THE CORE FEARS: Women, Men, and Personal Safety

FEAR_Men-Women“MEN fear that women will laugh at them. WOMEN fear that men will rape or kill them. Men may understand the nature of a woman’s fear, but will never truly know fear from the point of view of a woman.” These are the words of Gavin de Becker, in his book THE GIFT OF FEAR,  Survival Signals That Protect Us From Violence  (Little Brown and Company, New York, 1997) put it this way:

De Becker went on to say:  “It is understandable that the perspectives of men and women on safety are so different — men and women live in different worlds. … There is a dramatic difference between the genders in regard to safety and fear.  At core, men are afraid that women will laugh at them; while at core, women are afraid that men will rape or kill them.”

He goes on to say: “I have a message for women who feel forced to defend their safety concerns: tell Mister I-Know-Everything-About Danger that he has nothing to contribute to the topic of your personal security. Tell him that your survival instinct is a gift from nature that knows a lot more about your safety than he does. TELL HIM THAT NATURE DOES NOT REQUIRE HIS APPROVAL “

Learn to trust the intuitive voice of fear and not talk yourself out of it.

Many women who are assaulted physically or sexually have an intuitive voice, a gut reaction – the gift of fear at work. Many women have trained themselves to ignore it or talk themselves out of it. “Don’t be silly,” say to themselves. “You don’t need to ask for help. You’ve parked your care here a million times and nothing has happened.”

They tell themselves the voice of intuitive fear is wrong. They turn off their survival instincts bred into humanity in general, and women specifically, since before the beginnings of recorded history.

They forget that fear is primal. It is an intuitive knowing. The complex end result of millions of neuronal calculations that give you an instantaneous judgment. This judgment churns in your gut as fear — the gift of fear. It can and will save your life.

Listen to your fear. Take yourself seriously. There is nothing wrong with protecting yourself in an often dangerous world. You are too valuable to take unnecessary risks. You are far too important to ignore or turn off your inner warning signal that danger may be lurking.

If your gut says “something is wrong here” listen to the self-protective gift of fear.

Be prepared. Have a personal security plan. Whenever alone in public go on yellow alert, scan the environment, and follow your gut.

There is no such thing as too safe or too cautious. There is no such thing as silly when it comes to your personal safety. Your are too valuable.

Be alert to the inner gift of fear. Be alert so you can avoid danger. Get trained so you can automatically respond to danger viciously and lethally if there is a threat.

Many women feel afraid of hurting the ego of a stalker or offending a predator about to attack. “What if I am wrong?” they ask themselves. “He is really just a nice guy!” Meanwhile, the local neighborhood psychopath begins an unwanted approach and tricks you into unwanted conversations. They learn to put you at ease to lure you into a more vulnerable position.

Many women, when they are attacked, feel guilty at the thought of hurting their assailant. “He wants to rape or kill me,” they say to themselves, “But I don’t want to fight back too hard because I might hurt him.”

Recognize this for what it is, — submissive gender programing. Don’t listen to it, because in the moment of threat it may automatically go off in your head. You need to practice assertion, bluntly saying “NO! Leave me alone.” A cell phone in your hand with 911 already dialed in waiting for the last keystroke is not being paranoid — it is being safe and prepared.

Prevention, however, is always preferable to the fight. Listen to your gut, be prepared by thinking through self-protection strategies. Know where the exits are and how to get to them. Carry yourself with confidence. Many predators are cowards at their core. They look for easy victims — don’t look like one.

Know where you are going. Go on yellow alert and scan for any threat. Get to where you are going quickly and confidently. If a strange man approaches you, he is just that, a strange and potentially dangerous man. A real good guy would never put you in that position. Predators learn how to do it and set up internet classes to teach it to other men. Make no doubt, this is formal training in psychopathy marketed under the how to pick up women genre. It is important to be familiar with the ploys and cons. When you see them in action, be extra careful. Know this person has a strategy that is learned a practiced. Be alert, be aware, and how you want to respond in advance.

Advanced planing is everything. Here are some simple tips:

Say clearly, firmly, and in a loud voice: “Leave me alone, I won’t talk with you. Don’t hesitate to hit the 911 button at the first unwanted contact. Most 911 call centers can locate your cell phones GPS. Don’t be afraid to call. Don’t ever lend your phone to a stranger.

Tell the 911 operator your situation and ask them to stay on the line. The police are your tax dollars at work. Police officers will get between you and the bad guy even if they get hurt or killed. They can only do this if you call.

Once the assault starts it is often too late. The first thing the attacker will do is separate you from your cell phone. Don’t ever threaten to do something, just do it. Hit the button on the phone. Learn and be prepared to launch a vicious and crippling attack against anyone who poses a real threat. The rule is this – disable and get out of dodge.

Forty years ago women were advised by law enforcement not to fight back. The statistics showed, in those days, that women who submitted passively were rarely killed. Those who fought back were more frequently killed. Today things are different. Anyone, man or women, who is taken by a perpetrator is at extreme risk of being killed. What does this mean?

It is important to have a plan. To know what you will do. This means making an informed decision, in advance, about whether to fight back or give in once a perpetrator attacks. The best chance a victim has is to fight immediately. Once the perpetrator establishes dominance and takes the victim to a secluded location the odds of successfully fighting back go way down. The best chance of fighting back successfully occur in the first moments of the encounter. If you are going to fight, it is best to be prepared to respond immediately, before the perpetrator establishes dominance, control and privacy.

If you plan t fight back, you need to know what to do. It will not usually be a long fight. You don’t need fancy martial arts training. You need to be a  vicious no-holds-barred one transaction fighter. This takes training. Don’t ask your boyfriend or husband for advice unless they are trained police or security professionals. If they know what they are doing and their male ego doesn’t get in the way they will get you to someone else they know and respect for training in all things prevention and response. Remember, a black belt in Tai Kwan Do doesn’t count. Nor do bulging muscles. Take your own security seriously and get trained by a professional.

Most importantly — honor your gift of fear. 

The world is both peaceful and violent — beautiful and ugly. This is real life. Preparation leads to higher confidence and less unnecessary anxiety and fear. When you take your safety seriously, you are more confident and your gift of fear becomes more accurate.  Preparation leads to peace of mind because you get in the habit of being safe and knowing what you will do if an assault occurs. This leads to a sense of confidence and the ability to recognize situations where caution is needed. You don’t startle easily. Yo don’t panic. You know you are prepared and confident you will face whatever comes your way. You know what the signals of high risk and immediate threat. You know how and when safety requires caution and vigilance, a level yellow alter. You know when you are at low risk, a level green. If the worst ever happened you are prepared to automatically fight back because you are trained to do that.

Be safe.



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