Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

In Case of Rape, Throw Up??

Wednesday, February 20th, 2013

Has Colorado lost its collective mind? First, Democratic State Representative Joe Salazar warns that women should not carry firearms for personal protection because, wait for it… they might shoot someone. “[I]f you feel like you’re going to be raped, or if you feel like someone’s been following you around or if you feel like you’re in trouble when you may actually not be, then you pop out that gun and… pop a round at somebody.”

He would have us believe that he knows what women are thinking and whether they are really in danger, even if the women themselves don’t. In a life-threatening situation, he wants us to wait for others to come save us, recommending we make use of call-boxes, whistles, and ‘safe zones.’ In other words, “Don’t you worry your pretty little head, missy. You just wait for a big, strong man to come riding in on a white steed and rescue you from another man who wants to bash your face into the sidewalk, rip your clothes off with a blade, torture and maybe kill you. Heh, heh.”

As if that insult to women’s intelligence and judgment wasn’t bad enough, earlier this week, the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs posted a 10-point “safety list” entitled What to Do If You Are Attacked. They refer to these so-called techniques as “crime prevention tips,” but the fact that they are all reactions to being attacked, rather than proactive measures to avoid an attack illustrate their lack of effectiveness in a rape/mugging/domestic violence situation.

Topping the list is “Be realistic about your ability to protect yourself.” This patronizing warning tells women they just aren’t smart enough or strong enough to defend themselves against an aggressive male, hell-bent on harming them. It’s also downright untrue. Hundreds of thousands of women realize that they have more than enough power in their bodies and minds to save themselves in an attack. They understand, first and foremost, that they are not weak, helpless waifs whose lot is to suffer simply because some criminal has chosen to mess with them. They also know that a solid punch, kick, or elbow strike to certain vulnerable targets will put a dent in an assailant’s plans and afford them an opportunity to escape.

Also recommended as “survival techniques” on the University’s list are vomiting and urinating, to convince the attacker to leave the intended victim alone. So, seeing a woman doubled over, hurling in the bushes, he might think… what? “Oh, gee, she’s having a bad enough time already. I’ll go ruin someone else’s life.” Not likely.

Also, I must point out that it is difficult to force oneself to vomit or urinate on demand–especially in a life-and-death situation such as a rape attempt. Not to mention, while one is trying to accomplish these acts, one can neither fight off the attacker nor run to safety.

Two of the tips on the list actually contradict each other: “Yelling, hitting, or biting may give you a chance to escape. Do it!” is immediately followed by “Understand that some actions on your part may lead to more harm.” In other words, little lady, let him do whatever he wants. Don’t try to fight the Big Bad Man or you’ll just make it worse for yourself. The US Department of Justice reports that women who actively defend themselves against a rapist are more likely to minimize the attack and/or escape than women who don’t fight back. And, they are no more likely to be injured than women who don’t fight back. Note: in some instances, compliance may be used as a survival technique. For example, women who have been told by a rapist with a weapon, “Just be quiet or I’ll hurt your kids” have used compliance to save their lives and those of their children. However, compliance as an option is not the same thing as making yourself helpless in the face of sheer hell.

There are quite a few women’s self-defense classes available on college campuses, at martial arts dojos, in cities large and small throughout the country. Most are good; some are excellent. The instructor who developed these so-called “survival strategies” is not someone I would want teaching my sister, my daughter, or my friends. These tips would seem to teach how to become a victim rather than a strong, empowered woman.

 

 

How Much Would You Pay to Save Your Child’s Life?

Friday, December 7th, 2012

Just for a moment, think of the unthinkable: someone has kidnapped your child. You receive a letter stating that your child will be released unharmed if you pay the ransom of $10,000. Would you be willing to do it? Of course you would! Any loving parent would move mountains to bring their baby home safe.

What if the ransom demand was for $50,000–or $100,000? Even if you didn’t have it, you would find a way to get it. You would do everything you could to make sure your precious child was returned to you, alive and well.

Or would you? Perhaps you would say, “Nope, sorry. I just can’t spare that right now… the car needs new brakes… the dog just had surgery at the vet… and my older child is going to need braces.” Would you tell the kidnapper you just don’t have extra cash to ensure your child’s safety?

What if the kidnapper said, “I will release your baby back into your arms for $75.”

I get a lot of requests to teach radKIDS classes–to neighborhood groups, troops of Girl Scouts, Cub Scouts, sports teams, after-school and camp groups, etc. When I tell people what we cover in the classes–that their children will learn how to tell a Bad Guy from a Stranger, what to do if someone offers them “magic candy,” when it’s okay to knock down and shatter the big-screen TV in the store, and that we will also teach them physical skills that can allow them to break away from an attacker and escape–the parents are very excited. They recognize that, with over 100 bona fide saves from abduction attempts and countless saves from sexual predators, radKIDS saves children’s lives.

They are eager to work a class into their families’ busy schedule. Then, I tell them there is a per-child fee. It covers the costs of new equipment (We use a lot of equipment and props in the class to make the scenarios as realistic, yet fun and non-threatening, for the kids as possible.) It also covers the Activity Books we give each child, to help them remember at home the important concepts we teach in class. Part of the fee pays for the radKIDS Family Manuals, given to parents/guardians of each child. While explaining everything we teach in class, these Manuals also serve as a free ticket for that child to take radKIDS again–as often as they like, anywhere in the world that radKIDS is taught, for free, until they turn 13. And finally, the fee allows me to pay my Assistant Instructor for sharing her time, knowledge, and skills. Because of her, I can teach more kids better than if I taught alone.

I used the amount of $75 above as a low “ransom” number. My radKIDS classes actually cost less than that. Considering that kids learn information and skills that have saved other kids from violent abductors and child sexual predators, that’s a pretty good investment.

Still, people are disheartened when I tell them about the fee. They seem to expect that, because this is such a great service we’re providing, we should provide it at no charge. (Even though, in actuality, all classes but the first set are free.) So, let me ask: Do you expect other service-providers, those with specialized knowledge, skills, and equipment, to donate them to you for free? Your family doctor? Dentist?  Even your child’s school teacher is paid for their service and specialized education. You pay your babysitter by the hour, your mechanic by the job. All of these people are important; each enhances your family’s life in their own way.

On a personal note, I must admit it’s frustrating when a parent is interested in signing their child up for the class, only to pull back in surprise, disappointment, even disgust that I “have the nerve to charge a fee.” They seem to think I’m using their children to take advantage of them. Granted, in some cities, officers on the local police force are able to give radKIDS classes for free. This is because they’re subsidized by their Departments. That is not available in this community, nor do I personally have such support. And that’s okay. When I was training to be a radKIDS Instructor, my supervisor chuckled and told us, “You’re never gonna get rich doing this!”  But we don’t do it to get rich. We do it to save your child’s life. How much is that worth to you?

Why “Stranger Danger” is Harmful to Kids

Monday, October 3rd, 2011

ChildLostInCrowd









I have received several phone calls and emails recently from parents concerned about their children’s safety. Specifically, they want to know how best to teach their children about “Stranger Danger.”

As a Child Safety and Violence Prevention Instructor, I understand their concerns. Also as a Child Safety and Violence Prevention Instructor, I cringe at the phrase “Stranger Danger.” Yes, it rhymes, it’s cute, and it’s easy to remember. But it’s also misleading to the point of being downright dangerous to kids and parents.

According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, there are approximately 58,000 child abductions each year. About 57, 885 of these crimes are committed by someone the child already knows: a neighbor, friend of the family, divorced parent, etc.

In the remaining 115 kidnap cases, the child is taken by a stranger. While a very serious crime, stranger abduction accounts for two-tenths of 1% of all child abductions. Still, when I ask kids in my classes what they know about how to stay safe, one of the first things they shout out is, “Don’t talk to strangers!”

So, what happens when your child gets separated from you in a store, at the amusement park, or on a crowded street? (You can try to reassure yourself that, as a concerned and watchful parent, this will never happen. But I can pretty much guarantee you it will. Even the best parents blink their eyes occasionally, and that is all it takes for a child to spy something fascinating, and break away from mom or dad’s grip to get a closer look.)

As concerned and watchful parents, you are wise to equip your child with the knowledge of what to do should they find themselves separated from you. The problem with Stranger Danger is that it rules out the vast majority of resources available to help kids in this kind of situation: practically everyone they see around them will be a stranger to them. And they have been taught that anyone they don’t know is likely to harm them. With no familiar face to turn to, they have nowhere to go for help.

And, in the simple, black-and-white process of a young person’s thinking, if strangers are bad, then people we know must be good. This, too, is problematic because it puts a child’s trust in an adult who may not be worthy of it.

So, aside from keeping kids locked inside the safe confines of their homes until they’re 18, what can we do? Simple: teach them how to ask for help, who to ask, and where.

Make sure they know their first and last name, and their parents’ names as well. Having them memorize your cell phone number makes it easy to contact you. If your child is too young for this, consider writing down your name and cell number on a piece of paper and putting it inside a pocket of their clothing.

When you are running errands with your child, point out the people whose job is to help them if they ever need help. Show them who they can go to for assistance if they can’t find you. Should they ask that man on the corner, or would the store clerk be better? Would that guy asking for spare change be a good choice, or the mom with 2 small children inside the shop?

Talking about “what-ifs” doesn’t scare kids. In fact, they’ve probably already thought that they could get lost. What scares them is not knowing what to do if it should happen. Having a plan of action “just in case” reassures them that they can stay safe and find a good person to help them, and that they’ll be reunited with you quickly.


What We Can Learn from the Movies

Thursday, September 9th, 2010

The topic coming down the List-serve for RAD Instructors this week was about using video clips to support what we teach in class. One instructor suggested showing a scene from Taken, in which 2 young women traveling together reveal too much information to a friendly stranger, and subsequently are kidnapped and terrorized.

Another instructor likes her students to view the training scene in Enough, because the Jennifer Lopez character executes many of the defensive moves RAD teaches.

I think showing movie clips like these is a great idea. I’ve ordered some videos, and will be incorporating them into my classes. They’ll provide a short break from all the physical skills that we do, and add another dimension of learning.

However, one thing I won’t be showing is a rape scene–although some RAD Instructors might. Again, the reason for playing this kind of clip is to show the students either common mistakes that women might make and how to correct them–such as not telling someone that you’ll be staying alone in a house, and then giving him that address (as in Taken), or seeing self-defense moves in action (like in Enough.)

Not a fan of rape scenes to begin with, I tried to be open-minded about their possible teaching value. So, I researched films involving such storylines, read the synopses, and even watched several online. It turns out that Hollywood’s idea of this crime has little bearing on fact. In film after film, this is what I saw:

  1. rapes are committed by multiple attackers or one attacker armed with a weapon
  2. the women being attacked don’t fight back, or fight back weakly and ineffectively
  3. the women get scared, and scream, cry, whimper, or beg.

Here’s what’s true: 85% of rapes are perpetrated by a single, unarmed attacker. Read that again: 85% by a single, unarmed attacker. Women can and do fight back successfully, and studies have shown that when they do, their attackers are less likely to complete the rape.

What can we learn from what we see on the big screen? That Hollywood doesn’t know squat about the reality of rape. They deal with fiction and stereotypes. If you let yourself believe what you see in the movies, you’ll train yourself not to fight back. You’ll buy into some movie-maker’s standard that a woman is simply too weak to protect herself against a big, strong, angry man; that she better just hope that she never finds herself in such a dangerous situation, because the only way for her to react is with paralyzing fear, and all she can do is scream, cry, whimper, and beg–and allow herself to be raped.

This is… how can I put it nicely? This is garbage. The women in my classes may come in feeling a little timid, unsure of how they would handle themselves in a life-or-death situation. But by the time they leave, they know how strong they are and how, if they need to, they can direct that strength into targeted, lifesaving power.

Don’t believe the garbage Hollywood spews out about how weak women are in the face of an assault. You’re stronger than you realize–and definitely stronger than an attacker realizes. If you just don’t know exactly where and how to aim that strength, sign up for a good Women’s Self-Defense class. I, or one of my colleagues, will be happy to show you. Popcorn is optional.

It’s Your Safety–Take It Personally

Sunday, March 7th, 2010

Two years ago, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill senior and Student Body president Eve Carson was shot to death, her body left in a street just off campus. Police soon arrested two suspects, and categorized the murder as a random act of violence.

Since then, parents of college students have become more concerned about just what is being done to keep their children (many of whom are living away from home for the first time) safe from such crimes. Raleigh mom, Angela Dunn, whose daughter attends NC Central University, tells her repeatedly never to walk anywhere alone, that “adults are getting killed everyday.” She also maintains frequent cell phone contact with her daughter. But neither of these practices will improve her child’s safety on the campus. Constant reminders about the odds of being killed do not offer protection, and they probably create unnecessary anxiety. Frequent phone calls also do nothing to increase personal safety. They may reassure the mom that nothing has happened to her child yet, but the very conversation could serve to distract the young woman’s attention from someone sneaking up behind her.

Universities themselves are taking steps to show that they are sincere in their desire to increase campus security and protect their students. UNC Chapel Hill has instituted Safe Walks, a kind of “buddy system” so students don’t have to walk anywhere alone at night. Other colleges and universities have similar security guard-accompanied escorts. But there are built-in problems with this system. The first is that, when not carefully screened, some dangerous individuals (such as rapists) have been given positions of authority and, it turned out, opportunity when escorting women across a dark campus.

A second problem inherent in the buddy system/security escort is that it undermines a woman’s independence. Let’s face it: college guys are not the ones calling for someone to walk them across the quad at midnight. Putting this kind of system into operation tells a woman quite plainly that if she insists on walking the 2 blocks from the party to her dorm alone, she’s taking a big chance with her safety and it’s no one’s fault but her own if “something happens.” It’s saying that she needs someone to protect her.

To the worried mom and the universities, I want to say, “What about personal responsibility?” What about encouraging young men and (especially) women to take ownership of their safety, instead of relying on Mom and Dad, or The University, or some other Entity, to do it for them? The best way for people to stay safe is to take care of themselves. Not to wait for help. Not to naively believe that bad things can’t happen at their school. But to be able to handle whatever bad things (or people) slip through established security measures. That could mean a guy who doesn’t understand what “No” means… 2 strangers knocking on your door, in need of “assistance”… or someone who jumps into the elevator with you at the last second and gives you a creepy smile.

How do people take control of their personal safety? By being observant, first and foremost. By looking around as they walk. (Did that shadow just move? I think I’ll cross the street.) By hanging up the cell phone and listening. (Are those footsteps I hear behind me? I’ll just stop under this street light and let them pass.)

Okay, now you’re paying attention to what’s going on around you. Your next move should be to find a good self-defense class, in case you have to get physical. Sometimes, just letting a would-be attacker know he’s been spotted is enough to make him back off. Sometimes, a strong, loud warning to leave you alone is needed. If he gets his hands on you, you might have to execute a quick punch to his nose and a hard run down the street to get safe again. Would you rather have that knowledge and ability, or press a blue light and wait for the police to show up?

RAD is taught in a lot of colleges. If it’s not at yours, demand it. Administrators talk about the importance of keeping you safe, about enacting new security measures and precautions. Tell them your personal safety is your business, and you need them to provide the proper education and training. After all, getting the best education possible is what you’re paying them for.


Is a Restraining Order Enough to Protect You?

Wednesday, March 3rd, 2010

A young teacher in Tacoma, Washington, found herself the target of unwanted attention from a man she’d known years earlier at college. Through no action on her part, he became obsessed with her, calling as many as 15 times a day and sending flowers and gifts to the school where she worked. When he refused to leave her alone, she obtained a restraining order, making it illegal for him to contact her or approach her closely.

Last week, he showed up at her school, and shot her to death on the front walkway.

Restraining order… injunction… order of protection. Granted by a judge, it can render illegal the engagement in certain behaviors (such as coming into contact or close physical proximity to the holder of the order) by a specifically-named individual. If this individual disregards the protective boundaries set by the court, he can be arrested and jailed. But the order itself provides no armor, no bullet-proof vest to physically protect its holder; its power lies in the abuser’s respect for the law. When you’re dealing with someone who is mentally and/or emotionally unstable and quite possibly abusive, relying on them to respect a court order is, at best, naive and at worst, deadly.

Time and again, we’ve seen news stories in which a woman has been killed by someone who violated a restraining order. Yet, “Get a restraining order” is often the first advice given to women by concerned family members, friends, and police officers. And it’s true that sometimes being named in an order is enough to make an ex-boyfriend, estranged husband, or over-the-top “admirer” say, “The heck with this. It’s not worth getting myself into trouble.”

But what about when it’s not enough? A truly disturbed stalker will disregard the order and ensure that his target knows she’s still in danger. What then?

If the trouble has grown beyond the ability of law enforcement to protect you, it’s probably time to move. You are being hunted by an unwell individual; therefore, you must escape. Relocating may be your best chance of survival. Get a new job; find another place to call home. Staying with nearby friends or family may work for a few days, but if these people are known to the one who’s obsessing over you, you can be discovered easily. And, your would-be protectors will have become endangered, too.

There are web sites to aid you in keeping your new personal information private (out of public records and databases). One site I find particularly informative is Cover Your Tracks, at

http://www.esia.net/Cover_Your_Tracks.htm

authored by JT Zuzga, a private investigator in Scottsdale, AZ. Here, you can find out how to keep such important, detailed, and trackable data as your Social Security number, credit cards, driving records, and utilities info–not to mention your address and phone number–out of a stalker’s reach.

Is doing all this a pain in the butt? Yes. Is any of it your fault? No. Should you have to take such extreme measures? Absolutely not. But what is likely to happen if you don’t? The hunter will find you. Catch you. And most likely, because of serious emotional disturbance and/or mental illness, kill you. The choice is completely yours to make; you are in control of whether you let him destroy your life, or make an opportunity to do what you need to do to protect yourself (and the children you may have who are depending on you). If a restraining order isn’t enough to keep you safe, change your life. Make yourself safe.

Do What You Have to Do

Monday, February 1st, 2010

Sometimes, it really is just that simple. Say, for example, an intruder trespasses onto your property one night, and proceeds to help himself to whatever he wants. Going about your business, you discover him. You must act quickly because he could be dangerous. What do you do?

Well, if you’re Eileen Burke from Somerset, England, you snap into action. Finding a stranger stealing the food inside her shed one night, she grabbed a pitchfork, pointed it at him, and demanded he stay right where he was. She managed to padlock the shed’s door, preventing the man from escaping. Then she called the police.

The stranger was 36 years old and 6’4″ tall. He would make an intimidating adversary for many women based on his height and youth alone. Add to that the fact that Ms. Burke is 59 years old and suffering from severe arthritis in both knees. She is also almost completely blind due to glaucoma.

How did she do it? She says, “I don’t know what came over me. I was just so angry – it’s the fourth time it’s happened in six months!”

Ms. Burke’s anger helped her successfully defend herself and her property. Anger is empowering; it means you understand that you have been wronged in some way, and you don’t like it. It’s your self-esteem saying, “Hey! This is not okay!”

Contrary to the popular notion that “nice girls” don’t get angry, smart women earn how to use their anger, to make it serve them. Like Eileen Burke did–she got mad, went on the offensive, and successfully defended herself and her property. She did what she had to do.

Top Reasons NOT to Take Self-Defense – Part II

Thursday, January 28th, 2010

In my last blog entry, I talked about some of the most common “reasons” I hear for not taking a self-defense course. Maybe none of them struck a chord with you. You may feel you have a legitimate consideration for not wanting to sign up for a class. Perhaps you do; let’s look at the rest of the Top Reasons NOT to Take Self-Defense:

“I don’t go to areas where that sort of thing happens,” and “I stay out of bad neighborhoods.” Rapists, muggers, and those who commit domestic violence disregard personal boundaries as a matter of course. ‘Think they’re concerned about staying within particular geographic boundaries? Crimes against women happen 24 hours a day, every day, everywhere. In major cities, the suburbs, and in the country… in “bad” neighborhoods and “good” ones. A high percentage of violence against women is perpetrated by a husband or boyfriend. So, it can be fairly easy to trick yourself into thinking that, because you don’t see any unknown men lurking in your neighborhood, you’re safe. The fact is that we never know for sure when or if someone might target us for an attack. I believe that we’re safest when we’re prepared–just in case.

“It would make me uncomfortable.” In my class, as in others, we talk about real-life scenarios. To do otherwise would be a detriment to the women I serve. We practice how to break a choke hold, which involves a partner putting her hands around the woman’s neck. We learn how to block a punch to the face and disable our attacker so we can escape. And we do rape reversals, in which a participant finds out that she really isn’t helpless when she’s lying down, but can inflict enough damage on a rapist to save herself–and her children, if necessary.

If you’re feeling uncomfortable, it’s not because of the idea of taking a self-defense class. It’s because you understand that there are dangers out in the world that you’re not prepared to handle. RAD classes empower, build confidence, and reduce fear. You get the camaraderie of other women and the excitement of learning new skills. Give it a try, and see how much better you feel.

“I can’t afford it.” Ah, this is a biggie, right up there with “I don’t have time.” And it is a valid reason for not signing up for a class–except for one thing. Many courses are free. Others are offered for a nominal fee. RAD Systems has the added bonus of being the only self-defense course with a Free Lifetime Return Policy. That means that, once you complete the course, you can take it again and again, as often as you like, anywhere in the world RAD is offered, for absolutely no charge.

I look at it this way: if a rapist grabs you and you don’t know what to do… how much would you be willing to pay at that moment for him to let go of you and walk away? A class will be much less costly. In so many ways.


Top Reasons NOT to Take Self-Defense – Part I

Tuesday, January 26th, 2010

Having recently become certified to teach RAD Women’s Self-Defense, I want to offer the class to as many women as possible. When I tell people what we cover in the course and how it can help them, I am often met with one of the following responses. I would like to address them here:

“I just don’t have time.” This is one of the most common excuses I hear for not taking a self-defense class. I understand how busy everyone is these days. We multi-task and take shortcuts, and still don’t get everything done that we need to. And then there are the kids’ activities on top of it all!

It would be great if we could tell an attacker, “I’m sorry; I just don’t have time for this right now,” and walk away. Sadly, he doesn’t care what your schedule is like. He’s going to interrupt it….

Somewhere, there is a self-defense class just right for you. If you can scrape together one hour a week, a local college may teach the RAD course, or a martial arts school may offer a class that’s right for you. (Note: Be sure the martial arts school teaches a bona fide Women’s Self-Defense system, rather than a martial art. There are crucial differences; see RAD Women’s vs. Martial Arts.) If you don’t want to devote weeks or months to the process, look for a place that teaches in a workshop-format, such as a Saturday/Sunday, multi-hour, intensive program. Or check your local community center, Parks and Rec Department, or Y. They may offer something in-between, like a class that meets for a 2-hour session once a week for a month. We’re talking about learning how to save your life. It’s worth your time.

Other excuses I hear often are “I hurt my knee/back/shoulder” and “I’m not strong enough.” Implied in these statements are 2 ideas: 1) that you must be in top physical condition to successfully learn to defend yourself, and 2) that a mugger, rapist, or murderer will leave you alone if you have a limp, an arm in a sling, or some other visible weakness. Both are wrong.

I can’t speak for all self-defense systems, but I know that RAD is designed to be used successfully by the average woman in a life-threatening situation. Average people have injuries, weak points, vulnerable areas, etc. Here’s something you might not have considered: so do criminals. Unfortunately, they don’t let their physical issues stop them. You can’t let yours stop you, either. You don’t need previous experience as an athlete or martial artist. A well-timed, well-placed defensive move does your work for you without you needing to “muscle it out.” RAD is designed to work for women young, old, and in-between, no matter their level of fitness. The purpose of a good self-defense class is to show you how to save your life in an attack–not to make you feel like you’ve been through one.

“I’m too old.” Too old to what? To do something good for yourself? To learn some simple but important skills? I believe you’re never too old to help yourself. And if you think you’re too old to show up on an attacker’s radar, think again. A quick search of online news articles turns up page after page of reports of  women in their 80s and 90s who were raped, beaten, and killed in random acts of violence. Thankfully, I have also found several stories of women in the same age group, who fought back against their attackers and prevailed. Which group would you be in?

I hope you’ll check back for Top Reasons NOT to Take Self-Defense – Part II. If you have concerns about taking a Women’s Self-Defense class, I believe this entry or the next one can help ease your mind.










Real-Life: Not-A-Stranger Danger

Thursday, December 24th, 2009

Scanning the national headlines this morning, the first thing I read is this: More than 100 Could Be Victims of Pediatrician. Setting aside concern for what the actual number of children violated by this doctor may be, the point I want to draw attention to is that this man was not a stranger to them. As their doctor, he was someone they were familiar with–and he held a position of authority in their eyes. And he used that authority to help him commit his crimes.

Parents, you are in charge of your child’s safety and well-being. You know this; I’m not telling you anything new. What I will recommend, though, is that you do not leave your young children in the hands of an adult you do not know very well. If your child’s doctor or dentist says, “We prefer to bring the child back for the exam and have Mom or Dad stay in the waiting room,” they may have perfectly legitimate reasons for that. Or, they may want to separate a child from the best caretaker they have. My response to this practice has always been either, “No thank you, I’ll go back, too,” or “Thank you anyway; we’ll go somewhere else.”

Frequently, a concerned parent will come up to me and ask if my classes will teach their child to “Beware of Stranger Danger.” While I assure them that we do cover this quite a bit in radKIDS, I also want them to understand that, very often, it’s not the strangers that they need to watch out for. The danger may well lie with the people their kids already know–especially when those people hold a position of authority over children. This can include teachers, clergy, police officers–adults in general. Children are taught to “respect” their elders and do what they are told. But what does that mean? Is respect demonstrated by blind obedience?  By quietly acquiescing and allowing oneself to be belittled, injured, raped by someone with a sick mind? If a child unwittingly finds him/herself alone with someone who wants to harm them, are they forbidden from protecting themselves?

I believe we must be careful in what we teach our children. They want to please us and do what we tell them. Therefore, we must tell them that it’s okay to protect themselves if they feel they’re in danger. More than okay, it’s important. They need to know that they’re valuable, that they’re worth fighting for, and that no one has the right to hurt them. Not a stranger, not a neighbor, family friend, babysitter, teacher. Not even a doctor.

All in Fun? or Gun! Gun! Gun!

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

Hey! Wanna see somethin’ cool? Shhh…

What if a schoolmate beckoned your child to a corner of the classroom, smiled conspiratorially, and offered a peek at a prized item inside a Spiderman backpack? What if the prized item was a 9 mm. semi-automatic pistol? Very possibly loaded. And, at that moment, in the hands of a 10-year-old?

Would your child, in a combination of awe, envy, and admiration, gush in hushed tones, “Wow! Where’d you get that!” Would they ask to hold it? Just one time? For a second?

Or would they recognize the danger staring them in the face and run away, yelling to inform all others nearby, “Gun! Gun! Gun!”

I’ve read too many news stories about kids bringing guns to school. The fact that there are parents who care so little about their own children (not to mention other people’s) as to allow them to get their young hands on a deadly weapon–much less bring it to school to show off–disturbs me greatly.

But what I find even more alarming is the stance so many schools take on the issue of guns: a head-in-the-sand, don’t-talk-about-it policy. In these days of “zero tolerance,” schools like to think they’re being proactive by passing such rules as, “No talking about guns in class; no writing stories in which a gun is used; no play-‘shooting’ your friend who’s pretending to be an evil space alien at recess.”

An acquaintance of mine is a first-grade teacher. Rolling her eyes at the futility of her school’s policy, she told me, “We’re not even allowed to put the word ‘gun’ on our spelling lists! We have to make believe it doesn’t exist. How does that help the kids if there’s trouble?”

Good question. What these schools refuse to acknowledge is that none of the above-mentioned rules actually prevents someone from carrying a gun into a school. So, my answer to this extremely serious issue is to prepare kids for the situation, should it occur. Teach them how to use the tools they have to make smart choices, so they can keep themselves safe.

In this case, those tools are their legs, to run away, and their voices to yell, “Gun! Gun! Gun!” to alert trusted adults who can help. Then, give them the permission to do it, and the practice–to know they can.

Crack Candy is NOT Okay

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

A woman in Birmingham, Alabama, has created a lucrative business for herself. Working out of her home, she makes and sells candy that looks like the street drug, crack. She says she designed it this way intentionally, so it would be “fun, something people could laugh about.” She doesn’t care who buys it, as long as it keeps bringing in a nice profit. So, what’s wrong with producing and selling a candy that looks like an illegal substance? So what if it glamorizes drug use? And if it desensitizes kids to the very real dangers of mind-altering, body-damaging drugs, well, that’s the cost of doing business. She’s laughing all the way to the bank.

But, authorities who work with children are not laughing. One local Youth Services Director calls her Craque Candy offensive, and points out that we should be doing everything we can to protect kids–which includes not making a joke out of drug use. Police and educators agree that what its creator calls a “harmless, fun snack” sends the wrong message to kids.

Never one to stand in the way of good ol’ American ingenuity and capitalism, I think it’s great that this individual has developed a product that 1) the public wants, and 2) has become a lucrative source of income for her. However, when she starts pumping out something that endangers kids simply because of what it is, it’s no longer just her business. It has become my business, and the business of every parent of every child around her.

Crack-candy is bad for kids. It’s inappropriate, ill-advised, and can be dangerous. It’s a shame that, in the name of making a buck, this woman continues to direct her efforts into a product that could harm the welfare of a child. As someone who cares about children, that buck stops here.