Tag Archives: self defense

Susan’s Stalker

Stalker-following-woman

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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Believe Them the First Time – 6 Questions to Help You “Hear” Your Inner Voice

When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.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

6 Reasons Parking Garages Are Scary

img_7976More 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.

Continue reading

unlocked-open-door

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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listen-to-yourself

Listen to Yourself!

“Would you just listen to yourself?”  Although this sounds like something your best friend might say when you’re being unreasonable, or even an admonishment from a frustrated parent, it is the best safety advice I can give.  If you will allow yourself to listen to – and hear – your own true voice, and act on what it tells you, you can avoid many dangerous situations.

We’ve all had “gut feelings” before.  It’s very easy to explain your gut feeling about something or someone after something happens, but often very difficult to explain it beforehand. You may feel uneasy being alone with a coworker, or get a “weird vibe” from a guy at the gas pump across from yours.  You might even walk into a store, get a panicky feeling, and simply leave.

We are the only living creatures on this planet who rationalize away fears, worries or instincts. We do this because of social pressures, fear of embarrassment, or the inability to articulate or explain what we are feeling.  A cat or dog can go from being startled and defensive to being calm and affectionate within a few seconds.  They are unconcerned about what their peers think, or whether they should be embarrassed for overreacting to a false threat. Don’t let your internal monologue (“this can’t be happening to me” or “I’m sure he didn’t mean that” or “this will turn out okay”) keep you from acting on your intuition – your gut instinct.

As Gavin de Becker writes in his outstanding book The Gift of Fear, “When it comes to survival signals, our minds have already done their best work by the time we try to figure things out.” De Becker also writes, “…when it comes to danger, intuition is always right in at least two important ways: 1) It is always in response to something. 2) It always has your best interest at heart.”

Listen to yourself.  Trust your instincts and act on them! Stay safe…and while you’re at it, make an investment in your safety and read The Gift of Fear.  It’s available in hardback, paperback, digital and audio versions.

sparring-is-not-fighting

Sparring is Not Fighting

Amateur and professional sports events such as Mixed Martial Arts, boxing and professional wrestling, as well as Taekwon-Do, Jiu-Jitsu, Karate and other martial arts classes, have led the general public to view these sporting matches as “fights.”  These talented professional and amateur athletes also contribute to the misnomer, hyping the events with rivalries, wagers and taunts.  However, there are several important differences between these sporting events or tournaments and actual fights.

Athletes have weeks or months to train for the event.  They know the day, time, and location it will be held.  Athletes know who their opponent will be, and have agreed to meet that opponent in a fair match on equal footing. They know what the stakes are – a title, a belt, a medal, a coveted match with a specific contender, or even a hefty payday. Athletes know which weapons, if any, will be allowed in their competition. They wear required protective gear such as gloves, mouthpieces, and groin protection, and can rest assured that a referee will be watching for illegal techniques and assessing penalties for infractions. Athletes know that the event will last only a specified amount of time, and that in the event of a serious injury, their coach or the medical staff can stop the match. Athletes know that the event will be held in a well-lighted area, the rules won’t change mid-event, and that no bystanders will join in to gang up on them.

A fight may occur in any place, at any time, and for a myriad of reasons. There may be multiple opponents, with makeshift weapons or even knives or guns. The attacker(s) may be angry over a perceived slight, impaired by drugs or alcohol, or simply thrill seekers out to prove their dominance or increase their standing with their peer group. There In many cases, only one person knows that the fight is about to happen.  There is often no one to intervene, offer assistance or call police until the fight is long over. Fights are not fair. Sand is thrown, hair is pulled, eyes are gouged.  Any possible advantage is taken and exploited.

Avoid a fight if you possibly can. If you can’t, protect yourself (and your loved ones) as best you can, and escape as soon as you can.  Don’t waste time thinking,”This can’t be happening,” or rationalizing your attacker’s reasoning.  The altercation could be over by the time you make sense out of the situation.  Trust your instincts and take action, whether that means running, taking cover, arming yourself, assuming a defensive stance (hands up, body turned sideways to be a smaller target), or striking out at your assailant.

If there are bystanders, ask for their help: “You in the red shirt! Call 9-1-1!”  Clearly and loudly communicate your desire to avoid a fight by saying, “I don’t want any trouble,” or even, “Don’t hit me!”  Your words may figure heavily in a lawsuit or police report if bystanders are asked what they remember.

If you can’t avoid an attack, be sure to go get checked out afterward.  You might have a concussion or internal bleeding if you’ve fallen or been struck.  Worse, what feels like a hard punch or kick could wind up being a stab wound. Don’t take chances…and be sure to file a police report as soon as possible.

Stay safe!

online-safety-identity

Is It Really You?

Fortune tellers do it.  Identity thieves do it. Phishers do it. Salespeople even do it, to a certain extent.  Taking a little bit of existing information and making an educated guess, trying to establish rapport and “fill in the gaps” is a common practice.

We give away information about ourselves all the time, and unscrupulous individuals can find a way to take advantage.  Knowing who you’re dealing with is absolutely essential in today’s online world!

I recently received an instant message from a longtime friend, and it just didn’t feel right.  She had never IM’ed me before, although we frequently exchange phone calls, text messages and even snail mail.  We exchanged greetings, then I asked, “How is your new puppy doing?”

When her response read, “Great,” I knew immediately that I was not talking with my friend.  I was expecting something more along the lines of, “Have you lost your mind?  I don’t have any pets, let alone a puppy!”

The person on IM kept chatting, and I played along, staying engaged until I found out what he/she wanted (bank info) before “outing” them, whereupon the message window closed and the account itself disappeared.  I called my friend immediately to let her know about the hacker so she could take the appropriate steps.

There are many ways to hide behind a computer screen, and many scammers trying to take advantage of those who are uninformed, unaware or overly trusting.  Take a moment to review your privacy settings on your social media accounts. Make sure you actually know who is seeing your posts and photos, and keep your private information private.

Stay safe!