This one is graphic.  Let's jump across the globe, to Bangladesh.  In this instance, a woman fights back against an acquaintance by cutting off his penis and bringing it to the police.  http://www.opposingviews.com/i/society/woman-cuts-penis-man-attempting-rape-her  The wanna-be rapist then claimed that he was the real victim, because they had been having an affair, he refused to leave his wife and children and move with her to another city.  So, he claims, she cut off his penis and is pressing rape charges to retaliate.  This attempt to deflect responsibility is a common tactic among rapists.

And now back to the glorious Puget Sound, the last one for today is from former student "E" who relates a self-defense success years earlier:
"When I was a young college student, I often passed through New York City to get from my parents' home to my college in upstate New York. On one such visit, I was walking down a street and felt like I was being followed. I made the decision to act irrationally: singing to myself, walking with a twitch/jerking motions. I tried to act like a mentally unstable person. After a while, the man stopped following me, and I'm certain that if I hadn't, I would have been attacked."
Do you have a story to share?  Contact me!

Do you want to learn some of these skills that proved successful for others?  A plethora of six week Self-Defense 101 for Women courses are about to begin in the next week.  Visit the page and register today.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Teach a Woman to Fish . . .

OK, not exactly "fishing."

Teach anyone any skill set, and she can use it for her own benefit.  However, she is also likely to use her skills to benefit her family and community.

Teach a woman self-defense skills, and she can not only defend herself (and those she cares about) she will probably teach others around her those skills.  Before you know it, she will be demanding self-determination.  She will demand to be an active participant in her life and in society.


So not only will she be safer, her community will be safer.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

ANOTHER Perfectly Awesome Tale of Self-Defense

Friend and fellow martial artist Jan Parker has been teaching a long time; she was already a master teacher when I was a mere novice two decades ago. She's seen and heard more than a few wacky reactions when strangers and acquaintances find out what she does. And she just blogged about one such instance at a friend's party years ago.  The perennial question that most martial artists invariably encounter.  Here's an excerpt:
. . . [A] young man heard from someone else that I was a martial artist. Boldly, he came up to me to make sure what he heard was true. “So, you’re a martial artist?” I nodded, noticing the drink in his hand. He continued, “Soooooo . . . What would you do if I just hauled off and hit you in the face?”
Before you read on, what do you think her reply was?

Might she have said, "Yeah sure, I'd like to see you try"?  Or how about "I'd hit you back harder"?  Would she call him an ignorant jerk of an a$$hole? Perhaps she would have jumped straight up in the air and, Bruce Lee-style, executed a perfect flying side kick right into his nose!

Her response:
“I would charge you with assault. What do you think I would do?” “For crying out loud,” I said, “we’re at a party, why in the world would you hit me in the face?”
Surprised, at my answer, he walked away.
She called that a success story. And so do I.  She assessed his intent, decided this silliness was not a situation to escalate, and gave a response he was so totally not expecting.  Perfectly disarming self-defense.

Of course you can read Jan's re-telling on her blog JanJimJam.org.  Jan Parker, you rock!