The Gift of Fear

My goal when writing blog posts is to keep the subject matter light and airy.  And 99.95% of the time that’s just what I’ll do–I promise.  This morning, however, I am feeling neither light nor airy, and this post, while not easy to write or maybe read, is what I feel I need to say today.

As local readers know, a 17-year old high school senior went missing this past Thursday.  The young woman, a long distance runner, disappeared while running alone outside on a trail.  Yesterday afternoon, a 30-year old convicted sex offender was arrested in the case, he was charged with first degree murder and rape.

I grew up in Richmond, Virginia.  I have mentioned this in the past.  What I haven’t mentioned is that I grew up in the city of Richmond, not the suburbs.  There was a lot of crime in the city of Richmond in the 1970’s and 1980’s.  Some of it violent. Some of it directed towards women.  I remember learning at a very young age what the word rapist meant.  I learned this because the neighborhood rapist decided to target my mother.  He was watching her you see, and she saw him doing so.  As a result, we had a police stake out at my house. I wasn’t there at the time, but somehow my brother and I found out what was going on. My mother was not a victim because she was very smart when it came to personal safety. She was observant and always on guard and she wasn’t afraid to call the police when she thought she was being targeted.

It is not nice to know that the neighborhood rapist exists, even worse to know he is after your mother.  Not terrible either.  I learned at an early age to have a healthy fear of bad guys.  I learned that bad guys didn’t necessarily look like they did on TV.  I was taught never to put myself in dangerous situations.  I was told (repeatedly) what a dangerous situation was. I was raised to call my parents to check in, and often (before cell phones). All of that being the case, I still did stupid things! Nothing that ended in a bad or dire result–thankfully.

My children have been raised with the same type of instruction.  Yet, upon learning that the young local woman was missing, the first response from my 16-year old daughter was something like, “This is La Jolla, that kind of thing doesn’t happen here.” Groan.

I cannot stress enough how important I think it is to prepare our kids for the real world.  Even if that means frightening them a bit.  I was frightened, yes, but I never have lived my life in fear.  There is a difference. Gavin De Becker, a world-renowned security expert and the author of the New York Times bestseller, The Gift of Fear, believes that we all come equipped with the one tool needed to avoid putting ourselves in harm’s way.  He says we are all security experts because of this tool.  He points out that while we all possess it, most of us don’t use it.  The tool I am referring to?  Intuition.

Here is a link to the first part of a special that Prime Time Live aired on De Becker,  his theories about fear, safety and the importance of cultivating intuition.  I understand if you can only take so much of the these kinds of stories and realities and don’t want to watch.  I feel compelled though to share.

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14 responses

  1. We have good friends who live about seven houses up the street. My girls (8 and 6) often go up to play, and vice versa. I usually walk them up. Yesterday I stood at the mail box and watched them walk themselves. I wasn’t there to remind them to use the first three feet of the yards instead of walking in the road, yet they ventured along as if I was right along with them reminding them of the dangers along the way.

    When they got to our friends’ yard the 8 year old turned and waved. It was then that I breathed a little easier. One day they’ll be venturing further…and then further.

    And I’m scared to death.

    • Boy can I relate and let me tell you, as they get older, you’ll become much more afraid.

      I think it is so important we raise our kids (especially our daughters) with a healthy dose of reality, even if by doing so, we frighten them a bit. Gavin De Becker correctly notes that women are raised to “be nice.” We are taught at a young age to make eye contact, smile and respond when spoken to, even if the person speaking is a stranger. And most of the time, doing just that is fine. The big problem occurs when we don’t listen to what we know and feel deep in our gut. You have to know you have a gut, and learn to trust it, before you can do that. I am not paranoid, nor do I want my children to be. I just want them to be safe.

  2. Yeah, great post. You do have to use that intuition. I can remember several times as a younger girl where I should have and didn’t. I was very lucky.

  3. I have friends who tease me about my compulsive door-locking, but my father worked in the insurance industry. There is no such place where crime never happens.

    When I was a junior in high school doing college campus visits, I didn’t understand why the tour guide at Florida State University was pointing out the emergency call boxes and peer escorts for co-eds after dark. It was years later that I made the connection of Ted Bundy and FSU and the murders he committed at the Chi Omega house in 1978.

    Sometimes women give in to the urge to do the “nice thing” rather than the “safe thing”. Thank you for posting this. So what if your blog isn’t light and breezy as usual? It’s important. The bad guy doesn’t always look like the boogeyman. Keep after your daughter and your son. Crime happens everywhere, even on college campuses, even just feet from your own front door.

    • So true.

      I always called campus security to walk me to my car when I worked a late shift at the radio station. I do remember feeling like a bit of a pain for doing so though. Didn’t stop me from making the request but I still felt a bit awkward trusting my gut back then. Not anymore. Thanks for the comment Mel Mel! 😉

    • I am glad you take the time to remind your daughter. One of the points Gavin De Becker makes is that men often marginalize the fear the women in their lives feel. Validated and encouraging intuition is key. As is pointing out the obvious– none of us are invincible.

  4. I have been awake at night staring at the ceiling thinking about this poor girl and her family. I am a runner and know that on many occasions I am just lucky. You are right about intuition. We need to use it more often. Thanks for sharing the video.

    • I cannot even begin to imagine the horror that is their reality right now. So damn sad. And frustrating on many levels. I don’t understand why signs were not posted at that park about the December attack. Run safely!!

  5. Excellent post Jennifer! I love this tool of teaching intuition early. Sometimes I might confuse intuition with being overly cautious but I would rather err on the side of caution. Thanks for sharing this video. I am totally on edge and saddened about what has happened and hope that there are changes made to our legal system makes some changes so guys like this creep are not on the loose.

    • I am with you, would much rather err on the side of caution. And yes, we have to demand that changes be made to the legal system. Absolutely no excuse for him to have been living where he was and unsupervised at that.

      Thanks for your comment!

  6. Thanks for sharing this. I tend to go overboard with my “intuition,” but I’m OK with that. I’ve been in a bad situation with a person who my intuition told me “wasn’t right,” but I didn’t listen early enough…now I pay attention.

    Meanwhile, I’m just so heartsick about Chelsea.

    • I am glad you are okay with occasionally going “overboard” with your intuition. I think like everything else intuition is a muscle that needs to be exercised frequently to get the best result. And, it is something that we have to be told that we have! That’s the part I believe is really important, we need to teach our kids early on that they have a little voice inside of them, a voice that if cultivated and listened to, can help guide them! As they get older the external voices get so loud and have so much influence. That’s why I think (not that I am an expert) that the sooner we tell them about intuition the better.

      The community seems to be justifiably outraged by what has happened to Chelsea (and possibly Amber). Hopefully that outrage will be channeled to affect change. I know I am all for that!

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