Street Smarts

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February 20, 1996
EvaS: Our guest tonight is Louise Rafkin, author of "Street Smarts". A great book for women on how to protect themselves in all kinds of situations. Best I've read, actually.

LRafkin: Thanks!

EvaS: Louise, it really is great, you know.

APGAZ: Louise, how did you come to write this book?

LRafkin: I teach self-defense and safety and always was asked for a book to recommend. Most were too complicated so, I wrote this one.

EvaS: Louise, they usually aren't very helpful, either. Only one or two things. Yours covers a whole gamut. Louise, tell us what topics you cover, please. :)

LRafkin: I wonder about that, because I don't know if people can really learn from a book, but I hope so. "Street Smarts" covers house, street, home safety--kids self-defense, sexual harassment, violence in the home, and the real basic way anybody can defend themselves. Also, car safety and a bunch of "what to do if" kinds of things.

EvaS: Louise, the part on looking for a house...I never would have thought of those things at all. Like looking at the area at night, for example.

LRafkin: A pal of mine just bought a house and went to the police to get a report on the neighborhood. SMART.

EvaS: Very smart!

LRafkin: Yes, and visit the house at many different times of day. I once moved into a *great* house---until nightfall.

APGAZ: What other tips on buying a house would you offer? My husband & I are currently looking.

LRafkin: My pal found out that there were few robberies, but several domestic problems on the street. Get the police report on the house and the neighborhood. Check out the place and surroundings at night and really look at how visible the house is. Are you comfortable going to it? What about transportation, kid safety, and car thefts?

MDHarris: What about talking to the neighbors?

LRafkin: Talking to neighbors can be good, but remember, you don't know them yet. Do your homework. (Transportation at night? Lighting? Many things to look for.)

EvaS: Louise, once you've moved in, what happens then? What should we be doing? What kind of relationship, for ex., should we cultivate with our neighbors?

LRafkin: Get a checklist and run around the house looking at windows, doors, shrubs. Are they blocking your windows so that someone can sneak in? Also, don't put your name on your mailbox. No need to. It just gives others info they don't need. I think a lot of robberies and break ins happen in the day when doors and windows are open, however.

EvaS: You mentioned making sure the public pay phones in the area are working. Why is that?

LRafkin: Broken pay phones are a bad sign...could be drug trafficking being done on the phones. Signals an area that is not kept up. Call the phone company and report the phone. Also, should you get broken into and your phone wires cut, you need to know where you can go.

EvaS: And another one of those things is where to put the extra key. Any safe place for that at all?

LRafkin: Extra keys are best left with neighbors.

EvaS: Not under a fake rock? ;> Kidding...

LRafkin: All of this depends on where we are talking about: New York or Des Moines or Podunck, Montana.

DXSMac: I have a question on what to do when one tries to mail order stuff, and the company WON'T ship by mail. They always want to ship UPS. Well, my hangup with that is that UPS will leave little "stickers" on the door. And a "sticker" on the door tells the WHOLE world that you aren't home! I hate that! Either that or, UPS just LEAVES it at your door. Or the phone company who just leaves the phone books at your door.

LRafkin: Yes, it's bad. You can call them and ask that they don't deliver or post that, but rather leave a message on your machine.

APGAZ: When I am expecting a delivery from mail-order, I frequently use my work address.

LRafkin: Good thinking.

EvaS: That is a good idea! Louise, I've been told by police that any house can be broken into. If that's true, why bother with dead bolts and double locks? Or even alarm systems?

LRafkin: Yes, and anyone can be shot on the street...but you want someone to be thwarted by your bolts, etc. They don't want to work at getting in. They want to get in and out. Alarm systems DO help, as do dogs!

EvaS: Dogs, too?

LRafkin: Sure, I have a great sweet lab, but a sign that says, "protected by attack trained labrador".

EvaS: I should have a sign like that, but mine looks like a cross between a Gordon Setter and a bison. :) So, what kind of alarm system is best?

LRafkin: It varies, and the costs can really jump around. Get several opinions. The best alarm systems connect you to a staffed phone who reports to the police.

EvaS: That's what we have here. And we forgot to turn off the system the other day and left the house. The police did come and check it out.

LRafkin: Oops! I think safety is less about hardware, bolts, etc. and more about awareness and attitude.

APGAZ: Is it true that having a dog in the house is a large deterrent to crime?

LRafkin: It helps. Especially if it's a barker.

EvaS: Louise, right. And people shouldn't tell their dogs to shush, is my feeling.

LRafkin: Yes. Exactly. They want to protect you.

EvaS: Louise, the other topic that usually isn't handled to my satisfaction is about how to teach children about safety.

LRafkin: I think kids are eager to know how to empower themselves. Talk with them honestly about what are the things to fear, and to not over-exaggerate is important.

EvaS: Yes, that's true.

LRafkin: Also, not to instill fear of the unknown. Put a name on what behaviors are not OK. Talk about different situations.

EvaS: How do you teach them to be realistic?

LRafkin: Act out scenarios: what to do if that are approached in a car. Who to go to if they need help. How to trust their feelings about who to trust. Just like with dogs! You need to listen to them. If they don't like someone,validate their feelings.

EvaS: Yes, don't yell at them. Right.

LRafkin: "Go give a kiss to uncle so and so"... maybe they don't want to, so don't make them! Teach them to use their voices! I teach a course called, "No Go Yell Tell" -- it is described in the book.

EvaS: Yes, absolutely!! That is the hardest thing, to teach women to yell. We are so inhibited that way. Who is most likely to victimize children?

LRafkin: People known to the chid, by far!

DXSMac: Society teaches us to be inhibited.

LRafkin: Practice yelling on the freeway with the windows up!

EvaS: I think I mentioned to you, Louise, that my son taught self-defense at Bard, when he was a student there. The course was for women. And that's the first thing he taught them, to yell.

LRafkin: Interesting.

EvaS: He said they had a terrible time. And these were young women. Grrls. :) Still, Bard and all, they had to unlearn their training.

LRafkin: I wonder how it is for a man to teach this stuff. I teach with a padded attacker, but he plays the bad guy the whole time.

EvaS: He said the course was excellent. That is, well-attended.

LRafkin: All of us have a terrible time. I still have times when I think, "I should have said..."

EvaS: Yes, well, me, too! I think of it months later.

LRafkin: Like when the guy at the car wash was weird to me yesterday.

EvaS: Weird, how?

LRafkin: He asked too many questions. And I answered them!

EvaS: Yes, weird. And you are still a good girl...with all your training.

LRafkin: What would make learning self-defense FUN. Because I would like to see more women, girls and yes, boys taking courses. And self-defense *sounds* boring. Sounds hard and dry.

EvaS: Fun? How could it be fun? It's learned out of fear, isn't it?

LRafkin: Yes, but I think it should be taught before the fear sets in. When I teach survivors, I am basically trying to undo fear.

EvaS: Yes, true.

DXSMac: To make it "fun," well, you might have each woman try to remember her WORST date, or the WORST something or other, then tell them to imagine that when they practice on the "attacker".

LRafkin: Yes, that could be FUN.

EvaS: Mac, I might call that motivational, but not fun. :( Well, I guess I might be wrong then. :)

LRafkin: Also, teaching children who WANT to learn these skills is the BEST. They find it exciting, not yet scary. Although, there are always a few who have already been victimized.

EvaS: Most kids other kids. My sons didn't want to learn it until they needed it.

LRafkin: I teach 4 and 5 year olds also, about peer violence and de-escalation of fights and verbal abuse.

EvaS: Louise, what kinds of things do you teach them to do to defuse a situation?

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