Your voice is your most important safety tool.  But sometimes your voice, a solo voice, alone, is not enough.

Several years ago I read about this strategy used by women staffers at the White House.  Although then-President Obama did have numerous women on staff, they often felt unheard in a still mostly male environment.  They chose to “amplify” each other.  When one make a point, others would repeat it and give credit to the originator.  It was simple, and effective.

A friend of mine was dealing with a verbally abusive supervisor.  He wasn’t abusive just to her, but to anyone in his environment.  Over the years individuals in the department would approach HR and senior management.  But nothing happened, and eventually staff stopped going to HR.  One day this supervisor had a particularly abrasive day, which impacted multiple staff as well as customers.  A majority of staff from that department converged on HR and management.  This time the supervisor was let go.  Because a group acting together can accomplish what individuals cannot.

But sometimes even that isn’t enough. Sometimes it takes a lot of people.  Thousands.  Tens of thousands,  Hundreds of thousands.  Thousands of thousands.  You can’t fit into HR’s office.  You’re in the streets.

In our self-defense classes we talk strategically about using our voices.  When to set boundaries in a conversational tone, or when to get LOUD.  You want to get LOUD when you need to attract attention.

Now is a good time to be LOUD.Black Lives Matter

You probably want to balance your own safety with your need to speak up.  Take a look at this Protest Safety Guide from Black Lives Matter Seattle – King County.  To paraphrase Audre Lorde, caring for yourself does not have to mean indulgence — it is self-preservation, an act of political warfare against those who’d rather you just went away, shut up, or die.  Preserving yourself in a world hostile to your community is truly self-care.  So that you’re ready to again face the outside world.

Monday morning I heard on my local NPR station that the Oregon Supreme Court ruled against a free speech claim. They declined to allow this constitutional protection to cover stalking behavior.

Check out the story here:

I’m sure most, if not all, of you have heard from one parental figure or another that your freedom to swing your arms around ends where your little brother’s nose begins. Or some variation thereof. The point being that your freedoms cannot take away those of somebody else.

While the precise wording defining stalking varies from state to state, a basic definition is “a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear” ( Over the years I’ve had several stalking victims in my classes, and it ain’t pretty. It took a LONG time after any apparent sign of their stalker faded for them to feel kinda secure. Even then, if the perpetrator contacted them years later, maybe online or a chance meeting, all the original fear and insecurity came rushing back. Being stalked causes a person to change her or his activities and habits, sometimes even compels them to move to a different apartment, city, state, or coast. The prevalence of anxiety, insomnia, social dysfunction, and severe depression is much higher among stalking victims than the general population, especially if the stalking involves being followed or having one’s property destroyed. [Eric Blauuw et al., “The Toll of Stalking,” Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 17, no. 1 (2002):50-63.] In short, stalking robs the victim of their “pursuit of happiness.”

Two more thing to note about stalkers, and these are traits they hold in common with many other abusers. First, they feel they are the offended party, and will loudly proclaim that they are the real victims here. It is their rights (to smack their little brother’s nose) that are being abridged. And, second, they will exploit the legal system to further perpetrate harm. Or try to.

Thank you, Oregon Supreme Court, for being the good mom and telling a big brat to stop swinging his arms around the playground.