Tag Archives: personal protection

Susan’s Stalker

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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

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What’s Worth Fighting For?

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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?

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A Nice Guy, or a Good Guy?

man-male-happy-face-guy-portrait-198949My 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.

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Don’t Go In There!

Self defense begins with making safe choices for yourself and those for whom you are responsible.  Sometimes habit or emotion gets in the way, but staying aware and alert can go a long way toward keeping you safe.

My good friend recently arrived home to find her front door standing open a bit. She knew she had closed and locked the door when she left for work, but there it was…open. She is a smart person with life experience and has taken at least one self defense class, but habit and emotion kicked in, and with a fit of righteous indignance, she walked in and began searching the house.

Fortunately, the intruders had left, taking some of her belongings with them.  What if they hadn’t?  Was she prepared to defend herself against a startled and possibly armed person who was breaking the law, escalating a burglary into a robbery or even an assault or rape?  By isolating herself inside the house, she potentially gave an intruder all the opportunity needed to commit further crimes against her, and took away her own escape route (get in the car and/or leave) and sources of assistance (neighbors).

Our homes are indeed our castles, and contain the majority of our possessions…but it’s still just “stuff,” and not worth losing your life.  By entering her home instead of calling the police, my friend unthinkingly exposed herself to serious risk.

Of course she felt angry; her home had been violated.  Of course she was incredulous; she had locked the door, but it was standing open.  Of course she felt safe; it was her home, where she has lived for over a decade.  It’s hard to process that a formerly safe place or situation can suddenly become anything but safe.  Being open to new information (my door is open, so someone could be inside), listening to your gut feeling and intuition, and finally, acting on that information will do more toward keeping you safe than anything else you could do.

No matter how good your intentions, if you zone out at the wrong moment or are simply in the wrong place at the wrong time, you could be the target of an assault or other crime.  Be prepared mentally and physically to fight back, escape and call for help.  You may be a target, but you don’t have to be a victim.

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The Difference: Target or Victim?

Although you may be the target of an attacker, a stalker, a mugger or a rapist, you do not have to be a victim!  In many cases of self defense, those who escape a violent assault exhibit two traits:  a) they are cautious and aware of their environment, and b) they are mentally and physically prepared to put up resistance.

What makes a potential target desirable for an attacker?  Unless the attacker is a predator stalking a specific target, he (or she — although for the sake of convenience, I’ll use the male pronoun) likely will seek an opportunity with a high likelihood of success. He may be seeking a person who is unaware of his or her surroundings, seems meek, hesitant, lost, distracted, shy, impaired in some way, gullible or overly trusting.  A person who acts or reacts predictably may also be a desirable target for an attacker.

Success, for an attacker, could be anything from intimidating you into giving up your purse or wallet to isolating you so he can beat, torture, rape or kill.  While you may not know the type of level of threat you are facing, it is important that you realize the potential for your situation to escalate dramatically.  Attacks and abductions happen in seconds, not minutes.

We are taught from a young age to be polite and courteous, and these are important social skills.  However, these very habits can put you — women and children especially — in a compromised position if you aren’t vigilant.  Fear of embarrassment, hesitating to draw attention to yourself or ask for help, and denial, thinking, “This isn’t happening to me,” can put you in a very dangerous situation.

Be aware, stay alert, listen to your intuition and act on it.  If you find yourself the target of one or more potential assailants, act quickly!  Use your wits, your voice, and then your physical skills.

Stop checking in!

I like social media as much as the next person, and I use it both personally and professionally. However, when I see someone “checking in” on Facebook or Foursquare, or live tweeting from a concert or other event, it truly bothers me.

Why?  Because anyone  — from angry exes to angsty crushes to absolute strangers — can see where you are…and where you’re not!  Checking in at a restaurant, club, hotel or event gives away a lot of information.

If you use social media as part of your business, that’s one thing.  Check your privacy settings, know who your connections are, be aware, trust your intuition and get on with your life.  But if you’re sitting at home alone and you’re bored, don’t complain about being lonely on social media.  That knock at your door may not be a friend.  And if you announce publicly that you’re away from home, you are creating a golden opportunity for burglars, vandals and more to take advantage of that situation.

Excited about going on vacation?  Don’t do a countdown on Facebook, check in at the airport, check in at your hotel, check in at the ski lodge…you get the picture.  Not only will your friends wonder why you’re spending your lovely vacation time with your smartphone in your hand, but anyone with an ulterior motive can easily find out exactly where you are and what you’re doing.

Wait until you get home from vacation to post your photos and tell your friends about what a wonderful time you had. Those closest to you will already know where you were, and be looking forward to hearing about it and seeing your vacation pics!

Take 5 minutes to check your security settings on your social media accounts (public? friends? friends of friends?), to limit who sees your posts and avoid being tagged in statuses, posts and photos without your approval.

I am not suggesting that you stop posting on social media; it is a wonderful tool to keep in touch with friends and family who are spread across the state, the country or the globe. However, please take into consideration the potential dangers of letting so many people — friends of friends, ex significant others, and even the general public — know where you are and what you are doing.

I have heard stories ranging from people taking a “sick day” off of work, then checking in at the State Fair and posting photos of themselves having a great time (OF COURSE they got in trouble with their employer), to others posting that they were going away for a long weekend and their house being robbed while it was unattended.  Why “check in” and give away your exact location when you could simply post a status or photo of whatever it is you really want to share?

In your online interactions as well as your “IRL” (in real life, for those over 40) interactions, be aware, stay safe, and stop checking in!

pepper-spray-hot-topic

Pepper Spray:  a Very Hot Topic!

During my self defense seminars, someone invariably asks for my recommendations regarding Mace/pepper spray.  My unequivocal recommendation is this:  pepper spray is great, if you HAVE it and CAN USE it when you NEED it.

If you’re going to buy pepper spray and let it roll around in the bottom of your purse for 6 years, don’t bother.  If you get a keychain canister, but don’t carry it because it’s big and inconvenient, forget it.  If you go for a run but have your pepper spray zipped up in a pocket or otherwise stashed out of reach…you get the point.

Some common objections:

 “I don’t know what kind to get.”  True, you have a lot of options.  There are large canisters, which are more often used by law enforcement, or to deter animal attacks.  Keychain canisters are much smaller and more convenient for carrying on a regular basis.  Some have breakaway clips so that, for example, if your key is in your car’s ignition, you can quickly and easily disengage the pepper spray without turning off your vehicle.  Pepper spray is available with a belt clip as well.  There are pepper spray containers that look exactly like a tube of lipstick, if you’re self-conscious about carrying it or need a very compact size.  Some canisters offer a retractable cord so you can attach a clip or button to a purse or pocket and easily find and deploy the pepper spray if needed.  Consider how you’ll be carrying it and how you want to deploy it in a self defense situation.  Do you want something with a “safety” on it?  A button on top you can easily depress?  A switch you can slide forward?  The bottom line:  Get something that YOU are comfortable carrying and using.

“I don’t want people to think I’m paranoid.”  I get that.  A potential rapist or abductor doesn’t want you to think about fighting back, either.  Pepper spray and other personal defense items exist for your personal defense.  Carry them when appropriate (not in the airport, please), when you’re prepared to use them (test-fire, anyone?), and don’t let social pressures sway you.  Better safe than sorry!

 “I don’t know how to use it.”  Well…pepper spray is very affordable, and available at almost any sporting good store.  Buy one or more items to test fire.  OUTDOORS, PEOPLE.   It is important that you know whether it sprays, streams or shoots a gel…and what the range is.  If you already own pepper spray but haven’t test-fired it, do yourself a favor and clean the nozzle before doing so.  If the nozzle is blocked, you’ll get to “enjoy” the blowback when you test-fire it.

Like any item with propellant (hairspray, sunscreen, WD-40), it has a shelf life and an expiration date.  The pepper spray you bought 10 years ago?  Please replace it…you wouldn’t trust a can of corn that was a decade old, so don’t trust out-of-date pepper spray either.  It’s a small investment that can pay off big time.

My longtime friend Janis Tanksley is president of Defense Angel LLC.  I recommend their products;  they offer four kinds of personal defense sprays.  Check them out here!