In a park, parents were recruited to give their best "stranger danger" talk and then sent their children out to play. Cameramen were located throughout the park and an actor, with a puppy in his arms, approached a child who, after only a few seconds (I'm not kidding), went with the man. The children's parents were so stunned they couldn't even speak. Stunning education for us all.
Start your education early. Remember: Brief and frequent lessons are most effective. Teach your children during those times when you have their attention, not when they are trying to convince you to let them go somewhere and do something. You may want to spend 2-3 minutes at a table, face-to-face and review one of the concepts. Don't make it a lecture. Don't act as if you are "trying" to convince them of something. Let them know of their role in making decisions based on what you have taught them.
Then, there are those "teachable" moments where you stop what you are doing (your forward motion) and say, "Show me the strangers here"....whatever makes sense and "works" for you in that moment. Find those events in a show and reflect on it later as an example they have "seen". Give them as many "real life-real time" situations so the lessons are applied to daily life. Get the book. Get the book. Get the book. (OK, I took that line from Armageddon.)
The parents whose children (of all ages) have come through my practice and who have read this book expressed, "What if I hadn't read this?!?" I am very quick to recommend it for those kids who are on their way to college. Not that they'll read it, and they probably shouldn't, but it's important for parents to give them the "thumbnail" version and "just the facts" from the content. As with young kids, review a few concepts and facts frequently
When soldiers and first responders are asked, "How did you do that?", what's their answer? "Training"...in a high-stress threatening situation, your voice in their head may make a difference in the outcome. What you know to do automatically, you just "do". Pick the few concepts and review.
I'm about to tell you something that will stick with you for way longer than you want it to, but I was at a child abuse detection and reporting seminar as part of the psychology licensing process. The presenter was remarkable. She strolled about the auditorium as we filed in. She walked slowly, with her hands clasped together behind her back and she studied us. It was a bit unnerving. Yes, she studied us. When she arrived at the podium, she announced that the reason she studied us was because she wanted to determine which of us were predators who were attending the seminar and "trying to learn what we know about how they operate".
He talked about how "intuition is always right in at least two important way; It is always in response to something. It always has your best interest at heart". Let's talk about that.
You've been in situations where you walked away and said, "He (usually it's a man) just gives me the creeps. I don't know why, but he does". And then, your colleague says, "What, but he's the president of the Chamber of Commerce!". OK, right there, that's it. You're instinct, likely based on pheromones, has given you a primitive signal that says, "Watch out" and your colleague is "minimizing, marginalizing, denying" (my terms) your concerns by intellectualizing and providing the "reasons" for your ridiculous conclusions.
Just think about the serial killers who you would never suspect had such depraved obsessions. Henry Lee Lucas and Jeffrey Dahmer are about the only ones I can think of whose appearance says, "This guy is a serial predator"!
So, what's the colleague's deal? It's the "tend-and-befriend" response to stress posited by Dr. Shelley Taylor and her team at UCLA. For centuries, women have protected themselves by "tending to others" and by "befriending others" in order to become an important member of the group thus avoiding isolation, ensuring protection and enhancing their survival. Men, on the other hand, use "fight versus flight" as a stress response. They are stronger; they can pull this strategy off in ways we girls cannot.
Another interesting observation of de Becker's is that "while most women fear rape and death", men "fear getting laughed at or humiliated by a romantic prospect". In essence, "Men are afraid women will laugh at them" and "women are afraid men will kill them". Makes sense, doesn't it?
The "friend" described above, was relying on "tend-and-befriend" while the other woman was questioning the "why" behind the "what" she was experiencing. She was responding to her pheromones and ancient brain instincts.
I've preached consistently, that the first point of power is awareness/acknowledgement. If you're not aware of your environment and have yet to learn to have a "healthy" suspicion and haven't given yourself permission to ask about the "why" behind the "what", you'd better start now on your self-education.
Neither of these books is easy to read. Yep, life is full of tough stuff. Read it anyway. Mentally practice "how" you would handle yourself. Get your script ready. Be prepared to be uncomfortable rejecting the "help" of a stranger. Be prepared to be assertive in your voice and body posture when he insists on "helping you". Yes, people will look at you like you're nuts when you say loudly, "I don't want your help. I don't need your help. Get away from me NOW!" Too bad. They're not the ones who are going to end up in the trunk of their car headed to the hatch to hell.
I've worked with serial killers. Gavin de Becker has it right. And yes, I use his techniques. If I pass someone on the street who I don't like the "looks" of, 4-5 steps later, I will stop and turn around and look at them. I don't mean glance. I mean stop, turn around and stand square-shouldered evaluating them. They'd better know it'll be a fight. Find somebody else.
What I mean by "looks" is not just all physical. It's the expression on their face, the feeling I get, their obvious attempt to not look at me. I don't care if I hurt their feelings. A whole lot of information can be communicated in the courage and awareness it takes to stop, turn around and challenge someone. You may have to do this more than once to "check" your gut. On two occasions, I stopped turned around once and saw that he was moving forward, the second time, he was not and was watching me. No. Not me. Not today.
Yes, I am posting this at the time of year where peace, joy, love, happiness and family are the focus. Maybe for you, but not for some. And the behavior of those "some" can cause a ripple effect through many, many lives if we don't learn about how they operate and the kinds of things that motivate them.
I am asking you to be smart. I am asking you to be educated. I am asking you to be aware. If you have to call someone to come "escort" you, do it. Respond to "that" feeling that says, "Hmmm, maybe I'm looking a little too vulnerable here". Don't talk yourself out of it. It's exactly the kind of thinking a predator is relying on. If you hear yourself saying, "Oh don't be silly, there are plenty of people around:, check yourself. Use your instincts. They've been part of humankind and indeed, the entire animal kingdom since time began. Question your thoughts, not your feelings.
Let me know how it goes,