FearLess Fridays, Week Twelve: Pass it On


I hope, over the past eleven weeks, you’ve gained a new awareness of your own power to protect yourself. The activities we’ve tried out are all about transforming ourselves from the inside, into confident people who act out of strength rather than fear. Now that you’re on your own path to fearlessness, it’s time to widen the circle. Helping others find this path will help us as well as them. So this week, your activity is simple:

1, 2, and 3: Teach something you learned in the last three months to three other people.

Here are handy links to each FearLess Fridays activity:

FearLess Fridays, Week One : Recognize Your Comfort Zone
(Bonus: Week One Extra Credit!)
FearLess Fridays, Week Two: Make Eye Contact
FearLess Fridays, Week Three: Practice Assertive Body Language
FearLess Fridays, Week Four: Say No
FearLess Fridays, Week Five: Claim Your Space
FearLess Fridays, Week Six: Notice People and Assess Situations
FearLess Fridays, Week Seven: Be Loud
FearLess Fridays, Week Eight: Learn the Best Targets and Weapons
FearLess Fridays, Week Nine: Devise Exit Strategies
FearLess Fridays, Week Ten: State What You Want
FearLess Fridays, Week Eleven: Inquire and Connect

For the rest of the week, look for opportunities to show someone a simple skill you feel you’ve mastered. Also try to share with them how the activity changed your perspective. If you’ve found these activities helpful, consider signing up for a longer self defense course.

By Friday, I hope you’ll have witnessed the incredible impact that empowerment-based self defense training can have on people (that’s what got me involved in self defense instruction in the first place). And you should also be even more aware of the kind of change we can create when we build these skills together, by bringing them into our communities and sharing them.

Let’s use the next five days—and every day after that!—to make ourselves safer and more powerful! Check in below in the comments to share how things are going—or Tweet your responses to @SusanSchorn, hashtag #FearLessFridays. You can find all the FearLess Fridays activities on the main page.

FearLess Fridays, Week Eleven: Inquire and Connect


It’s easy (especially if you watch a lot of television) to associate successful self defense with bigger walls, stronger locks, and more barriers between you and danger. In fact though, we’re generally safer if we reach out and make connections with other people. Isolating ourselves and restricting our activity doesn’t guarantee safety, and it prevents us from the living the kind of active, fulfilling life that’s worth defending in the first place. This week, we’re going to build some connections that will make us safer, better informed, and more connected to people who can help us when we need it.

  1. Find a reliable source of solid facts about crime in your area. Does your city or town make police reports available to the public? Does your school report crimes committed on campus? Austin, Texas, for example, has an online Crime Map that allows residents to look up reported crimes in different neighborhoods. If your community doesn’t have such a tool, contact your city council or police department and request it.
  2. Identify at least three people who can be part of your personal safety network, and add their names to your email or phone contact list. These can be formal or informal contacts: Who is your neighborhood’s police liaison? Have you met the block captain for your local Crime Watch? What’s the name of that friendly person you see every Sunday morning at the dog park? Take an opportunity to introduce yourself to the people who have a stake in your community, explain your interest in safety, and establish a relationship.
  3. Follow up! Networks are more valuable if you work them regularly, prompting people to share information and cooperate on problem-solving. If your local news station reports on an attempted assault, for example, get the reporter’s name and follow up—was a suspect arrested? Are the police seeking witnesses? Have there been similar crimes in the area? If a suspicious person has been seen outside a local school, find out if anyone has reported the problem. Gather information from witnesses, and make a plan in case the person shows up again.

For the rest of the week, try connecting with individuals, organizations, and networks that can help keep you safe. Identify common safety concerns, and start a dialog about addressing those concerns.

By Friday, you should have a growing list of links, names and connections that you can utilize to make your world a safer place. These are the people you can talk to about safety, and the organizations you can work with to prevent and solve security problems.

Extra Credit!

Take a few moments to familiarize yourself with some of these online tools and information sources:

  • The U.S. Department of Justice hosts the online Uniform Crime Reporting Statistics database. There, anyone can access federal data on property crime and violent crime (murder and nonnegligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault), Results are searchable by specific offense, year, and city, county, or state.
  • The National Council for Behavioral Health offers training in Mental Health First Aid, including signs of addiction and mental illness and a 5-step action plan to assess a crisis situation and help.
  • Most colleges have safety plans in place for various emergencies, such as these at the University of Texas at Austin. If you’re a student, find out about emergency preparedness at your institution. If no plans are readily available, ask why.

Do you know of some other good resources? Share them here in the comments or Tweet them with the hashtag #FearLessFridays.

Let’s use the next five days to make ourselves safer and more powerful! Check in below in the comments to share how things are going—or Tweet your responses to @SusanSchorn, hashtag #FearLessFridays. You can find all the FearLess Fridays activities on the main page.

FearLess Fridays, Week Ten: State What You Want


Respect is an important component of personal safety. My friend Carmel describes self defense as a way to feel “safe, strong, and respected in all situations”—a description I love. Being treated disrespectfully is unpleasant, and it can also warn us of an impending threat to our safety: If someone doesn’t respect your feelings or rights, there’s a good chance they won’t respect your physical boundaries either. But we don’t always have to fight for respect—many times, we can convince people to treat us respectfully simply by using assertive communication.

An assertive response when our boundaries aren’t being respected has three  parts:

  1. Name the behavior that is causing problems.
  2. State the effect the behavior is having.
  3. Say what you want the person to do. (You can say “please” if you want.)

Example: “The way you keep following me feels threatening. I want you to stay away from me.”

If you know the offender’s name, use it:

“John, your email and text messages are making me feel uncomfortable. Please stop contacting me.”

“Emily, your requests for money are disturbing our customers. You need to leave the store.”

Notice that you can employ this approach on behalf of someone else, if you witness disrespectful behavior:

“Hey—touching her like that is inappropriate and it’s making you unwelcome here. Keep your hands to yourself.”

For the rest of the week, try this strategy out at least once. You don’t necessarily have to use when you’re angry. It could be something as simple as telling your roommate, “When you play video games late at night, the sound of gunfire and yelling makes it hard for me to sleep. I’d like you to keep the volume lower once I’ve gone to bed, please.”

You can also think ahead to situations where you might use this strategy—on the job, with strangers, or with friends and family. Or you can analyze past situations where you might have used it, and decide what to say in the future if a similar situation arises.

When you employ this strategy, remember not to argue with the other person over whether your feelings are justified. Reasonable people, when told they are making someone uncomfortable, will alter their behavior. You don’t need to waste your time arguing with an unreasonable person. If the behavior continues, use another self defense strategy, like using a loud voice to attract attention, or leaving and getting help.

By Friday, I hope you’ll feel more confident about speaking up when you’re not being treated appropriately. You may also have a better understanding of how clear, direct communication can resolve a minor irritation before it grows into a big problem.

Extra Credit! Another way to use assertive communication for safety is by learning to give clear, explicit directions that involve bystanders in an emergency. This article by Irene van der Zande at the non-profit safety organization Kidpower has great information on how to practice this skill: Overcoming the Bystander Effect. Go take a look!

Let’s use the next five days to make ourselves safer and more powerful! Check in below in the comments to share how things are going—or Tweet your responses to @SusanSchorn, hashtag #FearLessFridays. You can find all the FearLess Fridays activities on the main page.

FearLess Fridays, Week Nine: Devise Exit Strategies


Leaving a dangerous situation is often the best, and simplest, choice for staying safe. Yet we don’t always think of it as an option. For example, as Irene van der Zande at Kidpower has pointed out, many of us spent our childhood years in school, being told we couldn’t leave the classroom. Thus we grew accustomed to handling all kinds of peer conflict without the option of leaving. This week, we’re going to re-acquaint ourselves with exits, and remind ourselves that, just as we can say “No” when we wish to, we can to choose to leave a place or situation if we decide that’s the safest option.

  1. When you go into a familiar space this week—your office, a store you visit regularly, a favorite coffeeshop—take a moment to close your eyes and visualize  all the exits. Then open your eyes and check. Are there some you hadn’t remembered or noticed?
  2. When you find yourself in a new space, take time to identify the exits—not just doors, but windows, stairs, and other ways you could get out. How would you exit quickly if you needed to?
  3. In both kinds of spaces, take a moment to go through some of the exits you see. Cross the threshold; find out what’s on the other side.

Ask yourself: What might stop me from exiting this space if I needed to? Would I feel embarrassed? Would I feel I was giving up something I have a right to?

For the rest of the week, pay close attention to doorways and exits—in cars, trains and buses; private and public buildings; parks and courtyards. Also, think about other kinds of exits and safe places in your life. Leaving a bad relationship, for example, is often the healthy thing to do, but we may believe it isn’t an option. Exiting is a skill you can practice just like any other, and the more you do it in low-stakes situations, the more likely you’ll be to use it effectively in an emergency.

By Friday, you should have a greater awareness of the exit routes and options that surround you, and be better at identifying them quickly. I hope you’ll also have a deeper appreciation of how simple and effective it is to just leave a situation—once you’ve empowered yourself to do so.

Let’s use the next five days to make ourselves safer and more powerful! Check in below in the comments to share how things are going—or Tweet your responses to @SusanSchorn, hashtag #FearLessFridays. You can find all the FearLess Fridays activities on the main page.

SAFETY RECALL NOTICE—2008 Bachelor of Arts Degree

diploma-152024_150I’ve been cleaning out some of my old files and found this humor piece I wrote years ago and never submitted anywhere. I’m posting it here to celebrate finally paying off my giant, soul-sucking student loans. Hooray!

Dear Alumnus/Alumna:

You are receiving this notice because your alma mater has determined that a defect exists in certain 2006 through 2009 model year Bachelor of Arts degrees. This condition could affect the degree-holder’s ability to think safely and effectively during normal use of the degree. Our records indicate that you possess a degree which has not had this condition corrected.

What is the Defect?

The defect is the potential for unsubstantiated rumor, conjecture, or spurious correlations to be mistaken for plausible argument. This may result in you reaching illogical conclusions, or encountering philosophical dilemmas or conundrums that could interfere with your ability to rationally determine the best course of action when presented with multiple options. You may experience difficulty operating electronic equipment, crossing the street safely, or knowing whom you should believe, vote for, or drop bombs on. In certain situations this defect could cause injury or death, or just leave you looking like a complete ignoramus.

Additionally, some degree models (American Studies, Government, and Creative Writing) may experience a sudden loss of quantitative reasoning skill, a persistent belief that Larry Kudlow is a pretty bright guy, and/or a recurring inability to add fractions.

What Will the University Do? 

To make it less likely that your appalling ignorance will adversely impact your life and career, your degree-granting institution will correct the deficiencies in your degree at NO CHARGE to you. The remedy will entail modifying certain neurochemical pathways in your brain, specifically in the cerebral cortex. The correction process may take up to two years; however, if it takes over six months, your university will provide you with a loaner degree at NO COST to you.*

*Subject to availability. Loaner degrees limited to History, Anthropology, and Economics.

What Should You Do?

Please contact your nearest accredited institution of higher learning to make an appointment as soon as possible.

Until these important remedies to your degree are completed, we recommend that you exercise caution in the following situations:

  • If you receive email from an unknown person claiming to be descended from Nigerian royalty and asking for money, do not reply.
  • Do not post any comments on Internet message boards.
  • While walking, you may encounter a series of successively higher or lower broad, shallow platforms. These are stairs. Do not attempt to navigate them without the assistance of an educated person.
  • Refrain from signing legally-binding contracts, enlisting in the military of any nation, or applying to graduate school.
  • If you are already in graduate school, please have your advisor call 1-800-FIX-GRAD as soon as possible. (Your advisor is the slightly paunchy middle-aged man with the beard who props his office door open with a copy of Foucault’s Discipline and Punish.)

What Caused the Defect?

This unfortunate problem with your degree was completely unavoidable and could not have been foreseen by anyone. Twenty years of state-legislated budget cuts may have also had something to do with it and, in retrospect, there are a few people on the staff who suspect that converting the entire core curriculum to video lectures accessed via Skype may not have been the soundest pedagogical approach.

Please place this letter underneath the cardboard backing of your framed diploma for future reference.

To view this message as a short YouTube video being performed by an adorable 4-year-old, click here.