Safety Information (and Misinformation!)

1. In an early chapter of Smile at Strangers, I describe some not-very-helpful self defense emails I have received, and why they are counter-productive to our safety.

  • What kinds of self defense advice (helpful or not!) have people in your group been given in the past? (you might keep track of all the tips people share by writing each one on a sticky note or index card, and arranging them so everyone can see them during the discussion).
  • How were these self defense tips shared (in person, television or radio news, commercials, Web ads, emails, etc.)?
  • Have you used any of these tips? Which ones seem practical? Which ones are not?
  • What kinds of advice have YOU passed on to other people? What motivated you to do that? What kind of response did you get?

2. You may notice patterns emerging when you look at all the pieces of advice recounted by the group, taken all together. What does this “big picture” reveal?

  • What assumptions do these safety tips make about men and women?
  • What sort of picture do they paint about the world we live in?
  • Have you noticed similar assumptions and patterns elsewhere in our culture?

3. We can improve the safety information we have access to if we think strategically about our needs, and how to meet them.

  • What kinds of advice or knowledge about self defense do you WISH you had access to?
  • How might you get good information on those topics? Could you talk to someone in your community about crime patterns? Consult an expert on physical self defense? Read government reports or research about characteristics of victims?
  • How can share useful information productively, to empower people and increase safety in your community?


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