As a self-defense teacher, I talk a lot about boundaries. Mostly about setting boundaries with other people. While some of those people may mean harm, most just have different ideas of boundaries and could use some guidance as to where theirs and yours more happily connect.

Today I’m looking at a specific set of boundaries you set with yourself. Many of us — I’m certainly in this group — want to experience a lot. I want to travel to Provence and to Tuscany. I want to learn some French and Italian. I want to learn to play guitar better, as well as bass and drums and piano. I already cook well, but I want to be able to de-bone a turkey in 10 minutes. (Why? I don’t know, I don’t even like turkey!)  I want to learn to draw.  I want better photography skills.  I want to write a book.  I want to create an online class. I want, I want, I want.

This is only the tip of the iceberg of my wants.

I’m going to tell you something that you probably already know. I certainly have known this for many years, and yet I still need reminding. Of all these wants, the ones you get will be those you MAKE the time for.

For many years I had wanted to understand the social dynamics around domestic violence and to more effectively work with survivors. Because DV is our greatest single risk to personal safety, and as a self-defense teacher that’s an important topic. And yes there are trainings available in my area. But it’s not just a half-day one-and-done workshop. I’d have to carve out a significant chunk of time. Fifty hours of training, then at least a year of volunteer work. I’d been telling myself I wanted to do this for years, yet I never made that time. Until I did. Until I acknowledged that yes, this was a 50 hour training over several months, I may have to put aside another activity or two and re-arrange my schedule, be inconvenienced, drive more, and after the training commit to that volunteering, and was it really worthwhile?

I did it, eight years ago. I said to myself if I don’t ACTIVELY MAKE the time it was not just going to happen. Piss or get off the pot, so to speak. Yes it was inconvenient and time-consuming and some days frustrating. I did forego some income those three months. Afterwards I volunteered each week at the center working with women in different stages of abusive relationships, which isn’t easy to hear (let alone experience). And yes it was worth it. A lot of what I leaned got incorporated into my classes, partly as recognizing “red flags” and partly as how to help or support family or friends who were in unhealthy or abusive relationships.

I often ask my students how they found the class. A lot say they’ve meant to take a self-defense class for a long time, and just happened to be looking through a Seattle Central or Bellevue College catalog, or an online class listing, saw the class, saw it fit into their schedule, and signed up. That’s convenient, and how most of us live most of our lives. Not everything we want will drop into place that easily.

Right now I am looking at my list of wants. What is most essential for my professional development, for personal development, for relationships, and for self-care? What will I actively make time for this year? How about you?

Students who have taken my six-week self-defense course for women already know this:  the rate of violence has been in decline for the past couple of decades.

But that was not at all obvious a couple of decades ago.  In fact, the early 1990s saw a spike in youth violence.  Some experts were predicting the worst was yet to come, and felt they needed to deploy hyperbole on what they saw as the inevitable.  The term “superpredator” was coined by political scientist John DiIulio to describe teens who were increasingly violent.  These teens were supposed to unleash chaos upon our fair Gothams.

It never happened.

Almost as if on cue, after these predictions hit the mass media, the crime rate began dropping.  And dropping.  And dropping.  Today’s rates of violence are at record lows.

(if the embedded video is not visible here, go here.)

However, hyperbole won out over fact.  Punitive punishments and harsher penalties for juveniles became the law.  Panicky policy repercussions from that era have lingered a long while.

When you consider your personal safety risks, what do you value?  How do you distinguish the hype from the fact?  Predicting the future will never be easy, but you can do better when you winnow out the alarmist labels and recognize the “dog whistles” for what they are.

I don’t care if this is over 3 years old, it’s still funny.  Ellen DeGeneres learns some basic self-defense moves, just in case she finds herself in another dancing situation.  Good for her being proactive about her personal safety in front of all those cameras and audiences!

If you can’t see the above video on your device, watch it directly on YouTube.

Hey — you want to practice those moves?  You can here! (Chris Matthews dummy not included.)

Alert reader Donna saw this article in Oprah’s magazine.  It recounts how one woman out jogging used the self-defense skills she had learned in a class long ago.

As I was reading October’s issue of “O” Magazine on a bright, sunny Seattle morning this weekend, I came across an article written by Kris who describes how the self-defense skills she had previously learned in a women’s self-defense class came in handy one dreadful day when she was almost raped.   Fortunately, Kris had remembered the physical and verbal defense skills she had learned and put them to work when she was attacked.   Physical self defense tactics are one of the most important skills a woman can learn. 

You can read Kris’ story online.

Kris recognized the reality of imminent physical harm, used decisive targets, and used her voice effectively.  Kudos to Kris!

And thanks to Donna for sharing.

PS – do you want to learn what Kris knew?  A new cycle of six week self-defense courses will be offered beginning this coming January.  Can’t spare 6 weeks?  Try the five hour self-defense seminars — next one is December 15.

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.

Zerlina Maxwell had the audacity to suggest, on Fox News no less, that to end rape we should teach men to NOT RAPE

What a concept.

In response, she received of messages from FOX viewers intent on intimidation by calling her names, dismissing her ideas, and even threatening her with rape. This is a typical tactic of misogynists, to try to silence articulate women who speak out. 

Did not work. 

Since then, Maxwell has published these suggestions for how to teach men not to rape.

The context of Maxwell’s comments was a conversation on Fox News’ Sean Hannity Show about gun ownership maybe preventing rape.  Maxwell, herself a rape survivor, took issue with how the topic was framed:

“I think that the entire conversation is wrong. I don’t want anybody to be telling women anything. I don’t want men to be telling me what to wear and how to act, not to drink. And I don’t, honestly, want you to tell me that I needed a gun in order to prevent my rape. In my case, don’t tell me if I’d only had a gun, I wouldn’t have been raped. Don’t put it on me to prevent the rape.”

As a rape survivor, the conversation about how to best combat rape and domestic violence is personal and can be very challenging.  Rape culture is a pervasive part of our society because of social conditioning. Yet we struggle to find ways to avoid patterns of victim blaming and many of us would rather advise women on the precautions they should take to avoid being raped as opposed to starting at the root of the problem: teaching men and boys not to be rapists in the first place.

Way back in October, Colorado prosecutor Ann Munch spoke in Seattle about blaming rape victims for their attacks. She was not the first to notice how jurors would often torpedo a case with solid physical evidence because the victim did something to bring it on herself, such as leaving her home to go out for pizza, riding the bus, or being at work.

Maxwell’s point is that when men and boys commit rape and the victims get blamed, it perpetuates a cycle of acceptance that men and boys will be men and boys, and that rape is a natural, expected occurrence.  Almost makes it seem as benign as April showers.

Rape is not a natural, expected occurrence. Rape is a deliberate, planned act of domination. Rape happens not because of how a woman dressed, or how much she drank, or what she drank, or which dark alley she may have walked down. Rape happens because a rapist was present.

I don’t give out list of what to do or not do in my self-defense classes.  Any good self-defense class should give you tools to better navigate the world you choose to live in, not lock you up “for your own safety.” Any good self-defense class should place the responsibility for sexual assault and rape squarely on the perpetrator.  And any good self-defense class should equip you to make safety choices for expanding your presence in the public world.

“I was lucky!”

I hear this a lot, both in the media and from students. A woman or girl defends herself successfully, fights off an attacker, but then minimizes her good work by crediting chance.

You probably already know the story of one of the most crucial breakthroughs of modern medicine. Dr. Alexander Fleming inadvertently left a petri dish uncovered over a weekend. When he returned, he saw that mold had infested the dish. But before he threw away the spoiled experiment, he took a closer look and saw the mold was killing the bacteria. And thus the path to penicillin, and other antibiotics, was born.

Radioactivity was brought to light when physicist Henri Becquerel stored a chunk of uranium in a drawer besides an unexposed photographic plate. When he took them out a week later he noticed that the rock had left an imprint on the plate in the absence of light. Working with his students Marie and Pierre Curie, they discovered radiation.

And popsicles were invented in 1905, when eleven-year-old Frank Epperson left his soda-making gear outside, in the cold, overnight. The next day, the water and flavored powder mixture had frozen — along with the stick he’d used to stir the mixture. (Twenty years later, the adult Epperson applied for a popsicle patent.)

In all these instances, it took an observant person to see what most of us would call a “mistake,” and find the opportunity.

“Luck favors the prepared mind,” said by Dr. Louis Pasteur.  All three were lucky, and they were prepared.

Your safety will depend, in large part, on your ability to recognize opportunities to fight back, to see an attacker’s vulnerabilities, and to exploit weaknesses. Luck in self-defense does indeed favor the prepared mind, despite so-called “mistakes.”

After Deborah Horne from KIRO TV interviewed me about what women can do to stay safer, my evening class got a visit from Alison Grande and another cameraman from KIRO. They spent about an hour filming and briefly interviewing a couple of the students, and used probably about 20 seconds in this segment:

 

I have to say I’m glad that the media is also presenting what women can do for safety, not just recommending we stay home, quivering, until the police catch the creep(s).

Several highly-publicized incidents of stranger attacks on women, and self-defense comes to the media mind.  Four women have been assaulted in Seattle’s north end, generally considered fairly residential and safe. KIRO TV News came out to talk with me, and here’s their evening story for Tuesday February 12:

If the above video doesn’t play on your browser, visit the KIRO site for viewing.

Later that evening they came to take some video of a class I was teaching. While we were not the “feature,” they did show some really good work by our students.  I’ll post that one when I find the video online.

Visit my website for more info on taking a self-defense class.

But money can buy anything else.

If you’ve been following me on Facebook, you know I’m taking domestic violence advocacy training through DAWN (Domestic Abuse Women’s Network, serving South King County). We cover lots of topics: social justice, economic justice, basic family law, basic protection orders, suicide, teen dating violence, batterer intervention, safety planning, chemical dependency, trauma, LGBTQ issues, religion, available resources, . . . it goes on and on, deeper and deeper.

And money is a recurring theme. Access to resources is probably the most important factor affecting what you can do to keep safe. Abusers very often try to control access to bank accounts, funds, and pocket change.

In all my self-defense classes, I tell students that they need to have their very own bank accounts. Their name, and only their name, should be on it. This account needs to have enough money to live on for 6 months to a year. This is your safety hatch.

Perhaps an insecure partner, even abusive spouse, will whine. “Sugarplum, we’re married now, we don’t need separate accounts. Why are you holding out on me?”  Or maybe, “Honey, don’t you trust me? You must not care about me the way I care about you.” Or even, “You have all that money separate, you must be cheating on me!”

Once upon a time, in this land of the free, women were not legally entitled to own property, including their earned wages. Any and all income, regardless of who earned it, belonged to the male head of household. I emphasize in my classes that the slow change in the law, giving women the right to retain their earnings, to buy and own property, to save and spend and invest, is a critical precursor to effective self-defense. Otherwise, you have nowhere to go.

I’ve taught far too many women who ended up homeless or in transitional housing. Keep the account. In your name. Only.