Stalking is never okay. No matter what the situation, you cannot control the behavior of another person, nor are you responsible for it.
My friend Susan* has a stalker. They met through a mutual acquaintance, he asked her out, and she said no. That should have been the end of the story. Instead, after she politely declined his dinner invitation, he continued to call and text her. He acted overly familiar, prying into Susan’s personal life, demanding details and giving the indication that he had been watching her. She quickly asked him to stop contacting her altogether.
Instead, he began calling at all hours, texting repeatedly and driving by her house. As he became increasingly aggressive in his pursuit, Susan grew worried for her safety and that of her young son. She varied her routine, taking different routes to work and coming and going at different times, but still he lurked in parking lots and on nearby streets. Susan blocked his phone number to eliminate his calls and text messages, but then felt as though she were missing a valuable indicator of his mental state. Continue reading →
What’s worth fighting for? Each person’s answer may be different, but that decision should be made before a confrontation ever occurs.
Know yourself and what you’re willing to fight for. This can’t be a game-time decision…it must involve some soul-searching and personal inventory well before you’re faced with an attacker, an intruder, a mugger or any potentially life-threatening situation.
If you’re suddenly accosted by someone who is trying to take your wallet or purse, you need to know whether to toss it away (YES, in almost every case), or potentially risk your life and personal safety by trying to keep it. If someone you don’t know knocks at your door, will you open it? What determines your answer? And if an intruder tries to force his way into your car or home, how will you react?
My friend was talking about a man who had stalked, restrained and physically attacked a woman we knew when she said, “But he’s basically a good guy.” Shocked, I clarified: “No, he’s a nice guy. Definitely not a good guy.”
A nice guy, or a good guy?
We both knew this person. He had been a guest in both of our homes. He was attractive, charming, likable and a great conversationalist, making him very pleasant company. However, beneath the surface, his niceness paled in comparison to his aggression, threatening behavior and willingness to put others at risk.
Yes, we all have bad days. We all have triggers that can cause us to behave unlike our better selves. But someone who deliberately intimidates, terrorizes or attacks another person? That’s not a good person.
When someone shows you who he is, believe him the first time. Don’t wait for him to show you again. If we’d all actually believe our eyes and ears and listen to our gut feelings, we’d avoid a lot of pain and heartache. From business relationships to dating, and from online communications to in-person meetings, you can believe what people tell you…if you know how to listen.
I met someone recently I liked and felt comfortable with almost instantly. This is rare for me, and was almost a “red flag” in and of itself. However, when I considered what I knew about this person, that added context increased my comfort level, as did his willingness to answer questions directly and share relevant historical, professional and personal information. We discussed appropriate topics, he respected my personal space, and allowed me to set the pace of our meeting.
What’s the context? How long have you known this person? How did you meet? Do you have shared business associates or friends, or did you simply meet by chance or through a shared activity or common location? Continue reading →
More people have asked me about parking garage safety than any other topic. For several reasons, these structures especially strike fear into the hearts of women. Parking garages are actually a convenience, as well as a land-conservation device, intended to protect users and their cars from the elements and avoid having to walk across acres of open parking lots.
So why are parking garages scary? Primarily because of our imaginations and what we’ve seen on TV and at the movies. Here are the top reasons given to me over the past 15 years:
They’re dark. True, most parking structures aren’t lit up like the midway of a state fair, but that isn’t inherently dangerous. Combat the darkness and give yourself a landmark by parking under or near a light, and carry a small flashlight in your pocket, purse, or on a keychain in case of power failure.
You can’t see people coming. I interpret this to mean both people on foot and in vehicles. Due to the nature of parking garage design, there are blind curves, lots of vehicles, intermittent activity and traffic, and people not paying attention.
Self defense really is for everyone. You don’t have to be in shape, have martial arts training or any special skills…just a desire to stay safe!
Self defense is simply the right combination of situational awareness, safe choices and behaviors, and physical/mental readiness that enables you to avoid, evade, escape or survive an attack. Note that I don’t say “a person” when I write…because I’m talking about you, your mom, your daughter, your friend, your neighbor…not just “someone.”
Why should YOU take a self defense class? Here are my top 10 reasons:
You are unique. You’re the only you in the world, and there will never be another. You have value and worth, and it’s not okay if someone tries to harm you.
Growth. “A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there.” Step outside your comfort zone and try something new.
Muscle memory. Just like you’re able to ride a bike, type without looking at the keyboard, throw a ball, or any number of things you’ve trained your body to do…delivering a solid strike or performing a release move you’ve learned and practiced will come right back to you.
Basic training. When you’re suddenly faced with a potential attacker and experience the “adrenaline dump,” you’ll revert to your lowest level of training. It’s up to you what that training might be.
Good times! Self defense classes are fun. No, really…they are! The instructor(s) work hard to provide you with useful information and tools you can use, in a comfortable and safe setting.
A safe place to learn. Self defense doesn’t equate to sparring, grappling, or any of those other things you’re afraid of. Don’t worry that you’re going to wind up pinned beneath some sweaty, hulking stranger, boxing with a pro who has a chip on his shoulder, or trying to identify and recall obscure pressure points when you sign up for a self defense class at your YMCA or dojang.
Empowerment! Learning new skills, pushing your boundaries and meeting new people is a great confidence builder.
You might get to hit things or break stuff. A fun, memorable confidence builder for some people is actually hitting or kicking target pads…or breaking pine boards or “rebreakable” plastic boards (“green,” plus they provide a consistent break every time)! The instructors will teach you how to do this safely and successfully.
Safer behaviors. Changing just one or two unsafe habits could avert an attack, a break-in, or worse.
Better odds. Statistics indicate that one in three women in the U.S. will be assaulted during her lifetime. If you had one-in-three odds of winning the lottery, wouldn’t you play? This is a lottery you don’t want to win.
“This book can save your life.” Although that’s what the cover of my favorite book asserts, I disagree. Neither this book nor any other book can prevent you from being assaulted, attacked or killed. What it CAN do – and the reason it is my unequivocal favorite self-defense book – is cause you to think differently, make more informed choices, increase your situational awareness, and ultimately reduce your chance of being in a life-threatening situation.
The Gift of Fear, by Gavin De Becker, is a must-read for women of all ages, as well as anyone who is interested in increasing his or her safety and awareness. De Becker’s unique claim that “fear is a gift” is proven true repeatedly throughout the book.