Small Heroes

smallheroesI’ve added a separate page for my fiction, but in case you missed it: My e-book of short stories, Small Heroes, is now available on Kindle. The collection features a couple of pieces that appeared previously in the Austin Chronicle and Austin Monthly plus four previously unpublished stories. And it’s attractively priced at $1.99–only 33 cents per story, and I’ll throw in the preface for a penny. The preface references Beowulf, so you know it’s good.

Don’t own a Kindle? Do what I did: download Amazon’s free e-reader app for your desktop computer. All your Kindle purchases will be available in The Cloud for you to read any time.

There’s also a Goodreads page for the book, if you care to voice an opinion about it.

Bonus insider trivia: I shot the book’s cover photo on my iPhone.

How to not freak out when you call 911

I recently did a clinical rotation at the Austin/Travis County emergency call center, and noticed a few things that would probably help the average person placing a 911 call:

1. If you don’t know the address you’re calling from, give the operator a cross street, nearby business, or landmark. They need the most specific information possible, so be patient if they ask questions–sending an ambulance to the wrong place will not help you.
2. Expect to repeat things several times. Landlines are automatically linked to a physical address, but most people now call 911 on cell phones, so the only way they can determine where you are is to ask. When you state the address you’re calling from, the operator has to accurately hear what you’re saying (sometimes over a lot of background noise) and manually type it in to the system. That leaves plenty of room for error, so they usually verify at least once, to make sure the ambulance is heading the right way. Again, an ambulance driving fast in the wrong direction would make your problem worse, not better.
3. Likewise, don’t get upset when they ask for your name and phone number. They want this information in case the call is cut off (common with cell phones), so they can call you back. They only need your first name.
4. Relax–they are NOT delaying help in order to ask you all these questions. In most cases, fire, police, or EMS are dispatched within seconds of your first providing the location and nature of the incident. Everything else is being done while help heads toward you. The operator will feed corrections and additional information directly to the responding units as you answer questions–correcting the route they should take, letting them know more about the situation, and helping various responders coordinate with each other (if fire and EMS are both responding, for example).
5. If you don’t know the answer to a question, just say “I don’t know.”
6. If the operator gives you instructions for helping a patient, follow them as best you can, but don’t hesitate to ask questions or give more information if it seems warranted.
7. Stay calm. Really. You may feel totally overwhelmed, but wheels are already rolling in your direction and there is a lot of expertise coming to help deal with the problem.

Thoughts on Hobby Lobby, plus bonus crochet pattern!

PinkSmAs we await the Supreme Court’s decision in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., you may want to pick up some yarn and crochet along with me on one of my great-aunt’s afghans. The pattern is provided at the end of this piece on The Hairpin: Spin, Measure, Cut: Hobby Lobby and the Tangled Skein of Reproductive Rights.

When you were raised to regard America as a refuge from ignorance and despotism—as many children and grandchildren of immigrants are—there’s something perverse about standing in the aisle at Hobby Lobby, contemplating all the varieties of yarn and what you might make of them, and realizing that, if you worked there, you’d have less control over your own healthcare, your own body, your own religious beliefs, and your own procreative decisions than you would over a stupid afghan.

Response to the White House Task Force on Campus Assault

Us-whitehouse-logoThis year I’ve been working with colleagues in the violence prevention field to publicize the efficacy of self defense instruction in reducing sexual assault. This research bibliography was part of that effort–it was sent in support of a letter we wrote to the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault.

That Task Force made its recommendations recently, and sadly, they completely ignore self defense instruction as a part of the solution to sexual assault. This is disheartening. Policies that don’t include self defense instruction will make our attempts to reduce assault less effective, creating more victims (and wasting taxpayer money).

Fortunately, there is a long road from the Task Force’s recommendations to actual policy. Moving forward, I’m delighted to see many experts weighing in to criticize the Task Force’s outdated approach. Here are some of the best responses I’ve seen so far—I’ve included excerpts below, but each piece is well worth reading in full:

Open Letter to Vice President Biden and the White House Task Force
Jill Cermele and Martha McCaughey, self-defense researchers and co-editors of the recent issue of Violence Against Women focused on self-defense:

We applaud the Task Force for underscoring the seriousness and prevalence of the problem of sexual assault on college campuses, for highlighting the need for better data on the incidence rates, and for requiring colleges and universities to act.  However, it’s striking that the only people who can act, it seems, are men.  Men can stop raping. Men can serve as “bystanders” and stop their friends from raping.  And (mainly male) university administrators can implement programs to reach men, and to better serve the (mainly female) victims that men have raped.

College should offer women self defense training
Op-Ed by Jocelyn Hollander, associate professor and head of the Department of Sociology at the University of Oregon:

Here is the problem: What is a woman to do when her friend, acquaintance, date or partner begins to assault her? Is she to sit and wait for a bystander to intervene, or for data to be collected? Or is there something she can do in that moment, or perhaps even earlier, to prevent the assault?

Falling Short: The White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault
Martha Thompson, Professor Emeritus, Northeastern Illinois University:

The message of the White House Task Force that women should focus their attention on awareness of risks and avoiding danger because only men can stop another man from rape and sexual assault is an obsolete message. I was hoping for a contemporary evidence-based message that self-defense training is an important component of any plan to protect students from sexual assault.

Helping Women Overcome “The Self Defense Paradox” (Written prior to the Task Force report, but addressing the specific logical conflict they have attempted to avoid addressing.) By anti-violence educator Lynne Marie Wanamaker:

Far too many self defense classes reinforce the myth of stranger-danger and shade into victim-blaming, as if women’s behavior was the determinant factor in whether or not one was subject to sexual assault.

But in a world where as many as one in five women will be sexually assaulted, it is prudent and effective for us to build skills that promote our own safety. Until rapists stop raping, prevention education that empowers women to identify, interrupt and respond to sexual assault will be an essential part of the equation.

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.