Virginia Tech – Samanata’s Legacy

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You know, we have a lot of fun here at Girls Fight Back, but ultimately our work is about healing. One of our core values revolves around resiliency and states: “Though the statistics are shocking, we are here to say that we will not conform to the violence. Our world and most of our individual lives have been wrongfully altered by violence. We believe in recovery on individual, societal, and world levels.”

Last night, I presented Students Fight Back at Virginia Tech, a campus very much in recovery. Of course we all remember the horrifying mass shooting that took place on April 16, 2007 and even more recently, a charismatic and well-loved VTech student named Samanata Shrestha was murdered. It was Samanata who was very much on my mind last night as I took the stage to present. I didn’t know her personally, but in conversations with students and faculty before the program, I really got a sense of her energy and the legacy she left behind. It is in memory of all those we have lost to pointless violence that we do this work. And I like to think that the laughs we have in our programs serve as reminders that we can triumph. Evil does not win. We can choose to take back our peace.

Many thanks to everyone who came out in the snow and cold. Your presence was a gift to me.

-GFB Heather

Davidson County Community College – Sassy!

Nothing kicks off a busy week quite like spending your Monday morning with some smart, sassy gals that live life large and in charge! Thanks to Davidson County Community College for getting my week off to a great start. I’ll be at Virginia Tech tomorrow night and Roanoke College Thursday. Then it is spring break, peeps! Holla!

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-GFB Heather

Love or Control? – The Truth About Stalking

Stalking is probably most familiar to us from celebrity news stories—Rhianna and Ashley Tisdale have both been in the news recently getting protective orders issued against their stalkers.  The truth of the matter is that the most stalking cases (approximately 3/4) do not happen between strangers, but between two people who know each other, very commonly incidences in which the perpetrator and the victim have or (more importantly) had a personal or intimate relationship.  In these cases, the closeness of the relationship once in place between the victim and the perpetrator is part of what makes this crime so complex for women.

It is estimated that 6.6 million people are victims of stalking each year, and I am speaking out today as one of those victims.  This is a difficult subject to discuss and an experience that I have personally kept hidden for some time, but I am speaking out today in order to help others who may be in similar circumstances.

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1 in 6 women and 1 in 19 men will be stalked in their lifetime, and many of these crimes go unreported and unprosecuted.  Though women can be stalked by men and women, and men can be stalked by women or men, for the purposes of this article, I will primarily refer to stalking in its most common form: women being stalked by men.  And though this can affect anyone, the most common victims of stalking are women between the ages of 18 and 24—college aged women.

The Supplemental Victimization Survey by the Department of Justice defines stalking as including some or all of these acts which may not be criminal individually, but that collectively and repetitively cause the victim fear

  • Making unwanted phone calls
  • Sending unsolicited or unwanted letters, e-mails, or other forms of electronic communication
    • These first two acts are the most commonly experienced by victims of stalking with 83% of stalking victims surveyed reporting that e-mail and text was used to harass them.
  • Following or spying on the victim
  • Showing up at places without a legitimate reason
  • Waiting at places for the victim
  • Leaving unwanted items, presents, or flowers
  • Posting information or spreading rumors about the victim on the internet, in a public place, or by word of mouth

When victims were asked what their perception was as to the reason the stalking or harassment began, these were the most common responses:

30% – Retaliation/anger/spite

25.2% – Control

16.7% – Mentally ill/emotionally unstable

13.7% – Liked me/found me attractive/had a crush

12.9% – To keep in the relationship

10.3% – Substance abuser

* Details sum to more than 100% because multiple responses were permitted.

President Obama issued a proclamation, naming January 2013 as National Stalking Awareness Month, stating that: “The perpetrator is usually someone the victim knows.  Stalking behavior may be innocuous to outside observers, but victims often endure intense physical and emotional distress that affects every aspect of their lives.  . . . Tragically, stalking tends to escalate over time, and it is sometimes followed by sexual assault or homicide.”

No two stalking situations are alike, and it is important to note that one of the frequent tactics of the stalker is to downplay his or her own behavior causing the victim to question the validity of his or her fears.  Implied threats of violence, such as “I won’t be at peace until you are dead” or veiled threats of suicide such as, “you won’t be happy until I put a gun in my mouth” can easily be dismissed by the perpetrator as “fiery e-mails” or “a few angry texts” when the intention of these communications is obvious and clear—to create fear in the victim.  Implied threats are no different in their intention than direct threats and should always be taken seriously.  The Stalking Resource Center points out that stalking “can have devastating and long-lasting physical, emotional, and psychological effects on victims.  The prevalence of anxiety, insomnia, social dysfunction, and severe depression is much higher among stalking victims than in the general population.”

My personal experience happened twice as I made the mistake of succumbing to the behavior the first time and returned to the unhealthy relationship.  This led me to have to repeat the breakup process a second time; thereby retriggering the stalking.  I felt immense guilt and embarrassment that I made the same mistake twice; and, I allowed those feelings to negatively impact my ability to control my response and seek a swifter resolution.

The second stalking incident (after the second breakup) lasted well over a year, but I thought I could wait it out.  I had great hopes when my stalker entered a new relationship.  Maybe he will lose interest in me?  I thought it was necessary to reply to his contact by repeating over and over that I was no longer and would never be interested.  Granted, I had already trained my stalker that if he harassed me long enough, I would go back to the relationship rather than endure the stalking—a decision I later came to regret.

None of my efforts had any effect other than to fuel the behavior, and I began to allow myself to believe that the situation was my fault, just as he insisted it was.  My stalker made it clear that the only way to end the stalking was to go back to the relationship, telling me things like, “I will never love anyone but you,” “we were meant to be together forever,” “any woman who isn’t you is only a placeholder.”

Love or control?  The answer seems crystal clear in hindsight, but at the time, in the cloud of fear and anxiety (confusion of the abuse paired with a history of emotional connection), it was difficult to decipher.  For over a year, I was on edge.  I didn’t sleep.  I lost weight.  I tried to move on with the many positive aspects of my life and ignore the stalking.  I attempted to act like nothing was wrong in front of friends, co-workers, employees, my son, and my family.  There were many uncomfortable times when I would be out with someone while my phone was beeping incessantly with e-mails and texts and I made excuses for it, pretending everything was fine, only to learn after the fact that no one was buying it.  No matter how much I tried to deny it, I was completely stressed out and it showed.  At the time, I couldn’t admit to anyone that I had let another person so thoroughly control my life.  It was completely humiliating.

Of course, it doesn’t help that the media often romanticizes this crime.  I know that have you seen this portrayed on television or in movies—a man won’t give up on his quest for the woman of his dreams. She rebuffs him, and plays hard to get, but eventually she “sees the light” and he gets the girl.   This encourages the incorrect notion that stalking is about love and that women don’t have the right to choose who they want to be in a relationship with.

Stalking is NEVER about love.  It is only about power and persistence.  Gavin de Becker in The Gift of Fear states, “The fact that a romantic pursuer is relentless doesn’t mean you are special—it means he is troubled.”  Complicating matters further, it is often difficult for the victim to explain the unwanted contact, which is sometimes so bizarre and far-fetched that she might feel crazy even saying it out loud.  For this, among other reasons, the crime often goes unreported to police and also unreported to friends and loved ones.  That isolation works to the perpetrator’s advantage making it easier for him to hide this behavior to the outside world and to any shared associates.

One of the most insidious developments in stalking over the past 20 years is how easy it has become through technological advances.  When in the past a stalker had to leave his house and show up at your home or place of work, today many stalkers control their victims with unwanted e-mails, phone calls, texts, and even setting up false profiles on social media to monitor your activities all from the comfort of home.  This new wave of stalking, called cyberstalking, has become very common with 83% of stalking victims reporting some form of cyberstalking.  The good news, is that it is also makes the stalking easy to document with a long trail of evidence.  This can be very helpful to the police if and when you decide you need a court order of protection.  As painful as it can be, (and I personally know that it can be), you must keep a log of all contact.  Keep all e-mails, or as I did, forward them to someone else to keep on your behalf so you don’t have an opportunity to see them again.  Keep records of texts.  Record all calls with times, what was said, and any threats that were issued.  If you do decide that prosecution is necessary, those logs are essential to your case.

Some unwanted romantic relationships can be ended altogether before there is a major situation on your hands, if people know how to say NO properly.  It seems easy—a simple two letter word, but in our efforts to be kind, we often use it incorrectly.  This is one lesson I wish I had learned much earlier!  de Becker explains that, “stalking is how some men raise the stakes when women don’t play along.  . . . In fact, many cases of date stalking could be described as extended rapes; they take away the freedom, and they honor the desires of the man and disregard the wishes of the woman.”  So, if a person decides he or she does not want to be in a relationship with any given person, it is best to say NO one time and explicitly and then say nothing else.  Anything communicated after “no,” even if that communication is reiterating how much you want to end all communication, IS MORE COMMUNICATION.  If you resist communication 20 times and then cave in and reply to tell the stalker that you want to be left alone, your stalker doesn’t hear that you want to be left alone.  What he or she does hear is that it takes 20 attempts at contact before the stalker gets the desired result . . . your attention.

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However, not all cases are that simple.  Some require further efforts.  So, if you are in this situation or you know someone who is, how do you free yourself from a stalker?  Here are a few tips:

  • If you are in immediate danger, call 911.
  • DON’T COMMUNICATE with the stalker or respond to any attempts to contact you.  Block e-mails, block texts, make your online profiles private or take them down altogether.
  • Keep evidence of the stalking – all e-mails, text messages, phone messages, notes, or letters.  If the stalker shows up at your home or work or is following you, document the time, date, and place.  Ask witnesses to write down what they saw and keep photographic evidence of any damages or injuries the stalker causes.
  • Trust your instincts.  Don’t downplay the danger.  There is no such thing as “stalking light.”  If you feel unsafe, you probably are.
  • Take threats seriously.  Danger is typically higher when the stalker talks about suicide, or murder, or when the victim tries to leave or end the relationship.
  • Develop a safety plan, including things like changing your routine, arranging a place to stay, and having friends or relatives around you.  Tell people around you how they can help you and have a plan of what to do if your stalker does show up at your home, work, or school.
  • Contact a crisis hotline (contact information is included at the bottom of this article).  They can help you with your safety plan, tell you about local laws, and refer you to other services.
  • Contact the police.  Stalking is against the law in all 50 states, all US Territories, and Washington DC.  Note that laws vary from state to state and the legal definition varies regarding the element of fear and emotional distress as well as the intent of the stalker.
  • Consider getting a court order.  Keep in mind that this is not the best course of action in all cases.  In some cases it may be just the motivation needed to get your stalker to stop.  In other cases, it may fuel the anger and give the stalker the one thing he craves most – your attention and the knowledge that you are frightened.  If you aren’t sure on how to move forward with this, seek help and advice from some of the resources listed below.
  • Talk about it!  Tell family, friends, roommates, and co-workers whom you trust about the situation and seek support.  Have others help watch for your safety.
  • It also may be advisable to seek out professional counseling.  It is normal to feel vulnerable, unsafe, anxious, depressed, stressed, confused, frustrated, and isolated when you are the victim of stalking.  These are common reactions and ending the stalking may not relieve those feelings.

For additional resources:

www.stalkingawarenessmonth.org

http://www.ovw.usdoj.gov/aboutstalking.htm

Crime Victims Hotline (stalking)
1-866-689-HELP (4357)

National Domestic Violence Hotline
1-800-799-SAFE (7233)

National Sexual Assault Hotline
To be connected to the rape crisis center nearest to you, dial
1-800-656-HOPE (4673)

National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC)
1-877-739-3895

All statistics come from these sources:

  • US Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women
  • Supplemental Victimization Survey by the Department of Justice
  • US Department of Justice Statistics Special Report
  • The Stalking Resource Center, The National Center for Victims of Crime

About the Author – Gina Kirkland, owner of Kirkland Productions and KP Comedy, channeled her lifelong passion for Women’s Issues into the purchase of her third company, Girls Fight Back, in 2013.  She is picking up the banner from the amazing Erin Weed to continue bringing the message of living a fearless life and combating violence against women to millions of young women across the country.  www.girlsfightback.com

This article can be found online as published in Campus Activities Magazine at: http://bit.ly/stalkingstory

From Miami to Walsh.

Miami University throwin' down!

Okay, I admit both places were in Ohio so it wasn’t quite the glorious road trip that the title implies.  Last week, I spent some quality time in Ohio and the first stop was Miami University and they were super cool . . . and creative.  For example, The Programming Board has an amazingly large banner that they named Abraham, which stands for “A Banner Reaching Awesome Heights and Miracles.” Once I heard that, I knew I was with good people and that we were going to have a good time.  I had a great time talking with everyone about personal safety and kickin’ booty when necessary.  A big thanks goes out to Devin, the event coordinator and Scary Bad Guy.  Devin is actually a repeat Scary Bad Guy and has mad skills in this area. 

The next stop was Walsh University and, while they did not have a banner named Abraham, Bernie, one of the event coordinators, taught me a catchy song called “Stop,” which is a song about ending harassment and other inappropriate things.  The crowd was awesome, very interactive and entertaining.  I have to a throw out another big thank you to Steven, my very, VERY nervous Scary Bad Guy and Mike, one of the other awesome event coordinators.  And, Mike don’t think I forgot about the pony I demanded in return for this seminar.  I’ll keep an eye on my mail for it.  :)

Overall, my trip to Ohio was a huge success and a lot of fun.  I had a great time with all of the awesome students at Walsh and Miami!

GFB Jaime with the awesome event coordinators at Walsh University!

Girls Fight Back at Elizabethtown College!

Stop number three on the Pennsylvania seminar trail was Elizabethtown College and it was GREAT!  The crowd was full of energy and a little rowdy with some shenanigans up their sleeves . . . Just the way I like them.  Heather Rhodes deserves a big thank you for bringing Girls Fight Back! to campus.  I’ve been the worst about getting a picture before the whole crowd leaves lately but I did manage to snag a photo with the lovely ladies you see above.  Thanks Elizabethtown! 

Students Fight Back at Pennsylvania College of Technology

Penn College of Technology was my second stop on the Fight Back Pennsylvania extravaganza and it was a blast!  Staying true to their name, they had a stellar technological set up with multiple flat screens to blast out our Students Fight Back power point.  I would like to give a big shout out to everyone who worked to bring us to campus, especially Mike Hersh.  Mike was particularly helpful because he let me volunteer him to play the role of our “Scary Bad Guy” and still spoke to me after the seminar was over.  Thanks for being a trooper, Mike!   

Thank You.

             Well, hello there everyone! I just wanted to take a quick second to thank all of GFB’s  supporters for what you enable us to do.  Something we hear a lot at GFB is “thank you.”  We hear it after seminars from our awesome clients and great audiences.  We see it when you post it to our facebook page and when you email us.  But the truth of the matter is you deserve the thank you because, without you, our mission would have never come this far. 

                I was thinking about this yesterday on my flight from Portland to Philadelphia.  Some people, when I tell them that for a certain part of the year I live in airports and hotel rooms, they ask me how I do that.  Well, the truth is that it doesn’t really give me any pause and on my flight yesterday I kept thinking how lucky I am.  Sure, I’ll be living in airports and Hampton Inns for a while but I meet the most amazing and inspiring people when I ‘m on the road and I get to talk with them about something so fundamental to all of our lives.  The truth is that, without all of the support you have given us over the years, we wouldn’t have been able to spread our nearly message as far or nearly as fast.  

                Thank you for making what we do possible and keep hoping with us that someday it will be a service that is no longer needed and working with us to make that day happen.

                Strong. Resilient. Spirited. Unified. 

Public Information Station

Last week I was riding the train into downtown Portland on my way to work and realized something very strange.  People share a lot of personal information on public transportation.  Granted, most people are not going up to perfect strangers on the train and offering up the information.  What happens is that people are calling places like their banks and phone companies but before their bank or phone company will give up any information, you have to provide them with some personal details to verify your identity. 

In the course of a 30 minute ride I learned full names, addresses, phone numbers, birthdays, and even one social security number.  Luckily for my fellow train-goers, I personally have no plans to use said information.  However, I can’t speak for everyone else on the train and you can bet that if I heard it, other people heard it also.

Getting down to the point, we need to be careful what we say and when we say it.  Just because it is public transportation does not mean it’s the place to air your not-so-public information.  

When is self-defense the answer?

I have Google alerts set up on topics ranging from self-defense to the hottest spring sandal trends. I was going through them to see if I could find any gems and I came by a somewhat unsettling post on Yahoo Answers. If you’re not familiar with that sight, here is the rundown. Basically, if you have a question, you can post it on Yahoo Answers and the wonderful users of the World Wide Web can submit answers to your question. I came across this question: What is the best self-defense that’s not purely on defensive maneuvers?” The person who posted the question also posted more details and said,

“I guess I’m kinda looking for something that teaches yousomething like setting your opponent up, grabbing his arm, and forcing it out of socket . . . kinda gruesome but after all the bull **** I take from kids around school, there’s a lot I’m willing to do to inflict some pain on certain people.”

This post made me think it is a good time to revisit two topics: what self-defense is really about and respecting each other as people. Self-defense is about protecting your physical safety when you think it’s threatened. It’s not about teaching someone a lesson and it’s definitely not about revenge. Whether you agree with it or not, there are certain truths in society. One of them is that a person can stand at an acceptably distance, say really mean things to you, and you are not actually allowed to beat them up. That is what we call assault. If you think your physical safety is threatened, that is a completely story and it is why self-defense exists.

This person’s post also made me think about how we treat each other. I am a firm believer that people are basically good but there are a few bad apples thrown in the mix. However, sometimes even the best of people can cave into something like peer pressure and maybe treat someone else poorly or bully them. The person who asked this question has been bullied, probably pretty severely to make him seek out that kind of information. It is so important that we respect each other’s humanity and their dignity and hopefully that will reduce the number of people who feel like fighting is the only option.

FREE Girls Fight Back! Program in NC

Hope anyone close to the Piedmont Triad Area of North Carolina will join me for the fun, free event!  At 11am on Saturday, June 12th, I’ll be presenting a free Girls Fight Back! seminar at Advanced World Martial Arts Systems in Kernersville.  The program is appropriate for ages 13 and up and will last about 90 minutes with plenty of time after to answer any questions you may have.  I’ll be talking about ways to avoid becoming the target of a violent crime by trusting your intuition and behaving like a bad victim and I’ll finish up with some simple fight techniques that you can use if you ever find yourself confronted by an attacker.  The program is presented with tons of humor and you’ll leave feeling like a stronger, more empowered person.  Pete Andrews of AWMAS has graciously agreed to let me use his studio for free and while there is no charge for the seminar itself, we will be collecting donations for Heroes Serving Humanity.  For more information about the workshop check out: http://www.awmas1.com/page_latestnews.htm. And call 336-992-5223 to sign-up.  Call ASAP – space is limited.

GFB at the YWCA of Warren Saves My Weekend!

The Warrior Women of Warren.

A few of the Warrior Women of Warren.

The first half of my Saturday was excellent. I laughed and talked self-defense with an incredible crowd of young women at the YWCA of Warren, Ohio. The event was completely seamless, the crowd was pumped and my Scary Bad Guy, Cory, might have been the best SBG on record. All in all, a fantastic morning.

But all good things must come to an end. A three-hour flight delay in Cleveland Saturday afternoon caused this road warrior to miss her connecting flight from Baltimore to Nashville. After being informed by a less than sympathetic airline desk agent that “it is not airline policy to put passengers up in hotels, even when airline error causes them to miss the last flight home of the day,” I came about as close to a complete nervous breakdown in BWI airport as I ever want to. I mean, have you ever tried to sleep on those airport chairs? Not exactly an appealing option.

Luckily for my back and my nerves, the passengers on my flight quickly turned into an angry mob (not really – but close!). Heated words were exchanged (not by me!), supervisors were called and, to make a long story short (too late!), hotel vouchers were reluctantly issued.

The aloft hotel turned out to be charming, even if there was a BUMPIN’ party in the lobby. My sixth-floor room offered reasonable quiet (except for the part when the birthday girl stumbled out of the hotel screaming, and I could hear her and her posse through the window), which was crucial since I had roughly five hours before it was time to rise and shine for the flight home. A quick sleep, to be sure, but it beat stretching out in front of the Cinnabon. Hands down.

The moral of the story, friends, is that travel is an adventure. BUT my time in Warren with those wonderful girls made everything worth it. I want to thank Toni and the rest of the staff for putting on a completely enjoyable event. Cory – you really were a wonderful (and memorable) Scary Bad Guy. And to everyone who came out on a Saturday morning, laughed at my jokes and opened your very own can of whoop-ass: thank YOU for being the absolute highlight of my weekend. I wouldn’t have wanted to spend it any other way!

Online Privacy? Not as Much as You Might Think.

Your name is not on your Twitter account. Your Facebook profile is set to private. And you would never, ever give out your social security number online. You’re safely anonymous online, right? Not so much.

I read an article today in the New York Times about increasing concerns over online privacy – how people compromise it, whether it exists at all. For the safety-savvy woman, the Internet presents a host of challenges that cannot afford to be breezed over.

The article contended that researchers were able to piece together individuals’ identities – sometimes down to their social security numbers – based on information gathered from their often-anonymous social profiles and those of their cyberfriends. To be more specific, by examining statistical correlations, scientists were able to identify 30 percent of Twitter and Flickr users and accurately predict the social security numbers of an estimated 8.5 percent of people born in the U.S. between 1989 and 2003.

Let that sink in for a minute.

Now let’s put this in perspective. Am I advocating that you remove all trace of yourself from the Internet to protect your privacy and your safety? No. You couldn’t do that if you wanted to. What I am saying is that as technology evolves, we inevitably become more vulnerable. Rather than blame technology or blame the scientists or blame our loud-mouth friends, we need to step up our own game and take what steps we can to stay safe online.

Someone who scours your profile and your friends’ profiles may be able to piece together information about your life, but that certainly doesn’t mean that we should just lay it all out there. What we’re trying to do here is be a “bad victim” or a “hard target” online. If a criminal is going to stalk someone or steal someone’s identity, chances are, they’re going after the easy prey. Most criminals aren’t trying to make life hard for themselves! So if you are discriminating about what you post, and you pay attention to where you show up on other people’s profiles, you will make the would-be cyberattacker’s life just that much harder. Chances are, when they realize they can’t find much information on you, they’ll move on to an easier victim.

I’m talking about things like posting online where you work, what time you leave at night, where you live, whether you’re alone. What kinds of pictures of you can people find online? When you’re considering posting a tidbit of information or a photo to your Facebook page or your Twitter account, stop and ask yourself three questions:

1. Would I want my mom to see this?
2. Would I want my boss to see this?
3. Would I want a serial killer to see this?

Because, like it or not, all of those people are looking. When it comes to protecting your privacy online, follow one simple rule: Avoid TMI (too much information).

I’m not saying you shouldn’t “play” online. But I am saying that you can’t hide behind anonymity when you do. You should always act like you’re being watched because, well, you are. As Cornell computer science professor Jon Kleinberg told the New York Times,

“When you’re doing stuff online, you should behave as if you’re doing it in public — because increasingly, it is.”

Monmouth = Awesome!

Yesterday, I got to bring Students Fight Back! to Monmouth College in Monmouth, IL. To put it simply, they were awesome. The campus was adorable and the building they had me speaking in was absolutely gorgeous. To put the icing on an already delicious cake, I had the best scary bad guy ever . . . EVER!

Big thanks to my “Scary Bad Guy,” Matthew . Matthew, I think you have a future in drama if you want it. To top it off, I got to meet with Weed for lunch before taking for Seattle/Portland. Thanks to Danielle Tucker from ASAP who organized a great student event and to all the students who made it rock.

Stay Dangerous. :P

Guerillas and Girl Fights!

Let it never be said that Everett Community College does not think outside the box when publicizing events. When I arrived on campus, I saw dozens of absolutely adorable posters publicizing the Girls Fight Back! seminar. Now, I know what you are thinking . . . that sounds awesome but not necessarily innovative. Well, let me tell you what else EVCC did. First, they wrote the words “Girls Fight” and drew arrows leading all the way to the seminar room. They also had a dancing guerilla directing student traffic to the seminar. This is what I call creative advertising and I LOVE it!

The crowd at EVCC was awesome and pretty much completely fierce. I had a blast and want to give a big thanks to Kelsey Burke for bringing me to EVCC and coordinating such an amazing event. You rock, ladies.

Niceness vs. Intuition

“He seemed so nice at first.” This is a statement I think we all hear frequently in many different contexts. You might hear a friend say it after going on a second date with someone who was so nice on the first date but turned out to be a big jerk on the second. You might hear a victim of sexual assault saying this about her assailant. It begs the question, what is happening to these nice people?

Here’s the deal. Being nice is a choice, not a personality trait and anyone can chose to be nice for a period of time to get something they want from you even if they are the furthest thing from nice. To put it bluntly, people can use niceness to manipulate you. Now, I’m not saying that you should stop trusting all the nice people in the world, because many people chose to be nice and are genuinely good people. However, if your intuition is giving you a signal that the seemingly nice person you are dealing with is a bad news, trust your intuition.

Your intuition will steer you toward the people you want in your life and away from the people you would rather keep out. Trust it and let it work for you.

Prepare Portland Delivers a Great Self-Defense Program

I recently attended a really great self-defense program in the Portland area. It was Prepare Portland’s class and they teach Impact-style self-defense. It was a fun-filled weekend of learning full contact, all-out, empowering self-defense skills. These are my thoughts and a general review of the program but remember, you should research any program before attending.

Prepare Portland delivered a very well-rounded program focusing on setting physical and verbal boundaries and how to fight back from different holds and positions. We started on Friday evening with introductions and background about the program, and then we warmed up and went straight into it. We started with physical fighting and, as the night and weekend progressed, we layered verbal assault and self-defense into the fights. There was a good variety of ground fighting, fighting standing up, surprise attacks from behind, and verbal attacks. Plus, each new scenario built upon skills taught in the previous scenarios so the confidence of the class grew with each scenario.

The program was also incredibly empowering. Each instructor was encouraging, positive and had valuable insights to share. The instructors gave us each the opportunity to give them an index card with scenarios we either wanted to try or avoid. This tailoring gave the students the opportunity to either tackle a scenario they wanted to conquer or avoid a situation they were not quite ready to take on. In general, I think the male, padded instructor is crucial to the success of a full-contact self-defense program. They have to be able to make the switch from being compassionate and your biggest supporter when out of the suit and a creepy weirdo/your worst nightmare when in the suit.  I have to say that our padded instructor played both roles extremely well and I am amazed at his ability to, seemingly simultaneously, attack and encourage.

The one thing that might be a drawback to this program is cost. For 20 hours of training, the full cost is $495.00. However, the bright side (and I’m all about the bright side) is that there are scholarships available based on your income and the staff is really good about working out payment plans. 

To sum up, Prepare Portland delivered a highly empowering, practical self-defense course that I hope more of my fellow Oregonians take advantage of. Great program, great staff, great times.

Job Hunting Safely

Nowadays, nearly every one I know and their mama is looking for a job. Job searching used to mean scanning the classifieds in your local paper, but these days your job search probably means a lot of time spent on the Internet.  And the Internet is a fabulous place to find the latest job listings from companies right next door or all the way around the world.

If a good portion of your day is spent refreshing the pages on Craigslist, you have probably seen some listings that seem too good to be true.  Maybe your intuition has told you to be wary, but with more and more Americans running out of their unemployment benefits, you may just feel desperate enough to lower your guard and take the risk.  Unfortunately, you don’t have to look too hard to find stories of crimes that began with contact through websites like Craigslist.

A visit to the Craigslist safety page gives you the following safety tips & information:

The overwhelming majority of craigslist users are trustworthy and well-intentioned.

With billions of human interactions facilitated through craigslist, the incidence of violent crime has been extremely low.

Nevertheless, it’s very important to take the same common sense precautions online as you would offline.

When meeting someone for the first time, please remember to:

  • Insist on a public meeting place like a cafe
  • Tell a friend or family member where you’re going
  • Take your cell phone along if you have one
  • Consider having a friend accompany you
  • Trust your instincts

Taking these simple precautions helps make craigslist safer for everyone.

For more information about personal safety online, check out these resources:

These are good tips, especially for meeting someone off the personal ads, but how can we apply this information to job searching?

Since your first contact with someone posting a job listing online is probably through email, consider opening a free email account solely for the purpose of job searching.  You can create a professional looking email without using your last name for example: heatherm@gmail.com.  This way if the listing is an email phishing scam, you won’t have your regular email pounded with spam.  Likewise, you can use an answering service so that you don’t have to give out your actual phone number and a PO Box for a mailing address.  Maybe you have a few friends that could benefit from this as well?  Split the costs!  For more information about cyber-safe resumes check out: Job Hunt.org.

By the time you agree to a face-to-face interview with someone, you should have learned the name of the company and hopefully received a job description.  Be sure to check the Better Business Bureau for details about the company.  You can confirm the legitimacy of the business and find out a lot about how they run their business by the number and type of complaints issued against them.  You’ll want to find out as much as you can about the company before heading to the interview not only to assure your safety, but also to give the best and most knowledgeable interview that you can.

When you arrive for your interview, make sure the business appears legitmate and play close attention to your intuition.  Certainly, tell friends and family where you are going and take your cell phone along.  Just don’t forget to silence it for your interview.  There is nothing wrong with having a friend go with you on an interview as long as they stay out of sight (maybe in the car or at a nearby coffee shop).  Hopefully, by this point, you have done your research on the company and are ready to get that job!