Posts Tagged ‘self defense’

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.



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.

“It’s So Great!”

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010

Upon finishing my most recent RAD Women’s Self-Defense class, I asked the participants what they thought. Had they gotten what they wanted from the class? Did they feel safer going out into the world? They responded that, yes, they had learned new ways of protecting themselves, and if they ever found themselves in a dangerous situation, they would be ready to do what they had to do.

My youngest student, a young woman of 17, said to me, “You know what’s really cool? It’s so great to find out what you can do!” During the class, she found out that she had not only the will, but the power and the ability to take down a male attacker much taller and heavier than herself, and to render him incapable of continuing his assault. She found out that, if she ever needs to, she can and defend herself successfully. She can fight for her life and win.

That knowledge alone makes her safer as she goes about her life. Why? Because muggers, rapists, and thugs of all kinds are experts at body language. They can spot a potential target from across a parking lot, or down a busy street. The person who’s looking down at their feet, who’s thinking, “Don’t anyone look at me; I don’t want any trouble,” is going to pull their attention. The one busily chatting on her cell phone, telling herself that it will keep her safe, is going to have him shaking his head and chuckling before he slips quietly behind her and grabs her. (And what will her friend on the other end of the phone do to “help” her at that point? Tell the police that he heard her scream and drop the phone.)

Then there’s the RAD woman who strides to her destination with purpose, looking at what’s happening around her. The one who’s thinking, “What if someone came from over there? What tools do I have available to fight with right now?” He’s going to stay away from that one–too much trouble. She’d see him coming and be able to provide the police with a description. She also might be ready to counter his best take-down move. He’d lose the element of surprise. If he can’t sneak up on her so she’s paralyzed with shock and fear, she’s liable to start yelling and attract attention. And that’s definitely not what he wants. Better to find a easy victim and leave the RAD chick alone.

Oh, The Places You’ll Go–and Everyone Will Know

Thursday, August 19th, 2010
Who. What. When. And Now Where

That’s Facebook’s ad for their new “service” called Places, available on the I-Phone and I-Touch. And they’re saying it like it’s a good thing. Please don’t be naive enough to believe themunless, of course, you want your home broken into, your personal space violated, and your valuable possessions stolen. If that’s the case, then by all means, post as frequently as you can on Places.

But first, allow me to de-construct the hype. Facebook wants you to take part in this latest self-invasion of privacy because it brings them lots of money. The more people they have posting on Places, the more advertisers they can lure and the more they can charge those advertisers. So, keep in mind that telling anyone on the ‘net where you are (and conversely, where you are not, such as your home) at any given moment does not offer any added convenience to your life. It doesn’t make you richer or more good-looking, and it certainly doesn’t make you smarter. What it can make you is a crime victim.

“Share where you are!” Facebook urges you to use Places to tell your friends that you’re at the “Best. Concert. Ever.And if they’re using the program, too, you can post back and forth to one another in real time. Or, you can put your phone away for a while and actually watch the Best. Concert. Ever.

“See exactly where your friends are at any time!” You can find out that Ryan’s at work… Steve’s at the gym… and Denise is having a filling replaced. Seriously, this sort of hot-off-the-presses info couldn’t wait ’til later?

“Find friends who are nearby and get together!” This feature might be vital for anyone who doesn’t have texting, IM, Twitter, email, or a phone. But that eliminates most, if not all, of your friends, and a large portion of the U.S. population.

People complain that we have “too much security” these days–video cameras in public spaces, recording everyday activities. “The government is getting carried away! It’s Big Brother all over again!” But these same folks think nothing about telling the entire internet who they are, where they live, and where they’re going to be at what time. Security cameras aren’t necessary to report their activities and whereabouts–they’re doing it themselves.

So, what can you do? Simply opt out of Places. Follow these step-by-step instructions to disable the program on your I-Phone or I-Touch:

Congratulations! You’ve just taken a big step in arming yourself against robbery, stalking, and other crimes that are made possible when personal information goes public.

New App is False Security

Sunday, May 2nd, 2010

Have you seen the commercial Verizon is currently running? It’s for a new app they’re selling, called Family Locator. Verizon claims it’s “peace of mind at your fingertips.”

The ad shows a mom at the mall with her teen daughter. The mom appears concerned for the young girl’s safety as she turns, armed with her cell phone, and heads down the escalator with her friends. But, not to worry! Mom has peace of mind at her fingertips with the new Family Locator app. Just by touching a few buttons, GPS technology lets her dial into the precise location of the cell phone in her daughter’s hand. Mom can pinpoint the locations of other family members as well–and if any of them should need help, she can instantly call up driving directions to the exact spot highlighted on their phone.

Of course, issues can arise that won’t be serious enough to require the Family Locator: “Hello, Mom? Jenny isn’t feeling well. Can you come and get us?” Still, it can give you turn-by-turn directions to the food court if you really want them.

What’s deceptive about this ad–and this app–is that it’s not a family locator; it’s a phone locator. For an actual emergency of the kind the ad hints at, the odds of the daughter keeping her phone in her possession are low. In an abduction or assault, one of the first things her attacker will do is cut off her ability to call for help. He’s going to get rid of that phone quickly, whether it’s in her hand, her purse, or hanging from her belt. He’ll likely break it, or just throw it into a garbage can or across the parking lot. So, Mom is pinging her cell and thinking things are fine: “Ah, she’s still in the department store.” She doesn’t realize her daughter is in danger, because the cell phone is reporting its location, not the girl’s. Meanwhile, the daughter is trapped with a predator, and valuable search time is being lost.

Now, I’m not trying to “rat out” Verizon. I think they’re excellent cell phone providers. But my first concern is for keeping kids safe. And this app, while it has definite uses, cannot keep kids safe. That’s fine, except that it’s being advertised as if it can.

If you want greater peace of mind when your kids are out on their own, my best suggestion is to sign them up for a self-defense class that will teach them

  1. how to recognize tricks that predators use to lure kids every day
  2. how to get help quickly in a public place and
  3. how to physically defend themselves if they need to

This knowledge will serve them much better than a cell phone app.

The Lights are On, But No One’s Home

Friday, April 23rd, 2010

Ya gotta love the Age of Technology. Today, we have phones that surf the ‘net, shoot video, and send email while you’re talking to someone. And they’ve been made fairly affordable, so even if you don’t have one, you probably know somebody who does. And look at all the ways to “make your mark” in the cyber world, to let people “out there” know who you are and what you’re doing.There’s FaceBook, Linked In, Twitter, and, not to mention sites specifically tailored to book lovers, travel aficionados, educators, musicians, and other niche groups. And they’re thriving. New sites are being created every day. Why? Because humans are social creatures. We need to connect to others, to be recognized, appreciated. We need to make ourselves known.

So, how much of yourself are you making known? Do you inform everyone who comes across your FaceBook page what general area you live in, and what your crazy schedule is like? Do you post pictures of the beautiful view outside your bedroom window? And, do you put out there for the world to see that you’re leaving town, and your home will be empty for the next 3 days? A lot of people do. Heck, I’ve got a friend who does it, and it makes me crazy! I get it–you’re looking forward to your big weekend getaway to New York City. You’re going to see a show, stroll through Central Park, and this time, you’re going to make sure you get in line early to go to the top of the Empire State Building. You’re psyched, and you want to share your excitement with (several hundred of) your closest friends. Great! But think about who else can see your plans.

Allow me to introduce you to a website called The intent of this site is not actually to steal your things; it’s to make you aware that you may inadvertently be doing something that can hurt you. As they explain, “On one end we’re leaving lights on when we’re going on a holiday, and on the other we’re telling everybody on the Internet we’re not home.” ‘Ever use Foursquare, Brightkite, GoogleBuzz, or Twitter search pages? They offer up your complete home address right there on the screen for the world to access. Now, having the entire cyber-world see your address may not bother you. But having some unsavory dude around the corner see it might.

Check out, and then go back and look at your social networking pages. Are you giving out too much personal information? Are you virtually inviting trouble by what you share? Keep in mind that you have a right to privacy, and some things (like where you are, what you do in your off-time, and who you do it with) are your business only. You don’t have to broadcast your life to the world. If you want to share your trip to the Big Apple, post pictures when you get back. (Keeping news of your plans off the web will help insure that your desktop computer is still there when you get home.) If you want more instantaneous feedback, use that funky new phone and call a few friends!

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.

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.

3 Safety Tips for Women

Tuesday, January 12th, 2010

This morning’s local news featured a report of a suspected serial rapist in the area. At least 7 women have been attacked and brutalized in their own homes. In response to this article, I offer 3 safety measures that women can take to protect themselves.

Tip #1: Buy a peephole kit for each entry door into your home or apartment, and install them immediately. If you don’t want to do the job yourself, have your boyfriend, brother, neighbor, or landlord do it. Then, don’t open your door to anyone you do not recognize. A rapist doesn’t care what hour of the day it is; he will attack when it’s most convenient for him. If someone comes to your door in the middle of the night, maybe saying there’s been an accident and he needs help, call 911 right away. If he’s on the level, he’ll get the help he requested. If he was trying to fool you to get inside your home, you’ve kept yourself safe and alerted the police. (They might even be able to catch him before he gets far.)

What if you look through your new peephole and see someone holding up a badge? Same thing applies–do not be blindly trusting and open the door to a rapist. Call the police and find out if they sent an officer to your address, and for what purpose. If it turns out that the guy standing on the doorstep is legit, great. He’ll understand why you needed to double-check his ID. If the officer on the phone says that no one was dispatched to your location, that means an imposter–wearing a costume and pretending to be a law enforcement officer–tried to get into your house. But you kept him out and yourself safe.

Tip #2: Rent a PO box and use that as your address on checks, forms, and written applications. A small post office box is inexpensive, and it’s a great way to protect your private information. Plus, many people use PO boxes for business mail, so using it as an address is not unusual.

It seems like, everywhere we go these days, we’re asked for personal data. And this often has nothing to do with the product or service we’re interested in; it’s merely a way for companies to get marketing feedback. But how do we know the trustworthiness of the people we’re giving our information to? Or those who will see it further down the line? The guy at the cell phone store, the receptionist at the salon, and the cashier at the supermarket where you use your Best Customer card… these people don’t need to know where you live. Granted, they’re probably not interested–but someone else may be. And that someone may have access to confidential files. You don’t want them to have access to your home address.

Tip#3: Keep your car keys next to your bed at night. First, if you need to leave your home in a hurry, you won’t waste any time looking for them. Second–and more important–most cars now come equipped with alarm buttons on the key chain. Test yours; it can probably activate your car’s alarm from inside the house. If you hear someone creeping around outside or trying to break in, switch on the alarm. It will most likely send a would-be attacker running. Then, make sure you’re safe, and call 911.