We’re already half-way through October.  This very month, not just this year but a few years in recent history, has been designated Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Last week I wrote about DVAM and Halloween, and today’s related topic is one I always find interesting. About 9 years ago I went through a DV training. Not a one-day workshop, but a whole course on domestic violence. The purpose of the course was to educate community members about DV, also train people who worked in other agencies about best practices when their clients were also struggling with DV, and to help the agency running the course develop their volunteer base. It was something I’d wanted to do for years, because the single biggest risk of physical harm facing women is DV.  Just over half of murdered women are killed by a current or former intimate partner. As a self-defense teacher, it seemed important to understand more about that risk and the social dynamics around it.

So I went through the course, and spent about 4 or 5 years as a volunteer. For the first year I staffed the crisis line. The crisis line is a great resource for people needing some immediate help. The single most common call we got, the most common question question asked, was “is there room in your shelter?” And the single most common answer we had was no, please call back later today or tomorrow. Because there was usually no room.  That was the answer, while I was there, almost all the time.

What I find interesting was that there was such a large demand for shelter, yet the vast majority of time we turned people away. It didn’t make a whole lot of sense — if there’s such a demand, why is there so little supply? I don’t know the answer.

When I think about self-care — and finding a safe place to stay certainly is self-care — I see five levels. The first is self-soothing behavior, what you can do to help manage the way you express or experience emotions (such as fear, anger, worry, sadness) to calm yourself. There’s resiliency activities, which have a large overlap with self-soothing behavior but they’re generally done on a regular basis to help the future you become more resilient; this often includes regular exercise, healthy eating habits, meditation, and creative activities. The third level is when do you seek the support of a professional: therapist, doctor, attorney, victim advocate, law enforcement.

The final two levels are not immediate personal self-care, but they create the conditions that determine what self-care options are available to you. Institutional support generally backs your professionals and volunteer advocates. And structural/societal care is the bigger picture of what projects are deemed by “society” as more important. That’s where we find, relative to need, few resources allocated to domestic violence agencies in terms of budget that could fund it, such as for real estate, salaries for staff, food and clothing (not just shelter), legal aid, and programming to help clients get back on their feet.

How do we change that? We in Washington State have our voter pamphlets, and ballots are on their way. Do your due diligence. Make it a resiliency activity, which means you’ll do this every year. Which candidates are supporting funding and programs you care about? Support them, and vote.

You can also take our six-week course, Self-Defense 101. We go into on the dynamics of domestic and dating violence, on recognizing the red flags of abusive behavior how to navigate some of the landmines around DV and our legal system, because once you get into it, it’s not pretty at all. Next 101 classes will begin in January/February 2022, next year already!

Stay safe, live life!

Good morning, today is Wednesday Sept 15, 2021.  It’s another pleasant late summer morning in the glorious Emerald City.  Tonight begins Yom Kippur, or Day of Atonement, the most significant of all Jewish holidays.  A time for reflections, on forgiveness, on atonement, on resolving to do better this coming year, to be a better person this coming year.

One approach to becoming a better person could be how we handle the “oopsies and ouchies” that sometimes pop up in interactions.  For instance, one person uses a phrase that perhaps they’ve heard all their lives and never really thought about what it meant, and it contains words that negatively reference the identity of someone else — a friend, a co-worker, family member — who is standing right there.  In an ideal world, that would not have happened, but we don’t live in that ideal world.  In my next-best world, the listener would be comfortable pointing out the phrase as derogatory, and the person who uttered it would be amenable to upgrading their language, in part because both listener’s and speaker’s intent would be to maintain a good relationship.  Because, in my next-best world, acknowledging oopsies and ouchies is what people would do, with the hope of creating a healthier community together.  

I used to hear the phrase “that’s so gay!” to refer to something considered stupid.  Rarely do I hear that these days.  A lot of people are good with asking others to upgrade their language in certain situations.

This notion is fundamental to understanding communication.  True communication is not just what is said, it is also what is heard.  Yes intent is important, and so is the impact on the listener.

For this to work, participants actually have to agree that they want to get along and make an effort.  That the impact of one’s actions, even well-intentioned actions, can adversely affect someone else.  Are you willing to consider that?

We look at these issues and skills in some of our classes, esp the six-week Self-Defense 101 course.

Wishing you a happy, healthy, and fulfilling New Year!  Stay safe, live life.

Today I’m back to “red flags.” These are the hints that something may be awry. Also called gut feelings, intuition, instincts, it refers to trusting yourself when you’re uncomfortable or sensing something amGirls learning about red flags and trusting their intuition when sensing something wrongiss. Some red flags are subtle, some really blatant. They are all specific behaviors that somebody is doing that bumps into one of your boundaries.

Red flags also come in different “flavors.” By that I mean they are tactics to try to take down specific boundaries. Consider these three red flags, and what they have in common:

▪ Keeps asking you out after you’ve said no
▪ Pushes you to drink alcohol or use drugs
▪ Refuses to wear protection when engaging in sex

If this were a class setting, I’d give you a few seconds to think about it. If you want to, take a bit of time yourself to think about these three.

What they have in common is an explicit rejection of boundaries you’ve already stated.

If you’ve already said no to dating, repeatedly asking is not flattering. At best, it’s awkward.  At worst, dangerous and (very) rarely life-threatening.  Do you really want to go on a date with someone who ignores your boundaries?

Alcohol and drugs are known to impair our cognitive functions and physical reactions. Indulgence should be a choice. If someone is pressuring you, wonder why. Never underestimate the human need to fit in, to belong. Perpetrators will frequently exploit that, especially in a social situation.

Refusing to wear protection when having sex. What could possibly go wrong? The statement assumes you’ve already had a discussion, or you’re having the discussion. Maybe you’re not ready for parenthood, or don’t want to deal with an STD. Now do you think the person with whom you’re having this discussion is unaware of potential risks? They’re aware all right, just don’t feel it’s a big deal for them, and your boundary is just a nuisance.

As I’ve already said, the flavor of these three red flags is that of explicitly negating your boundary.  Of saying your needs are just preferences, probably trivial, and not taken seriously. You may be past the state of sensing something amiss, you could very well be experiencing some strong feelings of violation, or embarrassment, or even shame that your boundaries were disregarded. We all know that many boundaries do change over time and with different people, and you get to decide which are more fluid and which are more fixed. Because your freedom to make your own choices, to be able to trust yourself in sensing something wrong, is essential to real personal safety.

Speaking of which, our Personal Safety Essentials class is happening tomorrow night. Self-Defense for Teen Girls ages 12-14 is this coming Sunday, and Self-Defense for Teen Girls ages 15+ is March 13th (but that one may be full now). I should be posting a Spring schedule in the next week or so.

Stay safe, live life.

In local news, some residents of Seattle’s Capitol Hill are getting fed up with street assaults.  According to this article in The Seattle Times, a new neighborhood watch group is in the works.  Dubbed “OutWatch” and modeled after Q-Patrol in the early 1990s (which was modeled after NYC’s Guardian Angels of an earlier decade), the current plan seems to have patrols consisting of 4 persons.  Initially, at least 2 of the 4 are supposed to have self-defense training.

[Which is all very nice, except that self-defense may or may not be what they need.  I sure hope their self-defense training included de-escalation training and bystander intervention, which are more valuable skills for this endeavor.  I hope they are also planning on background checks for all volunteers.]

According to the article, it seems the patrols’ primary aim is to escort people safely to their cars, homes, or other safe place.  This should be useful — after all, the police do advise us to keep with a group to reduce risk of assault.  Simply having a presence can also remind us to keep safety and awareness of our surroundings in mind, as well as send a message that people are watching and won’t put up with violence in their community.

I wish them luck organizing and sustaining this project. 

I confess, I’ve neglected this blog for over 6 months.  With any luck at all, I’ll resume posting.

Part of the delay is more teaching time.  Yes, there are now more self-defense classes available.  Self-Defense 101 for Women is now a six week course (up from 5 weeks), and offered in more venues:

  • Seattle Central Community College and Bellevue College continue to offer Self-Defense 101
  • Self-Defense 101 replaces the Weekend Workshop at the ASUW Experimental College
  • South Seattle Community College will offer it for the first time this winter
  • Its premier at the University Heights Center was very successful, and it will again be at that location by winter’s end
  • And Self-Defense 101 will appear at the Phinney Neighborhood Center the second week in January — the class was just posted, and it is already almost half full!

See more info at Strategic Living’s Self-Defense 101 page — find your class today.