In the Awareness, Avoidance, Action cycle that I support as the 3-step mental defensive paradigm, the Action phase includes a critical component of Vocalization. Vocalization is the moment where you verbally assert control of the situation by expressing your feelings and desires in terms without any hesitation:
“Stop following me!” “Get off my porch!” “Get away from my car!”
Vocalization uses active or imperative statements rather than polite requests. You might ask someone ‘Please stop whistling that tune’ because in polite society, making demands of strangers tends to evoke ire, resentment, or even rage. However, once you’ve been transgressed against– vandalism, threat to self– it’s important to be able to LOUDLY and ARTICULATELY express to someone that they’re transgressing against you.
Ladies, this is something many of you have been conditioned since birth not to do. A lady doesn’t raise her voice; she doesn’t make demands of men; she doesn’t assert herself. Your dad/brother/uncle/husband will come stand up for you. Any of that sound familiar?
Where this is most dangerous is at the crossroads where a threat has not yet been properly identified, but where a potential criminal is acting in a threatening fashion. For instance if you settle inside your driver’s seat of your car and a male co-worker sits in the passenger side without invitation. This has not quite risen to the level of a threat, but it’s extremely transgressive. At this point he is attempting to discern if you are passive enough that you won’t reject his advances outright, or if you’re vulnerable enough that you won’t provide resistance if he attacks.
You must condition yourself to overcome the reflex to be passive and polite. This is where self-defense most often breaks down for women, is the inability to articulately and succinctly say ‘Stop what you are doing’. This is why so many rape cases get tossed out; this is why so many assaults and domestic battery cases get dismissed. The police look at the woman and go ‘Did you tell him not to do it?’ and look disapprovingly at a woman when she admits that it didn’t occur to her to say, firmly, ‘stop’. Because to a man, verbal assertion and conversational dominance comes naturally; to a woman, they may be overcoming years of social programming that says ‘Be polite, and don’t raise your voice to a man’.
The disconnect is such a subtle one that many women don’t recognize it– that there is supposed to be an intervening step between ‘I have identified a threat’ and ‘I have engaged the threat’, and in talking to many women about their domestic abuse issues, most of them admit that the step of ‘verbally engaging your attacker’ never even occurred to them.
Ladies, the key to self defense is a mentality where you seize the initiative in a conflict and grab the higher ground. You might need to assess yourself and ask yourself if you can loudly and clearly express yourself to a total stranger– if someone is following you to your car, can you turn and tell them ‘Please stop following me, you’re making me uncomfortable?’ If someone approaches you while you’re AT your car, can you say ‘I’m not looking for a conversation. Leave me alone’? The precise wording is not as critical as the tone and posture you use; ‘please’ is not the enemy if your tone makes it a statement and not a request. But always, in the back of your mind, while you’re making your Plan, you should mentally be drawing lines on the ground to establish at what point you are prepared to stop being ‘polite’ and ready to start getting mean.