Titanic: Not a Damsel in Defense

When the Titanic crashed, she was no damsel in defense.  I saw the movie recently, and while I love it, I couldn’t help but see the parallels to how we can all sink if we aren’t careful.  No way to save herself, sending off desperate flares, and sinking into the ocean without any way to minimize the tremendous loss of life that occurred.  But how did she get to that situation?  Primarily two things, if I lump all the smaller technical factors together.  And these are the same things that can sink a damsel in defense as well.

1.  Overconfidence (led to running the boat too fast, not getting binoculars for the iceberg lookouts, and not turning in time).

2.  Refusal to acknowledge unlikely but possible risk factors (led to not having adequate lifeboats or proper emergency planning).

Everyone thought Titanic was unsinkable.  Why would anyone think such a thing about a huge hunk of metal?  Less sinkable, unlikely to sink maybe, but can you ever say something is impossible?  Marketing, that’s all it was.  Great marketing to get people on a big boat.  And you’ll see the same marketing from self defense weapons sometimes.  They’ll promise you’ll be unsinkable.  But you never know what can happen, and you should plan for the worst while hoping for the best. A damsel in defense watches out to make sure that the doesn’t think she is unsinkable and lead herself into a bad situation.

Self defense training and weaponry should always be a way of helping you be aware that all ships are sinkable and that there are icebergs everywhere, so you should have lifeboats on board and you should be careful how you steer.

That’s why I take issue with companies that promise you that their products will make you unsinkable, when really, there’s a lot of things you need to do to ensure you have the proper “lifeboats” for your ship.  If you are going to carry a weapon, make sure you are good enough with it that you can use it better than it will be used on you, and make sure you are strong and fast enough.  If not, and you just pick up some plastic defense toy and think it makes it fine to jog in the park at night, you are just like the Titanic, heading out into iceberg laden waters with no lifeboats.

If you are going to let anything make you feel invincible to the dangers in the darkness (or even broad daylight) make sure you prepare lifeboats for possible catastrophes.  If you are going to assume you are safe enough to go risking a metaphorical crash, make sure you have rehearsed and prepared for that crash.

1.  Acknowledge that you can sink.  Actions under this category include avoiding dangerous situations, jogging with friends during the day (jogging alone during the day and with friends at night are both still somewhat dangerous), taking awareness classes, volunteering at rape crisis centers to be really aware of the reality of rape, and anything else that keeps you aware of the “icebergs” out there.

2.  Prepare based on that acknowledgement.  Actions under this category would include getting weapons and training with them.  Also taking self defense courses that teach you how to use weapons, how to grapple, how to get away, etc.  Getting a concealed carry permit is another one.

None of these suggestions mean that you live in constant fear.  But would anyone have called the Titanic makers and captain paranoid for just putting the right number of lifeboats on and doing a lifeboat drill?  Who cares?  It would have been a way of caring more about the passengers than their own egos and convenience.  You seeing yourself as a sinkable ship navigating icebergs is a way of caring for the people on your ship, you and your family and friends.

So learn from the Titanic.  Steer carefully, keep a good lookout, and be prepared for the worst just in case.

As usual, this blog just my opinions and not professional or legal advice.

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True Safety

I have my degree in psychology, and a psychologist from my university once told me that what women fear more than anything is rape, and that what they crave more than anything is security.  As the writer of Damsel in Defense and a feminist, it’s a hard concept for me to accept.

I’m sure it’s an idea that many of us recoil from because it seems like a pretty unflattering thing to say about our gender.  What? We don’t fear global warning?  Our legs getting cut off?  The end of the world as we know it?

All joking aside, he had interviewed hundreds and hundreds of women, and concluded that women fear being violated more than anything else.

I don’t have to dig deep to come up with several reasons this may be true.  It is an intensely personal violation.  It is painful, and it proves to us that we are unprotected.  It leaves us feeling helpless.  It infringes on a woman’s right to choose even the most basic things for her body, like who enters, and who can possibly leave a child that she will have to figure out what to do with.  I know many rape victims.

I think we can all agree that when we sink into our lover’s arms, we feel safe and content in a deep way that is unsatisfied by anything else.  This safety comes from a contextually secure place of mutual respect, love, and protection.

But it’s also important to create a safe place within yourself.  One that can never be taken away, even by rape.  If you are ready, and you fight as hard as you can when the worst happens, and you make the right choice about how hard to fight because you have prepared, thought through, and trained, you will find you are safe wherever you go and whatever happens to you.  Even if the outcome is devastating you will know a litte more that it wasn’t you.  You will know more that you were prepared and did what you could.  And in preparing for the worst, you will hopefully begin to understand that you are no worse for what has happened and that you did nothing to deserve it.

When your life is threatened, it’s natural to want to submit.  While this often may not actually help you with an attacker, it is your choice.  And if you choose to do it, rather than innately do it from shock, you have a better chance of not shaming yourself later.  You will know you made an educated decision to save your own life.  The best decision you could make in the moment, based on extensive preparation.

It seems morbid to prepare yourself for the worst.  But think how much safer you would go to bed at night, having fully explored the things that can happen and the meanings you would attach to them.  Imagine the worst, and how you would feel about yourself after, and if the place you reach isn’t loving, work until you could see yourself in a loving way no matter the outcome.  Rape is not the fault of the victim, but that doesn’t stop victims from blaming themselves.  Prepare yourself to think critically about rape.  Work hard to think of (and study) all possible ways to avoid, escape, and deal with the “unthinkable” things that happen every day, everywhere.

Again, if you love that peaceful feeling of safety when you are promised protection, when you are in your loved one’s arms and they are in yours, or when you are safe under your blankets behind a secured door, make it a priority to create a safe space in your head as well.  One where peace comes from knowing that you care about yourself enough to protect yourself in every way, to work hard for it, as you would want someone else who cares and has promised to care for you to do.  Create a space where you can figuratively go under the blankets, unafraid because you have someone protecting you with everything they have: You.

Thanks and stay safe all.

That is what being a damsel in defense means to me.  A full woman, capable, knowledgeable, fully aware and sentient.  Feminine and defensive.  Acknowledging female vulnerability, human vulnerability, and defending it.  When I thought of the name for my blog, damsel in defense said it all for me.  I’m still a woman, or a girl, and I don’t have to give that up to be safe.  But being a damsel doesn’t put me in distress.  It puts me in defense.

Disclaimer:  The opinions expressed on damsel in defense are just my personal opinions and not professional or legal advice.

Sexual Harassment

At my last job, I was sitting in orientation and the lady next to me mentioned she had quit her last job because of sexual harassment.  Not towards her, but towards girls around her.  It had made her uncomfortable, and she had told the supervisor, but he wouldn’t do anything because the actual girl the harassment was targeted towards refused to complain or come forward.  I’ve seen this too often at different jobs I’ve worked at.  Girls will come up to me and complain about sexual harassment, whether it’s inappropriate language, or texts, or calls.  First off, I ask how the offender ended up with their number.  Then I ask if they have told the person to stop.  These women seem to think that they shouldn’t have to say anything, the man knows what he is doing is wrong, and therefore he is harassing by continuing.  Whether he does or not is something she won’t know until she tells him to stop.

I’m not sure what it is that makes us women so reluctant at times to tell an attacker off.  Even I have been in the awkward position of wondering if the harassment is worth pissing off a coworker or boss and delayed reporting it.  And I think many of us wonder if reporting it would do more harm than good anyway.  In my experience, reporting it means nothing unless you have told the harasser to stop what they are doing because it offends you.

I’ve noticed that I rarely get harassed now at work.  The creepers pass right over me for other girls, and I’ve realized a pattern in who they select for the most inappropriate behavior.  I decided to analyze how my behavior has changed to make me a more undesirable target than I used to be.

It’s all body language.  Sexual harassers seem to always do little tests before escalating behaviors.  They will rub your shoulder, ask for your number, and do other little things that while minor, seem a bit inappropriate.  They might make a dirty or inapropriate comment, they might curse, but they will always be looking at you to see how you react.  Watch your feelings, if you feel a bit uncomfortable, make sure you react honestly.  If you are nervous and smile back, or laugh, or turn away shyly, it has sent them the message that you are okay with what they do, or if you aren’t, aren’t going to do anything about it.  Then by the time you are ready to do something about it, it has escalated to a point where you hate your job and feel like he has all the power because if you report him he will say it is your fault too because you didn’t say anything.

It’s simpler than you would think to make yourself an undesirable target.  I just do what comes naturally instead of hiding it behind politeness.  If a man rubs my shoulder, I shrug away and look at him like “what are you doing?”  Sometimes I say “what are you doing?”.  If a man (or woman) says something offensive at work I say “That was offensive.  Ew.”  Etc.  People innately don’t like these reactions from other people, and it will often stop them in their tracks.

Now there are other cases, cases that won’t stop, cases that are more rare and pernicious.  But it’s best to figure out which these are early on, for your own safety.  If he’s the slightly awkward and creepy coworker who thinks you’re cute, he’ll back away when stood up to.  If not, you want to know early on so you can get to a supervisor.

It’s a lot like taking precautions while walking at night.  Make yourself the least safe bet to attack.  If you show in the workplace that you don’t like inappropriate behavior and call it out quickly, the really dangerous ones should be less likely to see you as an easy target.  This has worked for me.  At first it was hard to feel confident calling others out on their flaws, but you don’t know who is harassing on purpose or on accident otherwise.

You have the right to be comfortable at work, regardless of gender of victim or harasser.  You have the right to tell other people when they make you uncomfortable, and doing so will keep you much safer, even if it’s scary at first.  I feel that as a woman there is an innate need to please, to not cause trouble.  But avoiding conflict doesn’t alleviate trouble, it leads to it.

Just a few thoughts.

Disclaimer:  The opinions expressed on damsel in defense are just my personal opinions and not professional or legal advice.

Straight talk about Mace…

Ahhh…Mace,   Doesn’t it just seem like the pinnacle of self defense ease?  You don’t have to train to use it, you can easily buy it, it’s cheap, and since it’s not fatal you don’t have to ask yourself the “could I kill someone” question before you arm yourself with it.

But SHOULD you arm yourself with it?

First off, let’s clear up WHAT mace is.  Mace and pepper spray are NOT the same thing, though used synonymously.  Mace is an irritant, like tear gas, and pepper spray is an inflammatory agent.  Mace makes eyes sting and tear, pepper spray makes them swell up and shut, causing temporary blindness.  It also causes the lung tissue to be inflamed when inhaled.  Personally, I carry Blue-face, because not only does it come with the tagline “turns criminals into smurfs!” but it is a defense spray with dye added so that the police or future potential victims can see that the attacker has been sprayed in the face.

Back to the question of whether or not you are going to carry mace/pepper spray.  Simply put, if you are going to use it as an excuse to do stupid things that you would normally avoid as unsafe, because it gives you a false sense of security, then you are better off not taking it.  I’ve been pepper sprayed twice (both accidental), and I’m telling you, it’s irritating, but not necessarily debilitating.  Also, when you spray it, it usually disperses in a wide stream that can easily catch the wind and blow back at you as well as the attacker.  To avoid this, you have to have the mace really close to the eyes so that the liquid remains liquid instead of mist.  Or buy a bottle that disperses in a stream, but those are harder to find.

If someone is close enough to be threatening, or even has taken the fight to the ground, mace can be an asset.  It can turn the tides of the fight in your favor.  But it is not going to assure safety and escape.  You can’t just spray an attacker in the face and expect them to run away crying.  I use mace as a way to blind them so that I can strike while they are distracted.  Mace is the start of the fight, not the end of one.  Spray them and then fight like an animal and then run for your life.

If you are determined to follow common sense self defense rules regardless of carrying it, then mace is a good addition to your self defense arsenal for the worst case scenarios.  But if it creates a false sense of security and will make you more likely to put yourself in danger, you are better off leaving it alone, because it’s just not effective or certain enough to even out the increased risks you may be taking.

Disclaimer:  The opinions expressed on damsel in defense are just my personal opinions and not professional or legal advice.

Teach your kids that adults aren’t always right

The last couple posts focused on awareness and protecting children, and since I’m on a child abuse prevention kick right now I’m going to continue on from there.  The truth is, no matter how hard you try, you can’t make sure your child never encounters someone who wants to do something inappropriate.  From a babysitter, to a teacher, or a coach, you can’t always be there to make sure no one does something they shouldn’t.

One of the reasons children are victimized is because they are usually in an environment where the adult is always right, no matter what the child thinks at home.  They are used to doing things they don’t want to do because they are told to, and they are dependent and thus have to follow rules that may not even make sense to them.  Unfortunately, this blind sense of always being wrong compared to an adult leads to tragedy when a sexual conflict comes up.

***Trigger warning*** for anyone reading this who has experienced child sexual abuse, you should make sure you’re in a good place to read this, or come back later.

A child will may not be comfortable with the touching or the abuse that goes on, but if it is done by a trusted a adult, they will have a hard time saying no, or knowing that it’s wrong.  We have to teach our children that there are some things that no one can do, some things that adults can not be right doing, that no one can be right doing.

This doesn’t need to be graphic and traumatic.  For instance, using a doll or pictures in a children’s book to explain that no one should ever touch them in certain places, and if it happens, to scream no, leave, and tell another trusted adult immediately.  Too many acts of child abuse are more mentally coercive than physically coercive, the attack is dependent on the child being too afraid or confused to stop the assault or draw attention to it.  Even if it seems like something children shouldn’t have to face, it’s becoming more and more likely that they will face it, and to be armed, they need to have a rigid idea of what is and isn’t allowed.  They need to be taught that if they feel uncomfortable they always have a right to yell and find another adult.  And they need to know that they have a right to say no to people in authority.

Without going into more detail, I think you get what I mean about telling them.  And you can’t be TOO vague, like that safety kid’s song “stay outside of my line or I’ll tell on you” because kids are awfully literal and won’t understand.  They need to know locations and that touching and even being shown certain things is something to scream about and tell on.  That adults are wrong when they do these things.

Disclaimer:  The opinions expressed on damsel in defense are just my personal opinions and not professional or legal advice.

Dangerous Barbie?

http://www.ksl.com/?nid=148&sid=13506614

In case you want to skip reading the article, it’s a warning from the Federal Bureau of Investigation about a Barbie doll that doubles as a digital camera that could be used and exploited by pedophiles to get inappropriate video of children.

I know.  COME ON.  The sad thing about this article is not that the FBI finds it necessary to warn people about a toy like this, the sad thing about this article is that it’s spot on.  I thought considering today’s earlier post on child abusers this was relevant.  The FBI profiles these people all the time, if they see a threat with what should be an innocent children’s toy, it should tell you something about child predators.  They plot, they scheme, they think hard about ways to attack, ways to exploit.  This post isn’t so much to warn you about this barbie, but to warn you there are people out there that will take ANY opportunity and look at it’s potential for catching a child victim.  They understand children, who are so innocent and ready to love and so open to presents.  The phrase “candy from strangers” is pathetically accurate.  What couldn’t you bribe the little children in your life to do with the right amount of candy or presents?  While an older man holding out a Barbie is a huge creepy warning sign to an adult, it is a temptation to a child.  Watch out for anyone with a camera out around your children.  Watch out at the public pool for men diving under the water with goggles in the kid’s pool.  Never assume a place is safe or normal, never assume a toy or a stranger is harmless.

Disclaimer:  The opinions expressed on damsel in defense are just my personal opinions and not professional or legal advice.

Let’s talk about kids…

Kids are stupid.  Really.  That’s why I wish people would stop having more kids than they can protect.

Any trip I take I see it everywhere, a young toddler in the front yard alone, a 7 year old wandering in the mall, a kid on the sidewalk in front of a store.  I could have picked them up and run off if I wanted to.

Protecting and supervising our kids isn’t enough though.  People close to us can also be harmful.  So here’s some tips on pedophiles.

1.  They LOOK for lonely, unsupervised, poor, or lonely/unhappy children.  Yes.  They do.  So remember when you want to yell or crush your child’s spirit you are saying to a potential predator that that child is less protected.

2.  They live near schools, and churches.  Even with laws that should prevent it, they do.  And they watch schoolyards.  Don’t assume your children are safe playing at even their most familiar places.

3.  They aren’t the creepers around the corner with the obviously sinister appearance.  If they were, they wouldn’t get parents to trust them with their children, and children to trust them in general.  They are charismatic, the favorite teacher, the soccer coach, and even in my friend’s case, the ice skating assistant coach.  Make sure someone is watching practice.

4.  Search your zipcode on a sex offender registry.  It will sicken you but at least scare you into awareness.  Just google “your state’s name” plus sex offender registry.  Remember it is illegal to use the info there for anything other than awareness and your own safety.  No harassment.  Read the fine print before you accept the terms to enter your state’s registry.

I’m sure you are all wonderful mothers or will be one day.  But this world is getting more evil.  It’s an awareness game.  No one wants to talk about something so awful, but if no one does, it leads people to think it’s okay to leave their children unattended.

Lots of people want to talk about the child molester problem.  Blah blah they are mentally ill, blah blah they will re-offend when they get out of jail.  And truthfully, our system does NOT properly address them.  So I was asked by someone once, what would you suggest?  How do we deal with predators?

My answer is to turn it over to families.  Educate people how to protect their own.  If each family protected it’s children, abusers would have no victims, and if victims decreased, so would offenders.  Because while most victims don’t become abusers, a good portion of abusers suffered monstrous abuse.

And one other thing.  This isn’t about hatred.  It isn’t about rejoicing when predators are harmed in jail.  We shouldn’t glory in anyone’s anguish, and I think we need to remember that we don’t know a person’s history.  I am in no way condoning child abuse.  I know personally that is it one of the cruelest, most unfair and traumatically scarring things that a person can choose to do to another person.  And one day they will be held responsible.

But I am saying that hate solves nothing, but love can help us protect.

Disclaimer:  The opinions expressed on damsel in defense are just my personal opinions.  Damselindefense.com is not liable in any way for actions arising from reading it.  Additionally, damselindefense.com is not affiliated with the recent company damselindefense.net that was founded nearly a year after my blog.