How Could They Do That!?!

How Could They Do That!?!

When I get sent videos or articles about women being attacked, I have a moment of shock and disbelief. How could a human being do that to another human being?! And since 1 in 4 women experience severe intimate partner physical violence, the shock of being attacked by someone they knew is even more chilling.

Social Norms

Why is it so shocking? Because MOST of society adheres to social norms. What are social norms? According to Your Dictionary…

“Social norms, or mores, are the unwritten rules of behavior that are considered acceptable in a group or society. Norms function to provide order and predictability in society.”

Can’t We All Just Get Along?

People follow social norms to get along. They want to feel like they belong and are a part of a group. You’ve probably heard the term “Tribe” before. We all want to find our tribe. It’s a social group where we feel accepted for who we are, and that people “get” us. We want to believe that most people are good and kind…and most people are! When we read stories of complete strangers helping others in a time of need, we are reminded that good people still exist and our faith in humanity is restored.

When an attacker breaks that trust, we are stunned. We ask ourselves, “how could someone do that to someone!?!” and going back to the bleak statistic above, we ask “how could someone do that to someone they know and supposedly care about!?!”

It’s because of one simple truth.

Monsters are real and they look like people.

The Criminal Mindset

The criminal mind does NOT play by society’s rules. They do not adhere to social norms. In fact, they take advantage of the knowledge that most people expect others to play by the rules. Criminals know most women are caregivers and want to help others. Serial killer Ted Bundy pretended to have an injured arm and asked women to help him put something in his car. Not only did he look like an everyday guy (I can’t stomach calling him handsome), he knew how to manipulate a woman’s kindness and willingness to help, to get what he wanted. Even though Ted Bundy targeted strangers (which is not the statistical norm), his manipulation techniques are a great example of exploiting social norms to target his victims.

Too Trusting

Steve Kardian, a career law enforcement officer and author who specializes in crime prevention and risk reduction for women’s safety, shared an experiment he did on a college campus. In his book, The New Superpower for Women, Steve talks about a test he did in partnership with the tv show, Inside Edition, “Are college women too trusting?”. He placed himself on the side of a large, college campus parking lot, wearing a baseball cap, backpack and knee-length shorts. Many people did spot him as out of place and decades too old for being on campus, but just as many didn’t give him a second glance. He selected 8 women to “test” simply because they were distracted. They hadn’t noticed him even though they were walking closely past him and were startled when he approached them. Out of the 8 women he selected, all 8 let him get into their car by him simply saying, “Hey there, could you drop me off at the security gates so I could get some help here?” And motioning vaguely, as if towards a stalled vehicle.

Scary? Unbelievably so. We all like to think we would NEVER let a complete stranger get into our car. But when we are distracted and not paying attention to our surroundings, if someone is suddenly asking for help, will you have time to ask yourself, “who is this person and why are they asking for my help?”, or will you simply respond, “sure”.

Be Aware

Situational awareness is the foundation of taking responsibility for your personal safety. Never let the “hope” that all people are playing by the same set of society’s rules, lead you to ignore what your intuition is telling you.

“When we’re distracted, situations that startle us can cause an unconscious response instead of an informed, conscious action.”

-Kelly Sayre

Being Present

Being Present

Last week, my family and I spent time at the lake, celebrating Independence Day. It was the opportunity to completely disconnect from work for my husband and myself. Our intention of taking a break from work emails and social media is helped by the fact that we have limited cell service and no Wifi in the camper. The first few days are a bit strange because I have moments of brief panic, “where did I leave my phone?!?”. But by day 3, I remember what it’s like to not look at my phone every 30 minutes.

I’m more present.

I’m able to see every “Hey mom, watch this!”

I’m able to wholeheartedly say yes to every “Hey mom, will you play with me?”

I laugh a lot more because I see the kid’s silly antics instead of being lost in thought about the latest email or text.

Being aware and present in life not only keeps you safer, it also enriches your life.

Think Differently

Every time I give a presentation on situational awareness, I talk about the other benefits of being aware of your surroundings. I’ve realized that carrying myself with confidence deters potential attackers AND sets the tone when I walk into a room. Reading body language is great for recognizing when someone is up to no good AND tells me whether my kids are having a good or bad day. Being able to visualize what I would do in different active threat scenarios will prevent me from freezing AND helps me decide on the best form for a perfect cannonball off the end of the dock. I want women to realize they already have all the skills necessary, they simply need to start thinking differently about being present.

I have conversations with women about situational awareness and how it can help them make safer choices as they go about their daily lives. Most of the time, when the discussion starts, they visualize physically fighting an attacker. While learning physical self-defense techniques is important for everyone, I tell them it’s more important to see and understand their environment BEFORE anything happens. It’s driving your car down the road and being aware of the other vehicles. It’s keeping a watchful eye while your kids play in the water to make sure they’re safe.

Soft Skills

Situational awareness is the fancy way of saying “being present”. I don’t want women to think it’s some complicated and difficult skill to learn. In fact, most women are better at being more situationally aware than men. It’s just that we’re using it in all the ways that don’t pertain to our safety! Women are intuitive by nature. Women tend to be more empathetic to others and can sense when someone is happy or sad. Women have these skills because traditionally, we’re raised to be caretakers and nurturers. The switch women need to make is realizing these soft skills can also be used when it comes to our personal safety.

Start Today

When was the last time you sat down and people-watched? When was the last time you left your phone on its charger in the morning and enjoyed your first cup of coffee before checking emails? When was the last time you noticed someone’s cute shoes and told them, “Those shoes are adorable!” Start being more present in your everyday life. It’s a big beautiful world filled with lots of interesting people. If becoming more situationally aware seems too intimidating right now, start with being more present in your daily life. We all have to learn to crawl before we can walk. You got this.

“Nothing is more precious than being in the present moment. Fully alive, fully aware.”

-Thich Nhat Hanh