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Have Your Teenage Daughter Test Her Safety Know-How

As you begin to enter adulthood, you will become increasingly independent from your parents. Do you know how to keep yourself safe when you are on your own? Read through the scenario below from Gavin de Becker's book Protecting the Gift and see how much you know about decreasing the risk of being attacked or abused.

In this scenario, you are flying alone on a commercial flight. The older man seated across the aisle (he looks to be about forty) starts talking to you. How do you react? Read through the scene below and test how much you know about keeping yourself safe. Then you can talk about the explanations that follow with your parents or another trusted adult. Being an adult also means being mature enough to know how to keep yourself safe.

Man: ''These headphones just aren't loud enough for me. Hi, I'm Billy'' (and he holds out his hand).
Your response: ''Hi, I'm Jennifer Smith.''

Billy: ''I hate landing in a city and not knowing if anybody is meeting me.''
Your response: ''Me, too. I was able to take an earlier flight so I'm not sure how I'm getting to my friend's house.''

Billy: ''I love arriving in a place when nobody knows I'm coming, but you're probably not that independent.''
Your response: ''Yes, I am. I've been flying alone since I was thirteen.''

Billy: ''You know, you have really beautiful eyes.''
Your response: ''Thank you very much.''

Billy: ''How about a sip of my drink?''
Your response: ''No, thanks.''

Billy: ''Oh come on now. You seem like someone who takes charge of her life by doing anything you want.''
Your response: ''Well, OK then.''

The flight lands and you leave a message for your friend to pick you up. You wait at the baggage claim and Billy comes over.
Billy: ''Would you like a ride to your friend's house? I promise I can get you there right away. I know the highways around here pretty well.''
Your response: No. I've called my friend and she is on her way.''

Survival Signal: Too Many Details

Man: ''These headphones just aren't loud enough for me. Hi, I'm Billy'' (and he holds out his hand).
Your response: ''Hi, I'm Jennifer Smith.''

What's really happening

When Billy said his name, though it may not have been immediately apparent, he was actually asking a question, and you responded with exactly the information he hoped for, your full name. Moreover, his talking about his headphones is an extra detail to entice you into conversation with him. Some people do make conversation on planes, but be sure to not divulge more than your first name and be aware of someone who gives you just a bit too much information.

Survival Signal: Forced Teaming

Billy: ''I hate landing in a city and not knowing if anybody is meeting me.''
Your response: ''Me, too. I was able to take an earlier flight so I'm not sure how I'm getting to my friend's house.''

What's really happening

This is an example of forced teaming. Billy is trying to get you and him on the same side. When you're in the same boat, you have something in common and the other person starts to seem ''friendlier.'' You've also told him a key piece of information, that you will be alone in a new city when you arrive and no one will immediately notice your arrival. Forced teaming is another survival signal to recognize. No stranger needs to know your arrival plans.

Survival Signal: Typecasting

Billy: ''I love arriving in a place when nobody knows I'm coming, but you're probably not that independent.''
Your response: ''Yes, I am. I've been flying alone since I was thirteen.''

What's really happening

Not only has Billy contradicted himself (he just told you he hates landing in a city where no one is meeting him), he has also used another signal about which you should be aware: Typecasting. He is trying to elicit another response, one in which you will now want to prove how independent you are, thus making you more susceptible to his suggestions. He's not directly asking you anything, but he sure is learning a lot about you from the information you volunteer.

Survival Signal: Charm and Niceness

Billy: ''You know, you have really beautiful eyes.''
Your response: ''Thank you very much.''

What's really happening

Charm is actually an ability and it always has a motive. Someone who uses it has an ulterior motive, sometimes benign, in this case not. Responding to Billy's charm lengthens your encounter with him and raises his expectations. To charm is to compel, to control by allure or attraction. It is another tactic Billy is using to win you over and ultimately make you vulnerable.

Survival Signal: Loan-sharking

Billy: ''How about a sip of my drink?''
Your response: ''No, thanks.''

What's really happening

Billy is offering you the drink to place you in his debt. If you owe him something, it makes it harder for you to get him to leave you alone. It is critical that you be aware of who approaches you without asking them for anything. Then be aware of all the other signals that have been discussed here. In this case, this is the fifth warning signal Billy has given you.

Survival Signal: Discounting NO

Billy: ''Oh come on now. You seem like someone who takes charge of her life by doing anything you want.''
Your response: ''Well, OK then.''

What's really happening

This signal is the most significant of them all. A person who chooses not to hear the word NO is trying to control you. Letting Billy talk you out of the word NO is telling him that he is in charge. NO is a complete sentence. You shouldn't need to say it again.

Survival Signal: The Unsolicited Promise

Billy: ''Would you like a ride to your friend's house? I promise I can get you there right away. I know the highways around here pretty well.''
Your response: No. I've called my friend and she is on her way.''

What's really happening

Finally, Billy is making you a promise to quickly get you to your friend's house. However, a promise is an attempt to convince you of good intentions and is not a guarantee. There is no collateral involved here. Billy is trying to convince you of his reliability and trustworthiness. He sees you have doubts and is trying to soothe it. You need to ask yourself why he wants to drive you. What is his real motivation? And why do you have doubts? If you do have doubts, trust them. Which is what you did when you refused his offer and held firm.

Learning Privacy and Control

From Gavin de Becker's Protecting the Gift
''Since most of what I've written about men and violence is anything but PC--as in politically correct--I'll borrow the acronym from that tired phrase to characterize the contexts in which young women (and women in general) can recognize the safety hazards: PC will now stand for Privacy and Control.

If a man who intends sexual assault or rape has Privacy and Control, he can victimize someone. If he does not have PC, he is not dangerous, period. Accordingly, just the presence of the two features in a situation can trigger a young woman's heightened awareness and readiness. The presence of Privacy does not mean that a man is sinister, but it does mean a girl is vulnerable. At that point, she'll benefit from carefully evaluating how the man got Privacy: Was it by circumstance or by his design?''

What is Privacy?
A private place is one in which there is little or no chance that a third party will suddenly show up, or a place that is out of hearing of people who could assist you. Places such as cars, hotel rooms, closed businesses, and wilderness areas can all afford privacy to a potential attacker, which puts you in a vulnerable position.

What is Control?
Control can exist when a young woman feels persuaded to do what a man wants because she fears being injured if she resists, because she doesn't want to hurt his feelings, because she doesn't want him to hurt her reputation, or because she wants to avoid rejection.

If you don't give a man privacy or control, then you are keeping yourself safe.

You need the tools to prevent vulnerable situations from turning deadly. If you are uncomfortable talking about these types of issues with your parents, perhaps there is another trusted adult who can help lend some guidance. You may also want to pick up Gavin de Becker's book, The Gift of Fear, which directly addresses safety issues for adult women.

For parents: As a parent, you want to do everything in your power to ensure your teenager's safety. Once your daughter reaches these critical years, it's imperative that you sit down with her often to talk about the things that she can do to enhance her safety. Practice this scenario at home or come up with one of your own. Role-playing can increase confidence and bring up other important issues you may not have previously addressed.

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