Posts Tagged ‘rape’

Power to the Word? Or Power to YOU?

Thursday, February 6th, 2014

The other day, I was talking to a young lady who was interested in taking my Women’s Self-Defense class. She wanted to know if I thought it would be a good idea. “Absolutely. You’re in high school, you’re starting to go out on dates, to parties with lots of people you might not know well, and you’ll be around people who are drinking alcohol.”

“You teach how to fight?” she asked. When I told her that we do, her excitement grew. “Cool! What else is in the class?” I described that we cover the mindset of the attacker, how to recognize threatening behaviors… rape…

“RAPE?” She threw her arms out in front of her, then turned her head away from me and hugged herself, shutting down any further conversation. The word scared her so much, she no longer wanted to know how to protect herself, how to fight off an attacker, or how to be safe just walking through a parking lot to her car.

As a RAD Instructor, I get this response from women fairly frequently. But here’s the thing: Rape is a word. So is igloo; so is fern. But these other words don’t strike fear in a woman’s heart, don’t send chills up her spine, like the word rape does. Clearly, this is because when we hear the word rape, we imagine the crime that it names. We think of the terror, the violence, the degradation inherent in the act, and we want to distance ourselves from it as much as possible. It’s a natural survival technique.

Unfortunately, it’s also harmful, and can lead to death by extreme violence, or physical, emotional, and psychological damage that can last a lifetime.

RAD stands for Rape Aggression Defense. Our techniques combat the kind of assaults women encounter against one or more perpetrators who use anything from verbal coercion to physical violence to commit the crime of forced sexual relations. And the word RAPE is right there in the center of our logo. Anytime a RAD Women’s Self-Defense class is being held, participants will see that logo–and that word–on our registration forms, self-defense manuals, class eval sheets, and on the uniforms we wear as Instructors. Some women cringe at it. Others have asked RAD directly to remove it from their logo, because of the negative reaction it causes.

And that’s exactly why RAD put it in their logo to begin with–and why it stays there. The point is not to upset the women in our classes (some of whom are rape survivors). It’s to take the power away from the word. Think about it: if just seeing the letters R-A-P-E renders a woman so fearful that she freezes, what will happen to her when an attacker grabs her and threatens to kill her if she doesn’t do exactly what he says? RAD’s point is this: if you can’t say even the word… if you won’t acknowledge that it exists… you can’t fight it.

RAD takes the strength away from the word RAPE and gives that power to women.

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.

 

 

Teens Don’t Need an App for That

Tuesday, June 19th, 2012

We have become so enamored of our phones and tablets that I sometimes wonder if we could function without them. Whatever we need, “there’s an app for that!” ‘Can’t keep track of appointments? Schedule Planner is there to help. ‘Forgot what to pick up from the supermarket? Just check Grocery List. And, oh, look at that cute guy over there; it sure would be nice to meet him… Hey, with Skout, you can flirt with and meet new people. And it’s safe–it says so right on the app’s homepage: “We go to great lengths to make sure our community is fun and safe.” So it must be true. Just don’t ask the three teens who were sexually assaulted as a result of meeting members of Skout’s “fun and safe community.”

Parents, do you know what’s on your kids’ phones? What apps do they have? What videos are they watching? Who are they texting–and who is texting them? You need to know all of this, because whatever and whoever is on that phone is coming into your house and is part of your child’s life. This is true especially if that “child” is a teenager because so many teens believe, almost by definition, that they can take care of themselves just fine without you butting in. Don’t buy into the argument that they have a “right to privacy” where electronic communication is concerned. Predators thrive on privacy–on seclusion and secrets. And they use Skout to find their next victims.

In Kentucky, a 15-year-old girl willingly met a “friend” she had been flirting with on Skout. He seemed like a great guy, and offered to take her to visit her boyfriend who lived out of town. Imagine her surprise, upon meeting him, to learn that he wasn’t really a teen, but a 37-year-old man. Imagine her terror when he raped her.

In California, a mom called the police to report that her 12-year-old daughter was missing. Using clues from the girl’s cell phone, police located her nearby, in the bedroom of a man twice her age–a man she’d met on Skout.

And in a park in Wisconsin, a 13-year-old boy was rescued from a 21-year-old man who had hit him up on Skout. The man was found performing sexual acts with the boy. 

Granted, Skout has temporarily taken its “teens app” offline to fix the dangerous security holes in its “fun and safe” program. But there are dozens of “flirting” apps available to anyone with a computer or a phone.  They should not be used by anyone under the age of 21. Proud users of Skout and other apps may take offense at this, claiming that ending their online flirting will cause undue pain and suffering to their social lives, not to mention the loss of friendships and “important” connections. My point is this: where kids/teens gather, predators of kids/teens also gather. At the ages of 12… 15… 18… there is so much more to be concerned with than electronically winking at someone they haven’t met. School and outside activities are the most vibrant social network available to them. And at least there, they can see the person they’re dealing with face-to-face.

911 Won’t Make You Safe

Tuesday, December 27th, 2011

A woman I’m friendly with is in the process of breaking up with her longtime, on-again/off-again boyfriend. I say “in the process” because they’ve already had The Talk; he knows it’s over, and she’s packing up her things to head back home in another state.

The other night, after spending several hours at a bar with his buddy, Soon-to-Be-Ex came home drunk and threatened my friend with a knife. She responded by backing slowly into a corner of the room where the phone was, ready to call 911. Fortunately, seeing just how terrified he had made her was enough for him. He put the knife down and left the house.

I listened quietly as she told me all this. Then, my concern for her got the better of me, and I blurted out, “You were gonna call 911 when he was threatening to cut your throat?? Why didn’t you run??”

Confused, she reiterated, “But I was going to call the police!”

I told her that, in that kind of emergency, she needs to get away from her attacker first. Then call for help. If he had followed through on his threat, 911 would have heard the entire, horrible scene play out. The operator would have immediately dispatched police and EMTs to the address. But he/she could do nothing to physically stop him from hurting, possibly killing, her.

If you ever find yourself in a domestic violence or abusive situation, don’t back yourself up against a wall, furniture, or anything else. You must be free to move in any direction to escape injury and get away.

Know where your exits are. Is the doorway leading to the hall, the stairs, and the front door on your right? Your left? Behind you? Keep yourself oriented. Is there a window with a screen you can kick out?

Also, think about what’s right there for you to use as a shield or weapon. A tall vase can block a slashing knife. One woman threw a small lamp at a decorative mirror, then grabbed a shard of glass and cut her attacker with it. (He fled.)

Yes, calling 911 is the right thing to do when you’re in a dangerous situation. The police will get there as fast as they can. But there’s no guarantee they’ll arrive in time to stop the attacker from injuring or killing you. Sometimes, you’ve got to get yourself away from the danger so they can help you.

Sitting Duck

Tuesday, February 15th, 2011

I was parked in a large lot yesterday, trying to help a friend into my car. (My friend needed the help because he currently has casts on his arm and leg from a skiing accident.)  A young woman, 20-something, had just entered the car parked next to mine on the passenger’s side. I waited for a moment for her to back up and drive away.

She sat.

Okay, no problem. I would roll my buddy up to the door and we would proceed from there.

I walked up the narrow space between my front passenger door and her driver’s side door, conscious to avoid startling her. I need not have worried; she never noticed I was there. She was busily balancing her checkbook and chatting on her phone. (In my mind’s eye, I could see police officers shaking their heads and rolling their eyes already. This behavior, much more popular with women than with men, drives them crazy.) There’s nothing wrong with connecting with friends or keeping track of personal finances. In fact, both are recommended. There are, however, safer places to do them than in one’s car in a parking lot in the middle of the day. I also noticed that her door was unlocked and her window was lowered several inches.

The combination of her ongoing discussion and her financial calculating made her extremely vulnerable to attack. And I was directly beside her, my fingers right next to the handle of her unlocked car door. How easy would it have been for someone to rip open that door and either pull her out or jump in on top of her?

Her cell phone would have done her no good; the person she was talking to might hear her scream in surprise, but that’s certainly not going to deter a rapist from carrying out his plans. Her checkbook, lying open on the seat? It spells out her full name, address, phone number, and possibly other private information(driver’s license, Social Security number?) that–if she thought about it–she would prefer strangers and Bad Guys not to know.

After a few semi-acrobatic and balancing moves, my friend was able to get into my car. I turned to look once more at the lady next to us. She continued to chat and scribble away on her paperwork, never seeming to notice us. Her window was still open and her door, still unlocked. I thought about dropping a note in to her through that window, advising her to take a women’s self-defense class–she certainly could use some tips to make herself safer in today’s world. But, I didn’t do it. I didn’t want to scare her.

Amazon Supports Pedophile Guide

Wednesday, November 10th, 2010

I’m one of those folks who’s all for looking at issues from a new perspective. If someone’s got a different point of view and I can learn something from them, great. Still, there are absolutes that I live my life by, and some things are just indefensible. This is one of them: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/40112145/?gt1=43001

“The Pedophile’s Guide to Love and Pleasure” is a how-to manual for adults who wish to engage in sexual activity with children–a practice which, by the way, is against the law. The fact that this book was written doesn’t surprise me. Working as a radKIDS Instructor for the past few years has made me very aware of the sick and twisted members of our society who prey on the innocent.

The fact that Amazon.com, a website I frequent for books and other online purchases, supports it and considers it worthy of selling? This I find disgraceful. And simply unacceptable.

Yes, Amazon is a private company and, therefore, can sell whatever it wants to (within the limits of the law). And yes, this piece of “work” has come under the scrutiny of police officials and been found not to cross the boundary of legality in the strictest definition of the word. That that it cannot be immediately pulled from the cyber-shelves on grounds of unlawfulness does not make it less dangerous, but more so. Its presence on Amazon lends it false credibility and undeserved legitimacy.

Those who have protested Amazon’s acceptance of the book have been attacked by proponents of “free speech!” I love my right to free speech. And I understand that, from time to time, I will come across thoughts and ideas that I may not like, but they are protected under the First Amendment. I also understand that not every word uttered by a human being meets the criteria to be covered by “free speech!” Hate speech, for one, is not protected. Nor is speech deliberate in its intent to cause harm to another. And that’s exactly what The Pedophile’s Guide is.

No one, regardless of personal problems, mental or emotional issues, or past torments, has the right to hurt a child. It’s that simple. Talking about how to do it, writing an “informational guide” or “instructional manual” on the best ways to violate, humiliate, and permanently damage those who cannot protect themselves is not something to be valued and protected. It is criminal.

Do you consider yourself open-minded? Excellent. Here’s a review of the book by someone who might babysit your kids some time:

“I can’t thank Amazon enough for keeping this great work of literature up for those of us with ‘special tastes.’ The instructions and images in the guide were extremely insightful and led to a wonderful experience for both myself and my partner. Thank you for protecting free speech, Amazon!”

Has the Almighty Dollar usurped our decency, morality, and the recognition that we must protect our children? This is not about “free speech!” or the right of this “author” to make money from his writing. This is about one of the strongest sites on the internet supporting a book about the “joy” of child rape.

She Did “Everything Right”

Monday, May 17th, 2010

A few days ago, I wrote about the attempted abduction of a woman in Chapel Hill, NC. The suspect grabbed her as she jogged along a busy street, at approximately 2 in the afternoon. Police investigators have reason to believe that the man charged in the crime may also be involved in other recent incidents, including the attempted kidnapping of two teenage girls and the severe beating of a woman still in Intensive Care.

The attacker had a shotgun and a baseball bat in his car, and a pack of condoms in his pocket. However, when asked by a reporter if women in the area should be worried, Lt. Kevin Gunter of the Chapel Hill Police Department said no: “This was a woman that was jogging in an area that is very well traveled with both pedestrians and vehicles, broad daylight. She absolutely did nothing wrong.”

No woman who has ever been or will be attacked does anything “wrong” to invite the attack. As a friend of mine said, “She could be sashaying naked through the woods at midnight! While not smart, it still doesn’t give anyone the right to attack her.” So, not doing anything wrong does not appear to be enough of a reassurance to women that they will stay safe.

Look at what the officer said: the victim was in a well-traveled area, with plenty of car and foot traffic. It was broad daylight. She was doing everything right. And look at what happened: she was grabbed by a man in front of several witnesses. He proceeded to drag her to his car, in which he had weapons. He is believed to have a history of violent crimes. If two bystanders hadn’t intervened in the kidnapping attempt, this jogger would likely have been raped and murdered by this man.

I think that’s more than enough grounds for women to be concerned–if not necessarily “worried”–for their safety. I know that the police see the worst of the worst when it comes to the evils that human beings can commit against one another. Perhaps Lt. Gunter believes all’s well that ends well, and with this man in custody for the time being, women need not worry about a threat to their well-being. My concern is that these women may not have paid attention to their safety before this happened–and then it happened. The very fact that things still happen, whether we’re prepared for them or not, seems reason enough to me to be prepared.

I’m not advocating living in fear, being afraid every time you go out, or burying your head in the sand when it comes to crime. I’m saying to get out there, take a self-defense class, and learn not only physical skills to use against an assault, but some new ideas on how to avoid being chosen as a target in the first place. Because, yeah, this guy is off the streets for now. But, what if someone else is waiting around the corner?

Too Busy to Be Safe?

Thursday, May 13th, 2010

Several women have come up to me and said that they want to take my self-defense class. They live alone, they work odd hours, or their careers involve travel and they don’t always feel comfortable when they’re by themselves. I totally understand that feeling. It’s why I took the RAD course myself, and why I became an Instructor.

But, when I sit down with them to schedule a class, something changes: “Oh, I can’t make it that day; I’m going to visit my parents,” or “That would have worked, but I just booked something for that weekend,” or “I’m so busy this month and into next; can we try for the summer?”

My friends, we can try for any time you want. I will teach you any time you can be available. There’s just one thing. Yesterday afternoon, not far from here, in broad daylight and full view of everyone passing by, a guy grabbed a young woman right off the sidewalk.

He shot a stream of pepper spray into her eyes, and then proceeded to drag her to his car, which he’d parked in a nearby lot. Fortunately, two men driving by saw the woman struggling against the attacker, and quickly pulled into the parking lot. This probably saved her life. Caught in the act, he pushed her away and drove off. Police found his car a short time later; inside were a shotgun and a baseball bat. When they arrested him, they found condoms in his back pocket.

The case is still being investigated, but police have found no evidence that this man simply enjoys hunting, baseball, and the company of a lady. What they have found strong evidence of is a connection to the brutal beating of a woman still lying in intensive care in a local hospital. He’s also wanted for questioning in the attempted abduction of two teenage girls a few days ago.

Am I saying that, by taking my class, my friends will never be harmed? Or that, had they taken the course, the women in these events would have been able to fight off an attacker armed with pepper spray? No, I’m not saying that–but I am saying that taking a RAD Women’s class can make you safer. Yes, we teach techniques to block the strikes and break the hold of a assailant. But we also teach you how to reduce your risk of becoming a victim, what to look out for, and how best to react when or if something unexpected (and bad) happens.

I know you’re busy. But it’s about priorities. Do you want to make staying safe a priority? Or do you want to keep crossing your fingers and hoping that it won’t happen to you? Because I would bet that if 2 days ago, you had asked the 19-year-old woman walking down the street minding her own business if she thought she might be abducted in broad daylight, raped, and murdered, she would have said no, too.

No Such Thing as Date Rape

Thursday, April 1st, 2010

A student at American University in Washington, DC has written in his school newspaper that in his opinion, women who have been victims of date rape “asked for it.” Twenty years old and generously sharing his insight on the subjects of women in society, sexuality, and interpersonal communication, Alex Knepper writes:

“Let’s get this straight: any woman who heads to an EI [fraternity] party as an anonymous onlooker, drinks five cups of the jungle juice, and walks back to a boy’s room with him is indicating that she wants sex, OK?”

This presents an interesting interpretation of events. While on-campus socializing may be fine, he seems to think that going to a party at a frat house is engaging in foreplay. And drinking alcohol–a perfectly legal activity for anyone in this country over the age of 21–further “lubricates” the process, shall we say?

Then there’s the clincher: walking back to a boy’s room. This signals a woman’s desire for sex… how? Has the boy (we would hope for a man, but Knepper must know of what he speaks) become a mind-reader during the stroll through campus? Can he tell by looking that she is thinking, “I want to have sex with this guy as soon as we get to his room” ? Is there no other reason why she choose to spend time with him? I imagine that, if Knepper had asked some women what reasons they’ve had for going to a man’s room, he would have learned several.

If the confused young man in the above example wants to know what the enigmatic female is thinking, he should ask her. If he wants to know how the rest of the evening will proceed, he should ask her about that, too. He needs to hear her speak the words, “Yes, I want to have sex with you,” or “No, I don’t want to have sex with you.” Trying to guess her thoughts or interpret her actions leaves him open to gross misunderstanding–and to jail time. Rape is a crime, no matter how horny he may be.

As Katherine Hull, spokesperson for the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) explains, the issue at the center of rape is consent: “Even if you drink and wear short skirts — that is not consent. Even if a woman gave consent previously, it does not mean consent for right now.” Further, she clarifies that consent can be compromised due to excessive alcohol or drug consumption. What this means for those who adhere to Mr. Knepper’s reasoning is, “If someone doesn’t have the capacity to consent, they can’t.” Therefore, the inability to say “no” should not be taken as “yes.” Rape is not excused when it is a crime of opportunity.

Knepper disagrees. He writes that women give “implied consent” by putting themselves in the “sexual arena” at a party where there are expectations of drinking and sex. He states, “In that situation, men can only know the information that is given to them.” My question is, why do these men have an expectation of sex? A party is just that–a party, a social event. It’s taking place in a frat house, not a brothel. If the entire evening is a set-up for having sex, why not just skip the small talk and the accoutrements, and cut right to the chase? Stand on the front porch and call out to all who pass by, “Hey! Wanna get laid? Come on in!” That way, the intent is clear, and no one can accuse anyone else of misunderstanding. Or, maybe the problem is with the expectations of these men who equate a woman’s presence at their little soiree as desire on her part to mate with them.

During training to be a RAD Women’s Self-Defense Instructor, my fellow candidates and I were presented with two scenarios. In the first, a man and a woman go out for dinner, then to a movie. Afterward, she walks with him to his apartment. Once inside, he rapes her. We were asked, “What’s this called?” Date rape?

In the second scenario, a man and a woman go out for dinner, then to a movie. Afterward, she walks with him to his apartment. Once inside, he murders her. We were asked, “What’s this called?” Date murder?? No. Murder is murder, regardless of the circumstances surrounding it. The same holds true for rape. “Sexual intercourse without clear consent” is rape–regardless of the circumstances surrounding it. Tacking on the word “date” does not lessen the violation, shock, fear, and betrayal of trust that a woman suffers at the hands of the rapist. Whether he jumped out at her from a dark alley or forced her onto the mattress in his dorm room, there is no such thing as “date” rape; there is only rape.

Could You Fight for Your Life?

Thursday, March 4th, 2010

Police have found evidence that California teenager Chelsea King was raped and murdered along her favorite jogging trail by a known sex offender. We don’t know if Ms. King fought against her killer, was rendered unable to fight, or froze in terror. Whatever the case, she should never have needed to defend herself in the first place.

A  few weeks prior to Ms. King’s attack, another young woman was assaulted on the same path, apparently by the same man. How did Candice Moncayo survive and escape? She fought until she could get away.

Moncayo was running along the trail when, without warning, she was tackled from the side and thrown to the ground. She said later, “I thought he was going to rape me, so I told him he’d have to kill me first.”

Whether these words had any effect on her attacker, I don’t know. But I do know that they reflected Moncayo’s willingness to fight for her life. And the very act of voicing them helped her survive. How? Because speaking or, even better, yelling, during extremely stressful situations keeps us breathing. Rather than gasping for shallow breaths, when we vocalize, we automatically take air in more deeply. This allows oxygen to reach our brains, so we can think clearly and make split-second decisions necessary for survival. It also ensures we get enough oxygen into our arms and legs, so we can run when an opportunity opens up.

The attacker grabbed her by the shoulders and shook her hard, for what seemed an eternity. Still trapped in his arms but unwilling to give up, she executed an elbow strike–and hit pay dirt. She landed the blow right smack into his nose, smashing it.

Stunned by the sudden pain, he stopped shaking her and loosened his grip momentarily. Seeing her chance to escape, she ran for her life and made it to safety.

I don’t know how Moncayo learned to use the elbow strike to defend herself. But I know how you can. Find a good Women’s Self-Defense class and take it. In RAD classes, we go over (and over again) how to yell and not scream… what to yell… and how to deliver effective elbow strikes–as well as many other techniques. We also cover ground-fighting and rape-reversals, so important for women to know. I realize you’re busy; I understand that the last thing you have the time and money for right now is a self-defense course. But this is your life we’re talking about here. Make your safety a priority.

An added bonus to Moncayo’s use of the elbow strike–it left a sample of the perpetrator’s DNA on her arm that police were able to swab for identification and evidence. Knowing how to fight for yourself–it’s empowering.


The Biggest Reasons NOT to Attack a Woman

Thursday, January 28th, 2010

Criminal psychologists, sociologists, and others who study human behavior have gone into prisons to ask convicted rapists and murderers how they chose their targets. What they have learned may surprise you. Attackers don’t look for the smallest woman, or the one who seems weakest. They’re not really concerned with what she’s wearing or how far from the store she parked. They look for what’s not there: confidence and awareness. Criminals are expert in interpreting the nuances of human behavior, and they can quickly size up who most likely will and won’t fight back.

Someone walking with her head down, perhaps with her arms crossed in front of her body, projects insecurity. Because she’s trying so hard to be invisible, she’s not paying attention to what’s going on around her. This leaves her open to a surprise attack.

Conversely, a woman who walks briskly with her head up, eyes alert and scanning the scene around her, signals, “Don’t mess with me.” According to many of the convicts interviewed, they won’t.

Imagine the following scenario: A serial rapist lurks in the shadows outside a shopping center. He’s assessing potential targets as they exit the mall and head into the parking lot. Who would make an easy victim?

  • First is a cute 21-year-old in a slinky dress, probably going to meet her friends for a night on the town. She strides purposefully to her car.
  • Then, there’s you, dressed for function rather than to impress, in relaxed-fit jeans and a comfortable top. You’re chatting on your cell phone with a friend.
  • And here comes an elderly lady, toting shopping bags and looking around the parking lot as she makes her way slowly to her car.

Who is he going to pick? Not the youngest of the three. The strong, alert way she moved indicated she would fight for herself. Attackers don’t want to have to battle with their victims; that’s too likely to draw unwanted attention and intervention.

He won’t choose the oldest woman, either. Even though her arms were full of packages, she continually noted what was going on around her as she made her way through the parking lot. She would see him approaching, and have time to prepare.

That leaves you. Because your attention is divided between your phone conversation and your walk to the car, you don’t even know he’s there. You’ve made yourself the easiest target for him to surprise, subdue, and violate–probably to the point of serious injury, possibly to death.

Don’t allow yourself to become easy prey. If you feel you need a boost in projecting that “Don’t mess with me” signal, get into a self-defense class designed for women. In RAD, everything we do is designed to strengthen that double shield of confidence and awareness.

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.