January, besides being rainy and chilly, is Human Trafficking Awareness Month.  Human trafficking is basically a synonym for slavery.  It’s a multi-billion dollar industry worldwide.  And — if you think it happens elsewhere but not here — the Puget Sound has a very lively human trafficking industry.

Several years ago I participated on a safety panel for a local transitional housing agency.  Also on the panel were a domestic violence advocate, an art therapist, and two officers with the Seattle Police Department.  At one point, one of officers went off on a tangent — they were excited because they had recently arrested a particular pimp.  The significance was this pimp’s specialty:  he prostituted young teen girls, between the age of 12 and 14.  At that time I had no idea such a specialty existed.  

What also made his capture significant was his success in “recruiting” young girls to prostitution.  It seemed to have everything to do with his targeting.  He would hang out in shopping malls (apparently Northgate and Alderwood were his favorites), around the food court or clothing stores popular with that age girl.  He’d be looking for girls who were by themselves.  Not just that they were alone, they seemed lonely.  Maybe they didn’t have friends, or friends in school, or were bullied at school.  Maybe there was abuse at home, or a parent had substance abuse or mental health issues and wasn’t emotionally available as a parent.  Maybe she was homeless, or questioning her sexuality or gender identity and not getting support.  Maybe she was angry at life, at her circumstances, and wanted something different.  He was looking for that sense.  He would approach a possible target, and say, “Look, I just have to tell you, you have the most amazing gorgeous eyes.”  The main response he’d be watching for was for her to drop her gaze, to lower her eyes.  That’s submissive body language, and if he saw that he knew he could get her.  If not, he might just say, “hey, just thought I’d let you know, have a great day,” and he’d leave.  He was looking for easy, not a fight.  If he saw the response he wanted, he’d keep talking, engaging her in conversation.  He was good at this, his experience gave him a good basis for saying what young girls may want to hear.  And he seemed to be a real listener.  Very often they’d leave an hour or two or three later, having exchanged cellphone numbers.  She’d maybe be thinking, wow I have a new friend, this guy seems to understand what I’m going through.  Maybe a few weeks later she’d be thinking, wow I have a great new boyfriend, so much better and more mature than stupid boys my age.  Even further down the road, after he’d rape her, have some of his buddies rape her, force her to use drugs, force her to engage in commercial sex, she’d still have a strong emotional attachment to him.  

I have no idea if this pimp’s approach was “typical,” I suspect not.  Many pimps are not strangers:  they can be family members, friends, classmates.  Nevertheless, he was successful, at least until he got caught.  

Do you want to learn more about human trafficking?  Check out these websites:

Learn more about how to recognize the signs that someone you know may be falling into trafficking, or may already be in that web.  Recognize it is a local problem.

Stay safe, live life.

Good morning!  This is my first blog post of this new year.  And it’s another chilly wintery rainy day in the glorious Emerald City that is Seattle.

Today I’m talking about a self-defense success story with a “found” weapon.  About a decade ago I was working with a downtown company.  They brought me in to teach their staff some self-defense, because one had been assaulted, right by their building.

She was on her break, and gone downstairs for a cigarette.  As she stood near the entry, she could not help but notice the youngish man walking and yelling.  She noticed that he was dressed well, seemed well groomed, and decided he must be on a phone call (remember back then we had these bluetooth earpieces that made us look oh so cool?).  So her attention to him drifted away — for about two seconds.  Next thing she knew, that same youngish man had her slammed against the wall, and his hands were around her throat.  And then, almost as suddenly, he was running away; she realized she had thrust her still-lit cigarette into his neck.  

Now, I am not saying you should take up smoking so you can have a lit cigarette as your found weapon.  However, when somebody does catch your attention, pay more mind to their behavior than to their attire.  The suit and tie is just the wrapping paper, it tells you little about the contents, about their character or intent or state of mind.

Think of how you can use other everyday objects as your found weapon, should you need to.  Pick up something, anything.  Hold it, look at it, turn it in your hands.  How can you use it against someone else’s vulnerabilities?  Try a few slow-motion practice strikes.  What do I have nearby?  Oh a paintbrush.  Not exactly the strongest stick, but if I grip it close to the end can I use it to poke someone’s eye or throat?  What do you have nearby?

Winter term classes are still in person, and open for registration.  Proof of vaccination is required, wearing your mask is required, and we’re making sure air circulation and filtration is in place and running.  

Stay safe, live life.