Here are a smattering of #selfdefensesuccess stories that have across my screen these last couple of weeks.

Important to remember: I’ll bet none of these women ever took a “self-defense” class (though at least one had military training).  The two most critical factors in successful self-defense are (1) the belief that it can be done, and (2) trying one tool after another until something works.

From Louisiana, a 72 year old woman routes armed attacker with nothing but her steely instincts and a fire extinguisher. Woman’s son later describes his mom as “a pretty strong old fart.” Yeah, that’s how I’d have described my mom too.  http://www.dailycomet.com/article/20131231/ARTICLES/131239885/1320?p=1&tc=pg#gsc.tab=0

Now going north to Ohio:  woman uses voice, attracts bystander attention. Bystanders call police. Police arrive in time to see the woman running out of the house, followed by man with knife. Man is subdued and arrested!  http://www.springfieldnewssun.com/news/news/police-man-attempted-to-rape-woman/ncZbw/

Some self-defense stories are more graphic than are others.  This one is graphic.  Let’s jump across the globe, to Bangladesh.  In this instance, a woman fights back against an acquaintance by cutting off his penis and bringing it to the police.  http://www.opposingviews.com/i/society/woman-cuts-penis-man-attempting-rape-her  The wanna-be rapist then claimed that he was the real victim, because they had been having an affair, he refused to leave his wife and children and move with her to another city.  So, he claims, she cut off his penis and is pressing rape charges to retaliate.  This attempt to deflect responsibility is a common tactic among rapists.

And now back to the glorious Puget Sound, the last one for today is from former student “E” who relates a self-defense success years earlier:

“When I was a young college student, I often passed through New York City to get from my parents’ home to my college in upstate New York. On one such visit, I was walking down a street and felt like I was being followed. I made the decision to act irrationally: singing to myself, walking with a twitch/jerking motions. I tried to act like a mentally unstable person. After a while, the man stopped following me, and I’m certain that if I hadn’t, I would have been attacked.”

Do you have a story to share?  Contact me!

Do you want to learn some of these skills that proved successful for others?  A plethora of six week Self-Defense 101 for Women courses are about to begin in the next week.  Visit the page and register today.

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).

If you could have a super power, what would it be?

Who would you save?  Why?

I’ve been asking my self-defense students that question for about a year now. The answers range from invisibility to flying to super-speed to mind-reading to future-seeing.  Now I want to hear from you.  This is a contest, so yes there are prizes.

First prize: iPod shuffle. Second and third prizes: Amazon.com and iTunes gift cards.

Check out this video describing the contest:

Now visit Strategic Living’s Super Shero page to check out the requirements and online entry form. Get your stuff together and submit. Deadline is April 15th at midnight (Pacific Coast time).

Evil-doers need not apply.

I usually don’t get to hear NPR’s program Car Talk on Saturday mornings. I’m generally off teaching a class at that time. But this past Saturday found me chasing a “sick” cat, trying to get her in the cat carrier to go to visit the vet. Soon as she heard the sound of the carrier door open, she dashed upstairs, faster than I imagined, and under the bed, in a place impossible for me to reach. So, a very frustrated me got to listen to the radio.

It was the final caller that really got my attention. Myrna’s question was about finding a possible GPS device put on her car by her soon-to-be-ex-husband. Turns out her to-be-ex was a control freak, in that he read her mail and email, and always insisted on knowing where she was going and had been. And now that there’s a nasty divorce in process, he’s reaching out.

Tom and Ray had some funny suggestions (hey, this is a comedy show). They surmised that the devise was certainly affixed to the car’s undercarriage by a magnet, and would be apparent once a mechanic got the car on a lift. They suggested she park her car in front of her to-be-ex’s best friend’s house overnight, or attach it to other cars (even a different car each day), to mess with his tracking.

You can listen to the show here (http://www.cartalk.com/Radio/WeeklyShow/online.html) until the next episode comes out. Segment 10.

I’m glad Myrna felt secure enough about her safety to be light-hearted about this guy’s possible stalking behavior, but other women whose partners are putting GPS devices on their cars may not be able to take it so casually. As a self-defense teacher, I regularly have students who’ve been stalked, and it’s a harrowing experience. I recommend that if you believe that your car is being tracked via GPS, please contact your local domestic violence hotline for advice, especially if their stalker has a history of threatening or committing violence.

And my partner finally crawled under the bed, hauled out the cat, and took her to the vet. She’s fine now. But we knew that, she’s got her sassy back.

The Dominique Strauss-Kahn (or DSK) story has followed a partly unpredictable course. First of all, most sexual assaults are not reported, including those committed by members of the cultural elite. Second, most assailants are not caught if the assault is reported. Even if arrested, most assailants are not prosecuted. So I was initially impressed at the speed of this beginning of this story, where the hotel maid reported, the police found evidence, and an arrest worthy of a TV drama (as the plane that DSK was on was preparing to take off). Wow, I thought, are the planets and stars in some special alignment? Did the Universal Law of Karma supplant the Golden Rule (he who has the gold . . . rules)?

But more recently the Kosmos has returned to business as usual. Irregularities have been found in the past of the maid. She is a poor immigrant. Seems she lied on asylum papers. She knows people who are serving time in jail. She has multiple cell phones.

None of which have anything to do with the rape charges. All of which may derail the prosecution’s case.

As any number of women who have tried to prosecute rape have found out, stuff like that matters to a significant number of potential jurors. As a culture, we like our victims stainless. And if the victim comes across as less than a madonna (not to be confused with pop icon Madonna), if they come across as a real person with warts and fears and the possibility that 20 years ago they may have inhaled, they are not deserving of justice. (That’s why assailants will often seek out targets who they think cannot withstand a caustic public scrutiny.) Very few people will actually come out and say that, but actions such as votes in a jury do speak louder.

Currently, it’s estimated that between one in eight to one in five women will be targeted for sexual assault sometime in their life. If you are one, here are my recommendations should you choose to report and prosecute, regardless of whether or not you fought back, evaded rape, or complied with the assailant’s demands.

  • First, find a sexual assault advocate. One who is experienced and believes you. Preferably not on the police payroll, but from an independent group. In the Seattle area, good choices are the King County Sexual Assault Resource Center and Harborview Medical Center. University of Washington students can contact SARIS.
  • Second, get your own lawyer. Yes, rape is a crime against the state. And a good lawyer can help you navigate through the criminal justice maze.
  • Finally, get a REALLY good therapist. You’ll need one.

PS – I was thinking of writing on DSK’s peanut gallary (i.e., those public figures who insisted that a man of DSK’s standing would NEVER commit rape). Jon Stewart, however, did such a good job, and as I always say if you can’t beat it, link to it.

Lilith is one cool cat. And she’s not afraid of you.

Lilith, a 17 year old with spring and verve of a cat a quarter her age.

Indeed, Lilith will readily come over to any visitor and “allow” herself to be adored and petted. She is fine and mellow when she recognizes that appropriate due is being paid to her by adoring fans.  She is the Queen of the house, and she knows it.

But don’t let her outward appearance deceive you — Lilith has a core of razor steel. What she wants, she gets (like cheese, milk, and chocolate ice cream). And what she doesn’t want, well . . .

At the risk of understatement, cats do not like taking their medicines. Pilling a cat, rare as it is in my household, is still onerous. Each cat has its own means of resistance, and Lilith’s is among the most effective.

Most cats struggle from the moment they realize you’re holding the dreaded pill and looking at them. But not my Lilith. She purrs. She headbutts and rubs her cheeks against my hands as I maneuver her in place between my knees. She purrs some more, and as I shift my attention ever so slightly to get the pill in my hand ready to launch, she springs. Her move is not at all explosive or drastic, it’s  more like she’s the proverbial greased pig. One moment she’s “securely” nestled in my grasp, and the next she’s disappearing under the couch.


Her key is relaxation and timing.

Lilith, secure in her knowledge that she’ll triumph, lulls us into believing we’ve got her. Relaxation also gives her speed and slickness when she makes her move. But her suppleness alone isn’t quite enough — Lilith can recognize when our attention is just a bit distracted, and she picks that moment for a successful escape.

Sometimes in a threatening situation, your best recourse is feigning compliance. You go along with the assailant’s demands, watching for your opening. Waiting for that momentary distraction (or the chance to create one). And, should that window open, you will be ready to spring into action.

(For practice in what “springing” actions would work best, take a self-defense class. Two 5-week courses are beginning soon: one in Bellevue this coming Saturday July 9, another in Seattle on Monday July 11.)

Sometimes that window will not open. You have to realize that in self-defense sometimes your choice is between bad and worse. That’s the reality. After-care is crucial (and that’s a topic for another blog post).

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.

Take this quick quiz to find out how much you do know about that part of global violence relegated to the inside pages (if at all) in most newspapers.

http://saynotoviolence.org/node/2138/take

Really, this will only take about 4 minutes of your time.

OK, taking a quiz by itself won’t end the violence. But there is this marketing acronym: TOMA. That’s Top of Mind Awareness. Those items you hear about or see most often get more attention and action. More action against violence is (to quote Martha Stewart) a good thing. Duh! (to quote Charlie Sheen, who I still do not fear).

PS – Want to learn what you can do to keep yourself safe, as well as actions you can take to make your community safer? Self-Defense 101 for Women.

Honestly, I’m not as hip as I once was. I just don’t follow pop music like I used to, don’t know who’s hot and who’s not. Partly, even after decades of discussion about how to appropriately represent women in media (as full participants rather than body parts), I do get tired of the same old “objectification of women” show year after year, just with different faces.

A while back I heard an interview on NPR with a new singer named Ke$ha. I didn’t know anything about her music, but the interview was intriguing.  She seemed to be one smart cookie. I did check her out a bit on iTunes and alas was not similarly intrigued by her recordings (to her credit, though, the way she spells her name should give us all a clue on her priorities).

And just a few minutes ago I read this blog post from Hollaback!: http://www.ihollaback.org/blog/2011/04/12/keha-hollaback-hero/

Written by Melissa Fabello, a high school teacher, she talks about one Ke$ha song that actually addresses street harassment, and some of what she’s overheard students saying:

I’ve overheard more than one female student quote the song and then turn to her friend like, “Seriously, why do they do that?” inadvertently inciting an entire conversation dedicated to the injustices of gender-based violence inextricably laced inside street harassment.  They share stories, vent, and leave the conversation feeling justified and validated – this is a problem, and I’m not alone.

OK, maybe I personally am not excited (after listening to this song) about the lyrics focusing on OLD AGE = DINOSAUR = CREEPY and I wish the emphasis would have been on they guy’s creepy behavior (because young guys do this crap also), but if this generated discussion, there’s some merit.

This is what the best of pop culture should be doing — bringing up otherwise awkward topics. Inciting discussion and sharing of stories, that each of us is NOT alone. And that makes a discussion of harassment cool.

One of my students asked about a situation she’d recently faced while running on a local trail. A guy on a bike seemed to be pacing her, trying to chat with her. The really chilling question she remembered was him asking where her car was parked.  ???? Why was he interested, she thought, can’t be good. She told him a parking lot a bit further up, where there would be more people (and where her car was NOT parked). He rode off. As she ran past the lot she could see him there, waiting. She left him waiting and went on (apparently he didn’t see her go by, or he didn’t follow).

The class brainstormed other options, just in case.  One woman suggested that she tell every other runner and jogger she meets something like “hey, did you see that guy on the bicycle? The one asking women where they’ve parked their car, and then waits for them. Really creepy! Spread the word.” Soon you can get a buzz going, and people will actively be on the lookout for the guy. This is a GREAT suggestion, as it gets people more aware as well as looking out for each other.