Brad was supposed to be on tour right now, but because of transportation issues he was home last night. He’s been gone the past weekend, so I had armed the bedroom like I do whenever he’s out of town. As he jumped onto his side of the bed, he almost impaled himself with the machete that I had hidden under the covers. When Brad is out of town, my whole house is booby-trapped. This is something I started doing when I was a single mom, and it’s the only way I can sleep soundly when Brad is on the road. I used to laugh and admit that it’s probably a little overzealous. But I’ve been reading this amazing book that is teaching me to no longer laugh at that gnawing feeling in my stomach that tells me to protect myself. Because I’m not nuts… the world we live in is.
A little over a month ago, the Omniscient Stevil Kinevil and his lovely lady-friend were visiting my corner of California, and we went out for some drinks. We got on the topic of safety and stalkers, and I told them about a stalker that I had in college who went so far as to break into my apartment while I was asleep inside. That experience taught me to sleep with a croquet mallet, and booby-trap my house when home alone at night. They suggested that I read an amazing book called The Gift of Fear: and other survival signals that protect us from violence by Gavin de Becker. So I promptly went home, ordered it, and waited until I had the time to start reading it. For a month it sat on my desk, staring at me- and I staring back longingly. But the night before last I finally decided to pick it up and just take in the first couple pages- and now I can’t put it down. Seriously… this book is already changing how I watch people, and how I pay attention to my own reactions to others. And I can’t think of a better book that should be mandatory reading for every woman of every age in our society.
Have you ever watched the tv show “Criminal Minds” about the group of behavioral analysts who solve crazy murders and find serial killers? I own the box sets of the first couple seasons (I got them because I just loooove Mandy Patinkin and his crazy eyebrows), and that show was fun for me to watch because I loved ‘reading’ the behaviors of the bad guys to try to figure out what they were going to do next (and I loved watching Mandy’s eyebrows). This book is exactly that- teaching women to really watch and analyze the behaviors of others to keep ourselves safe…. but most importantly, to reintroduce ourselves to our long lost and silenced intuition.
The book is written for primarily women, because men of all ages and from all parts of the world are more violent than women. De Becker states in a note in the first pages that having the book be “politically correct would be statistically incorrect”- and that alone is greatly appreciated. I’m only a little more than halfway through since I’m only able to steal moments here and there to read… but the amount of information that is packed into the first 50 pages alone is overwhelming… but all broken down into the most basic of common sense. We live in a brutal and violent culture; we passively accept the violence and brutality; but we ignore our own most primal instincts of fear and cling to the sham that people are above violence, leaving ourselves wide open to be victims of our brutally violent society. In the 20 minutes it’s taken me to write this, approx 25 women were raped. de Becker made a chilling analogy that “… if a full jumbo jet crashed into a mountain killing everyone on board, and if that happened every month, month in and month out, the number of people killed still wouldn’t equal the number of women murdered by their husbands and boyfriends each year.” That sincerely makes my stomach hurt. But what is fully amazing is that for all the “unpredictable behavior” that people display- it’s actually quite predictable. It’s just that we’ve been conditioned to ‘turn off’ that little voice inside our head that says “Hey- that guy standing by my car in this empty parking garage looks sketchy as fuck… run!”. Instead, we’ve been reconditioned to think “I don’t like this situation- but I don’t want to make a big deal out of what probably is nothing, and I don’t want to go back to work/the store/etc to get someone to walk me to my car over silly paranoia”. Silly Paranoia is actually the last of our animal instincts that lets us know if a situation/person/place is safe or not… and that Silly Paranoia could be the difference between walking away safe, or being assaulted or worse. Our instincts have been given a cute little name, Women’s Intuition, and dismissed as fleeting hysteria. But 77 women raped an hour (which is the most current average number) isn’t hysteria- it’s a reason to prepare ourselves for what’s out there. We shouldn’t live in fear- but we should learn to listen to what our bodies and instincts tell us, and to really watch the people around us so that we no longer have to be afraid.
As I was reading the first few chapters of this book, I kept thinking of my college stalker. At the time, I was astonished and shocked that he went to such frightening lengths to get to me. But now, reading this book, I can see that all the signs were there. He somehow knew my class schedule and was always waiting for me. He started showing up at the restaurant my boyfriend worked at, sitting for hours and just glaring at him. He somehow got my unlisted number and began calling all the time. But I though that he was just clingy and awkward, and I didn’t want to be mean. Then he broke into my apartment on the one night of the week that I was ever alone there. All the behaviors prior to him breaking in were warning signs that it would escalate- but I didn’t want to pay attention to them because I didn’t want to “hurt the poor socially inept fella” or believe that anyone in my safe little life could be a predator. But they can. And it’s time for us to start really seeing the signs for what they are, and being mean if we need to in order to keep ourselves safe.
So every one of you- get this book (it’s only a couple dollars used on Amazon). Mothers, get this for your daughters (it’s a heartbreaking read at times, so keep age appropriateness in mind and save it to give to your daughter when she’s a little older). Brothers, boyfriends, husbands and friends- get this for your sisters, mothers, girlfriends, wives and lady-buddies. It really is that amazing and powerful. Scouts honor.
Off I go to run around with Bradly until he goes back on the road (yay for babysitters and nights out!). Happy reading, and every one of you have a safe and wonderful night!!!