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?

The last couple of months I’ve written about recognizing (and fixing) boundary violations, finding support, and building community.  All are essential aspects of personal safety.  And, for my final post of this year (still 2020), I’m turning towards feeling safety, i.e., recognizing what is (or is not) “safety.”

  • Safety is situational.  We all move through different environments each day.  Leaving home, commuting to work or school, going out for lunch, meeting up with some friends in a park afterwards . . . each place has its own levels of safety.  What does safety look or feel like for each?
  • Safety is making choices.  Safety is the ability to navigate your course in life while minimizing the risk of harm.  The ability to make informed choices is a prerequisite for sustainable safety.
  • Does familiarity = safety?  Most of us feel safer in familiar environments.  Places we already know, when others we know, like and trust are nearby.  “Where everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came,” to trot out that old TV sitcom theme.  Or even if we are physically alone, we can be on the phone with someone (while we may feel safer, we may not actually be safer).  “There’s safety in numbers,” says the cliche.  At the same time, most assaults against women are committed by someone known.  Over half homicides where the victim is female is committed by a current or former intimate partner.  The assailant abuses familiarity to gain access to commit assault.

Think about your different environments.  Work.  School.  Home.  Shopping.  Commuting.  Public space.  Social gathering.  Maybe you can add something specific to your life.  Pick one.

Get out a piece of paper and a pen, or colored pens.  Consider how you’d know you’re “safe” in that place.  Make a list.  It could be bullet-point or mind-map organized, just begin putting thoughts down what safety in a specific space would look and feel like.

I picked Home.  Take a look at this video for what I consider important for feeling safety at home.  Now do the same yourself.  You may come up with similar results, or yours may be different.  Regardless, they are your choices.  Make them.

 

Safety at Home from Joanne Factor on Vimeo.

 

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. 

My friend Kinny (you likely met her if you took some of my self-defense classes, as she often assists) is an inveterate newspaper reader, and just could not let Jerry Large’s column in this week’s The Seattle Times pass by without comment. 

I’ll let her tell it.

Jerry Large’s column touched on ethics and values in sports. All well and good until he wound it up with this:

“I couldn’t escape from real issues through sports that day, so I turned to other entertainment and settled in with my wife (who looks askance at football) to watch an episode of “Downton Abbey.” There’s entertainment for someone with strong Seattle values — the good old days, when aristocrats dressed formally for dinner and of course always behaved perfectly, never raising their voices, even to chide the loyal servants scurrying about their feet.” (Full column: http://seattletimes.com/html/localnews/2022731774_jdlcolumn23xml.html)

This sounds like vanilla unless you’ve actually been watching “Downton” lately. A current storyline involves rape.

So I emailed him the following:

Hi Jerry,

I watched both the Seahawks game and “Downton Abbey” on Sunday, and after reading your column today I can’t quite believe you did as well. One of the current “Downton” storylines involves the shocking, brutal rape of Anna the lady’s maid and its horrific effect on her and those she loves.

Rape is a crime and it is NOT part of our “strong Seattle values.”

Football players and fans consent to play and watch the game. Consent – by definition – is not part of rape. Its inclusion in an entertainment program is an ethical question worth as much, if not more consideration than problems in sports. Please ask your wife about the current “Downton” episodes. Though you may have been in the room with her, in my head you were paying a lot more attention to the Sunday funnies or Facebook than the TV. Or maybe you actually were hanging out in the kitchen for most of the program. I don’t want to believe you were oblivious.

The football game was a lot less jarring. I loved Richard Sherman’s emotional, adrenaline-fueled and completely genuine rant. A little honest trash talk (that wasn’t even bleep-worthy) for once, instead of the usual boring platitudes, turns the world upside-down?

Rape: crime. Football: game. 

Sincerely,

Roseanne Kimlinger

What did you do today to challenge rape culture?

Prof. Amy Cuddy, of the Harvard Business School, gave a talk at the University of Washington last night.  Alas, I was not able to attend.  Those of you who have taken my Self-Defense 101 classes know how her work on body language, perception, and self-perception can contribute greatly to your personal safety.

That’s because every attacker needs a target and an opportunity.  Dr. Cuddy’s work on body language is relevant to your personal safety because you can learn how to make yourself less likely to be targeted.

Even if you, like myself, did not attend Dr. Cuddy’s lecture, you can still benefit from her knowledge.  She has readily-accessible media, including:

  • a TED Talk
  • a Vimeo video (this is the one that’s required viewing for my 101 students), and
  • this interview from yesterday with Marcie Sillman at KUOW-FM’s studio.

There’s a few more short ones online, so take a look around and be prepared to be informed and fascinated!

Phoenix Jones himself.
Read the Weekly article for yourself.

A few months ago The Seattle Weekly published an article on “Phoenix Jones” and his group of Rain City Superheros. Jones, the group’s de facto spokesman, calls himself the “Guardian of Seattle.” His goal is to keep us all safe by fighting crime in a superhero costume. Just like in the comics.

So, according to this article, he and his cohorts roam around Pioneer Square and Belltown as the 2:00 closing hour approaches, helping the party-hardy stay out of fights.

Jones seems aware that his costumed approach, while garnering press today, will eventually wear thin. “The goal is for the people to be inspired by what I do. The goal is to inspire people to not put up with petty crimes.”

So there is some discussion about whether or not he actually does help solve crimes, or keep our streets safer, or is he a total wack job running around in a rubber suit. That’s not the discussion I’m interested in.

While Jones and his colleagues are roaming around downtown city streets, most assaults against women are committed in their homes, or in someone else’s home. Where Jones and his cadre of superheros are not. All the superheros on the streets will not protect you against the abusive boyfriend in the bedroom. So, at times, many of us will have to be our own superheros.

If you were to be a superhero, who would you be? What would be your super power? Who are you sworn to protect? I’ve been asking students in my self-defense classes that very question. Let me know. Evil-doers need not apply.

Today’s not-so-news is that the prosecutor’s office is going to ask to have the sexual abuse charges against Dominique Strauss Kahn dismissed.

Read all about it:  http://www.usatoday.com/money/world/story/2011/08/AP-source-DA-likely-to-drop-Strauss-Kahn-case/50085112/1

Their issue is that the plaintiff was not completely honest about aspects of her past.

However, none of the lies that diminish her credibility had anything to do with the facts of this case.

So, ladies, this has some serious repercussions for us all. Did you ever lie, even a little, about how many calories that “sliver” of cheescake had? Or about how much you spent on that outfit? Did you ever exaggerate, ever so slightly, about your last vacation or last night’s date? Sure these may have seemed harmless at the time, but your credibility is now totally, irrevocably, damaged should you ever have the need to press charges of rape.

And guess what else? A number of rapists actually seek out potential victims who would make less credible plaintiffs.

Learn how to better prevent rape, as well as get better DNA evidence, in a self-defense class.

Last March I blogged about University of Washington basketball “star” Venoy Overton’s near-miss with felony charges. Earlier this year he was slapped on the wrist for providing alcohol to two 16 year old girls and pressuring them into sexual acts. No rape charges were brought against Overton because the girl who reported apparently did not clearly communicate a lack of consent at the time, as she had bowed to the situational pressure. He pled to providing alcohol, and was let free providing he stay out of trouble.

Overton did not stay out of trouble. He is now charged with pimping a girlfriend. According to the article:

Prosecutors said Overton admitted to the charge during a police interview after his arrest.
“I’m not gonna turn down money from a girl,” he said, according to the police affidavit.
He told detectives that when he first met the woman, he told her she had to pay to be in a relationship with him.

A real class act.

UW basketball coach Lorenzo Romar, in a press statement, expressed extreme disappointment. “My staff and I spent an extraordinary amount of time and energy attempting to mentor Venoy prior to his recent graduation, so this news is especially troubling.” I’m not clear if Romar is disappointed in Overton, or in his own misjudgment of Overton’s character. I’d guess both. Must be tough realizing he helped empower a sex criminal.

“You know, I think we’re beating around the bush here,” the officer said, according to one attendee. “I’ve been told I’m not supposed to say this, however, women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized.”

That was the unfortunate comment, made by Toronto police constable Michael Sanguinetti on January 24th to a small group of students. Blogged and tweeted around the world, this comment spawned a global movement. Slutwalk was born.

Sanguinetti has since apologized, and is reported to have been disciplined and will receive additional training. Presumably he had received training before this event. The Toronto police asserts that their officers are taught that nothing a woman does contributes to sexual assault. Yet this slip of the tongue did happen. Despite the fact that the vast majority of women who were assaulted were not dressed like “sluts,” whatever that means (see yesterday’s blog post for what it really does mean). Despite the fact that dress does not cause sexual assault. And despite the fact that the person committing the rape needs to be accountable for his own actions. Period.

Despite all the good cops out there, it’s those thoughtless and arrogant ones who are featured in the nightly news. Still another reason why few women report rape to law enforcement. Why I’ll be at Slutwalk Seattle this coming Sunday. And why I still continue to teach self-defense classes.

First, let me make it clear what I mean by “slut.” Slut is a noun with excess baggage. Slut is used as a negative judgmental label applied by Person A onto Person B. Generally Person B is female, and Person A is often but certainly not always male. Person A disapproves of Person B’s general appearance, style of dress, or some other behavior. Person A then labels Person B as a “slut,” frequently to justify their own bad, if not abusive, behavior to Person B.

The label “slut” actually tells more about the mental framework (prejudices and stereotypes) of Person A, and little about the woman at whom this epithet is hurled.

Much has been made about Slutwalks reclaiming the word “slut.” I can’t say that I’ll be going to Seattle’s Slutwalk to “reclaim” anything. I do not care to reclaim, reframe, or rehabilitate the word “slut.” I want to quash this word as a weapon. I want to nullify its negative energy, neutralize its power, negate its impact on women.

And any weapon can be overcome. With a little preparation, we all can learn to minimize its impact. Because nobody deserves to be targeted for rape.