Real-World Halloween Safety Tips

October 31 – Halloween. All Hallow’s Eve. For those who practice neo-Pagan spiritual traditions, the festival of Samhain. Also, a time when the mainstream media and pop culture take the safety of our kids and turn it into insane, mindless hysteria.

This year, the media hysteria seems, as usual, to center around two common fears: Pedophiles, and tainted candy. I’d like to talk about each of these in the context of awareness and risk assessment, and then offer some more common-sense tips to keep yourself and your children safe tonight.

[Read more…]

Danger Signs

“Be aware of your surroundings.” It’s the first thing taught in every self-defense class I’ve ever attended. One of the most common pieces of advice dished out to those looking to protect themselves. And it’s good advice, so far as it goes.

What’s missing, though, from the all-too-frequent repetition of this advice, is any guidance about what we should be aware of. Without knowing what we should be watching for, what behaviors should trigger our Condition Red awareness, knowing that we need to “be aware” is empty advice. It sounds good, but standing alone, it helps us not at all.

I certainly learned this lesson in spades during my own encounters with violent predators. Operating without the benefit of any understanding of criminal behavior and victimology, I equated “be aware” with the sort of reflexive “stranger danger!” conditioning that was so popular when I was growing up, back in a time before society fully realized that the most likely threats were people we knew. But the predators that found me weren’t strangers, and I didn’t realize until much too late the dangerous hole in my knowledge.

[Read more…]

What Would You Do – Creepy Store Employee

Garand Gal shared a story the other day about an experience she had while shopping for new glasses for her daughter. I’ll let you read her post for the whole story, but here’s the gist of what happened:

The technician was complimenting her on how pretty her eyes were, then it was her hair (it’s long, she’s never had her hair cut) and then he kept asking her to turn around so he could see the butterflies embroidered on her back pockets (he did this at least three times) and telling her how cute they were and how pretty she was, did she wear make-up etc. I saw red flags flying all over throughout the conversation. One of them being that when he was doing the store spiel he was using a normal tone of voice but when he was complimenting her or asking her to turn he was using a very quiet voice. I assumed so it wouldn’t be picked up by the surveillance. Another was that he waited until I appeared distracted with my other children or my phone before he said anything, not realizing that I was texting the things he was saying to my husband and that as a mother I can pay attention to several things at once. When I didn’t give him any indication that I’d heard, he started saying more and more things to her.

Garand Gal asked her readers what they would have done in a similar situation. I think she handled what happened well (you can read her post to find out what she did), but I wanted to link to this because I think it’s instructive to talk about what Garand Gal did right.

[Read more…]

Disengage the Autopilot

How can you fix a problem that you haven’t recognized is a problem yet? What are the habits you’ve fallen into, without even consciously being aware of them, that might lead you into trouble?

I was thinking about this question earlier today when I noticed myself doing something that I didn’t give a moment’s thought to at the time, but which I’ve sure been thinking about afterward.

I had to take my car into the shop this morning. It was a completely routine thing, and I was in and out in 20 minutes. The service station was one I’ve patronized for years, the owner someone who’s been fixing cars longer than I’ve been alive. To say that I trust him and his work is a bit of an understatement. So, when I got there, without even thinking about it, I handed over my keys.

[Read more…]

Teachable Moments

I’ve had a few people ask me lately about teaching firearms safety, safety and self-defense to kids. I’m working on some stuff specifically about teaching gun safety and shooting to kids, but it’s also important to me that my daughter learn the skills of personal safety and awareness.

Nutmeg is almost 17 and she’s at that age where she finds sport in calling me an “old lady”. (I’m on the near side of 40, though barely, and this seems terribly old to her). So, she’s not yet learned the lesson that kids seem to forget between the ages of 12 and 25: namely, that the way Mom survived to be “an old lady” is because she actually knows stuff.

Because of this, Nutmeg tends to be impatient when she perceives that I’m “teaching” her stuff. She’ll say things like, “I have to listen to blah-blah-blah all day at school; I don’t want to listen to it at home too.” If she’s feeling especially flippant, she’lll say “learning stuff causes cancer.” There’s no question Nutmeg is growing up to be a spirited young lady, which is a good thing, but which means Mom has to be a bit cleverer about taking “teachable moments” where I can find them.

[Read more…]

Where Do You Draw the Line?

Over at Active Response Training, Greg Ellifritz has a terrific post today about where we draw the line in terms of decisions we might make in the face of a violent crime. Do we hand over our wallet? Our car? Our clothes? Our children?

These are decisions we should think about ahead of time, because prior thought and planning displaces the “fight/flight/freeze” response that arises from circumstances catching us off-guard.

[Read more…]

Of Storm Clouds, Paranoia and Awareness

This afternoon, my spouse (“A.”) and I went for a long walk around our neighborhood. As usual for me, I was in a relaxed Condition Yellow state of alertness. At one point in our walk, I noticed a teenaged, or perhaps early 20’s, male standing along the wall which encircled a back yard. There are lots of kids in our area and seeing teens out and about isn’t unusual, but something about this one pinged my radar, so I stopped to watch him for a few moments and see if I could figure out what I’d alerted on.

By the way, this is a good exercise and one I highly recommend for those working to develop their situational awareness. As Gavin de Becker writes in The Gift of Fear, our intuition doesn’t always respond to the right triggers, and it doesn’t always respond in the right way to a trigger. But, he says, it always has our best interests at heart and, when our “spidey sense” gets triggered, our intuition is always responding to something. So, when I get that prickle, I always try to stop and figure out where it’s coming from.

[Read more…]

Stacking the Deck

I had the opportunity to do a ride-along for half a shift or so with a deputy from my local Sheriff’s Department last night. We had some interesting conversation and experiences, about which I may share more later, but one thing stood out for me that I wanted to talk about.

At one point, we stopped a vehicle for minor traffic violation. As the deputy walked up to the car, I noticed that he touched the back of the trunk with his hand, and that he walked all the way around the vehicle rather than approach it from the side where the traffic was passing. Nothing ended up being amiss, the driver of the vehicle was given a warning rather than a citation, and we fairly quickly got back on the road.

When I asked the deputy about his actions afterward, he told me that touching the trunk is a habit he’s gotten into, that the main reason he does it anymore is so, if there’s someone hiding in the trunk, he’ll feel them trying to open the trunk before they can jump out and ambush him. “I know, that’s not something that’s very likely,” he admitted. “Still, it does happen, and since I’ve decided to do everything I can to come home at the end of my shift, anything I can do to stack the deck in my favor helps.”

[Read more…]

The Threat You Don’t See Coming

Take a moment to think about the kinds of threats you’re preparing and training for. Got it? Good. Now, I invite you to consider a question: When danger comes, will it come in the form you imagine? Or will you fail to recognize the threat until it gets too close, because the threat that you didn’t see coming is dressed up in distressingly familiar clothes?

I was thinking about the issue of what kinds of scenarios we prepare for because of a conversation I had the other day with a friend. I used to volunteer with my local rape crisis center, and they’ve invited me to do some in-service training for them. I sat down with my friend, their volunteer coordinator, to discuss the training and, as is wont to happen, we got talking.

“One thing I see over and over,” my friend said, “is women who worry and stress and prepare for the stranger in the alley, but they don’t prepare for the friend of a friend who gets them drunk at a party. The people who seem familiar get discounted, but that’s where the real threat lies far more often than not,”

[Read more…]

Ignorance vs. Complacency

Yesterday I wrote about the choice we make not to be a victim, and I said that choosing not to make a choice is still a choice. AGirl from A Girl and Her Gun left a comment that I wanted to respond to, because I want to clarify the difference I see between ignorance and complacency. She wrote:

I don’t necessarily agree that not making a choice is a choice. Yes, a great many people know the facts and choose not to take respsoiblity, but I would argue that most people just don’t know. I honestly believed I was doing everything to be safe. I was making a choice to be safe, but my information was flawed. I was not choosing to be a victim. There was more that I could have done, but the fact that I didn’t was based on ignorance not a choice and what happened was not just punishment for being naive.

[Read more…]