Women’s Personal Safety and Male-Encoded Language

STOPThe Department of Justice  – and common sense – tells us that violence against women is predominantly committed by men.

With women’s personal safety always at the forefront, learning to use “male-encoded” language can be very helpful in certain circumstances.

Broadly speaking, aggressive males only understand communications – verbal and non-verbal – that read as male.

This is not to diminish the power and effectiveness of communication styles that are traditionally female-coded.

It’s about what works in a confrontation between an aggressive man and an intimidated woman.

Of course, the best way to avoid a confrontation is to … avoid it.  Leave the scene when you can.  But real life doesn’t always work that way, and you need to have some strategies in mind so you’ll know what to do if confronted by an angry, aggressive, or otherwise inappropriate person.

When a woman is dealing with a confrontational male, the social contract tells us to be quiet, not make a scene, and hope the encounter ends quickly.

We are told, implicitly and explicitly, that speaking up for ourselves makes things worse.

The truth is, being quiet and submissive was always a deeply flawed solution, and when faced with a nonresistant woman, many men will feel empowered to escalate the violence.

And politely asking an aggressor to stop being aggressive simply doesn’t work.

Although it goes against our collective cultural conditioning, oftentimes the best response to a confrontational or inappropriate male is to be loud and firm, in a tone that allows no room for negotiation or argument.

This assertive verbal language and accompanying body language is often what we consider “male-encoded.”

Consider the difference between a woman quietly saying, “Please stop doing that. You’re making me feel uncomfortable,” versus the same woman saying, “YOU!  CUT THAT OUT!” while making a noticeable jerking motion with her thumb.

The assertive approach accomplishes two things: it puts the aggressor on notice that you are NOT an easy target and whatever he does to you will come with a consequence; and it alerts anyone nearby that you are in a precarious situation and they may need to step in or call for help.

Before you’re ever faced with a situation, think of aggressive phrases men use, and role-play saying these same things out loud.  Practice until you’re comfortable saying these things firmly, authoritatively,  and are able to call them up instantly.

“YOU!  CUT IT OUT!”  “GET OUTTA HERE!”  “BACK OFF!”  “HEY YOU!  SHUT IT!” and “YOU BACK UP!” are some examples.  Drop your voice to a deeper register and deliver loud, firm COMMANDS, NOT REQUESTS, like a drill sergeant – as if you EXPECT to be obeyed, and anything else is unthinkable.

Use male-encoded body language when you issue these commands.  Stand at attention – straight, with your feet shoulder-width apart, shoulders back, head up, with a serious face.  Look fearless and resolved.  At the same time, maintain your personal space as much as possible, as staying out of reach is always important.

Don’t worry about being rude or making a scene.  Go on and MAKE A SCENE.

Your personal safety always supersedes other people’s feelings.

Using assertive, male-encoded language should always be one of your strategies in maintaining your personal security.

– Jennifer Kaminer, January 21, 2017

 

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Personal Safety in and Around Your Vehicle. Social Workers, Home Healthcare and Other Lone Workers

Security experts, law enforcement, and those in executive protection always remind us that our personal safety is compromised when we spend time in and around our parked vehicles. We are far safer in even a slow-moving vehicle with the doors locked and windows up.

Social workers, home healthcare workers, occupational health providers, and those in sales are just a few examples of those who spend a lot of time traveling between destinations.

I have heard case managers often say that they will use some down time between visits, sitting in their cars, clearing voice mails, or replying to time sensitive emails.

Others state that they will often sit in the parked car while programing their GPS for the next destination. Some will return calls while parked, leaving them very distracted as to their surroundings.

Police state that crimes such as robbery and carjacking are often opportunistic, with the victims often being someone “using the car as an office.”

Here is simple mantra to keep in mind: “Look- Lock-Leave.”

Look in, under, and around your car before you approach and get in.

Lock the door immediately upon getting in.

Start the vehicle and Leave immediately. The sooner you are moving, the better.

Another tip: If you are not parallel parking, always try and back in, making it easier drive away quickly if under duress.

Have a safe and happy holiday!

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Social Workers and Nurses’ Personal Safety at the Front Door

At the Front Door

Home health providers, social workers, nurses and other field-based professionals know to be on guard when knocking on a client’s door, especially during that first visit. Personal safety is paramount.

Here are the four strategies you can use to make you that much safer while knocking on someone’s door, whether for the first time or the hundredth time.

Distance is Always Your Friend

Knock and step back several feet. (If you are knocking on the door of a trailer home, perhaps reach through the railings and knock on the bottom of the door to avoid the stairs.)

Creating space between you and the door gives you more time to react if a negative situation arises. Police refer to this as the “reactionary gap,” or “reactionary cushion.”

Stay off the Center Line

Moving to the side takes you off the center line and leaves you a bit less vulnerable to something like a dog charging out the door.

Hinge Side of the Door

As you step to the side try whenever possible to stand on the hinge side of the door frame. This allows you to see a more of the room behind the person opening the door than if on the door handle side.

Partial “Blading” for Your Body

Once you’re back and away and off to the hinge side of the frame, remember to angle your body at about 45 degrees toward the door,  as opposed to facing the door square with your shoulders.  Angling or partially “blading” your body in this manner allows you monitor what is going on behind you as well as keep an eye on the door. This positioning also allows you to more quickly turn away from the door and leave rapidly if the situation called for it.

 

It Happened to Me: A True Story From Lone Worker Training:

The provider said she did everything described above but for the partial blading stance. She said her shoulders were square to the door, and when it was opened she was shoved from behind into the residence and robbed of her possessions.

Does this happen every day?  Of course not.  But knowing what is going on behind you at the door and at all times is critical and makes you a much “harder target.”

**A simple technique that will help you cover that BLIND SPOT behind you.

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Social Worker Personal Safety and Situational Awareness: The Issue of Weapons

Social Worker Personal Safety and Situational Awareness: The Issue of WeaponsiStock_000000255677XSmall

From the title of this blog post, you might have thought this entry was about what weapons a social worker should or should not carry for self-defense.  Not so.

This entry discusses what a social worker, case manager, or home health nurse should do regarding the presence of weapons in the home during a house call.

Some companies dictate that all weapons are to be stowed away or secured before the visit. This is a good policy, and many members will do so before their provider arrives.

However, this is not a “one size fits all” solution. Attitudes towards weapons, especially firearms, vary greatly by region here in the United States.  For example, a .45 handgun lying on an end table might not bother a case worker in Tennessee or Texas, but somewhere else, would be cause for alarm.

Here’s a common scenario I hear from various providers:

“I was conducting a home visit with one of our members. He was cooperative and pleasant as usual. I was sitting at the table when I noticed I was actually sitting between him and a shotgun on the other side of the room, in a corner.  I thought about our company policy to ask him to secure it or put it away.

“This thought was overruled by my instincts, which said, ‘Our visit is going very well. Right now, I’m between him and the gun, and he’s not even thinking about it.  If I ask him to move it, that means his attention will be directed to the weapon, and he will pick it up.  Now, I’ve called attention to the gun and it’s in his hands, when a minute ago, he wasn’t even thinking about it.’”

So what to do? I think it all come back down to instincts, and making a judgement call based on the situation.

In the instance above, I would have done what the case worker did: continue the visit and not bring attention to the weapon.  Is this in keeping with company policy? Maybe not, but it sure is in keeping with common sense and a sound situational decision.

In New York State, managers and home health providers have said that due to very strict gun laws, a weapon could likely mean trouble, and perhaps illegal activity.  In that case, policy should be followed closely.  Politely shut down the meeting and leave.

It is also worth remembering that a volatile person in a work – or non-work related setting – can inflict great harm, even if a gun or knife, what we typically think of as “weapons,” are not present. Weapons of opportunity, such as a heavy vase, ashtray, or bedside lamp can be lethal, as can scissors or a letter opener left in plain view on the desk.

Just some food for thought with regard to your personal safety and situational awareness.

 

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Personal Safety and Situational Awareness Training for Front Desk Professionals

security-camsHow may time have you heard it? “I just cover the front desk at my job.”

Please stop describing yourselves this way. You are professionals who have a lot more responsibilities and tasks than meet the eye.

In the hospitality industry, you are the name and face of the brand you represent. In business settings, you are the first point of contact tasked with making a desirable first impression, while being assertive and maintaining control of your lobby.

You are expert multitaskers. While signing people in and printing visitor’s badges you are keeping an eye on the front door, the hallway to the restrooms, buzzing in the mail delivery clerk and authenticating service providers. On top of it you are often also tasked with monitoring the CCTV security system!

Behind your welcoming professional smile, you have over watch on access control and security. You deal with difficult people and are on the front line with regard to threats are other issues most aren’t even aware of.

Personal safety and situational awareness training for front desk professionals is often overlooked. Often, this is due to high turnover. In other instances, a lack of commitment to the position.

Yet it is imperative that employers give the front desk staff the respect and training they deserve.  Important things employers need to consider with regard to training include:

  • How will my front desk staff respond to a bomb threat? Will they evacuate immediately or will they stay calm and ask for additional information that will be helpful to the police?
  • If violence erupts, will they attempt to intervene, or be a good witness and call police from a safe distance?
  • If a hostile intruder breaches the lobby, what is the game plan? Do you have a Safe Room?
  • Domestic violence “spill over.” What is this, and how do you mitigate against it?
  • Someone calls and attempts to “charm the front desk” into giving up private information. What does this look and sound like? What measures should your staff take?

These are but a few of the issues your front desk personnel must deal with. Reminding them that they are just that, front desk professionals, and empowering them to take charge of their environment is key.

These employees should be trained and empowered to act confidently, professionally, and decisively.

A secondary benefit to this is higher level of job satisfaction and less turnover at the position.

 

 

 

 

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