Risk Reduction & Fighting Skills, Yes! But Let’s Change the Conversation and STOP Victim Blaming!

Golda got it right: If women are to learn self defense, shouldn’t men learn self control? (I say “men” because statistically speaking it usually is.) 

First the caveat: I believe in fierce self defense. I endorse sensible risk reduction and proactive self protection, from cultivating “jungle consciousness” and heightened internal and external awareness up to and including the acquiring of emergency fight-back skills. I believe in taking responsibility for our personal safety. You’re the only one who’s with you all the time, so you’re in the best position to save yourself. If you haven’t read my Forbes guest blog, BEING NICE CAN KILL YOU, please do. It speaks volumes to where I’m coming from and to this point:

The more a woman is groomed in traditional behaviors of female socialization and platitudes of politeness the more at risk she becomes.

Okay? Now…

After the Investigation Discovery Show aired featuring my friend Keri’s brutal attack and escape in Rome using fight and flight, a flurry of critiques about her choices appeared online. What inflamed me is that it speaks to how quickly we as people and as cultures default to blaming the woman – “What was she thinking/ wearing/ doing?” – focusing on her behavior vs the deceptive, rapacious acts of the attacker. The sexual predator. You know…the guy who ruins the woman’s life. Or tries to. (Thankfully not in this case. Eat this shithead… and I’ll see you in court.. in Rome…. where you attacked me….and God knows how many other women…) 

Blaming the victim, even in subtle ways, is not only insulting and hurtful but in the words of friend and legal expert Roger Canaff, it “deepens survivor’s trauma, delays their healing, and takes the focus off of the attacker responsible for the situation in the first place.”

Psychology 101: Maybe it’s a way for people to distance themselves from the harsh reality that “it” could happen to them. That the presence of danger always exists, that bad things happen to smart, good, “God loving” women. That the upstanding guy in your ‘hood who’s kind to your kids, or the man you’ve lunched with before, who you’ve dated without incident, who fixed your faucets, or the funny guy you met yesterday while walking the dog, or the man you married is also a predator.

To appreciate the harm and knee jerkery of victim blaming, look no further than this Dallas news article:  But don’t miss the trail of insightful comments:

“I wonder if those who try to blame the victims of rape, would be as ready to accept blame for being robbed or assaulted because of “reckless” behavior that caused them to be in the pathway of the criminal who robbed or assaulted them, especially [those] who are always so quick to place blame on the women victims.”

Keri is not only a hero, a smart ballsy chick who smacked down her attacker and did the unthinkable (leapt off his balcony and across slippery-sloped Italian tiled rooftops defying death) but she’s also a friend. Knowing all the details of her particular story, any perceptions of “recklessness” are off base.

I’m pissed about this, but aiming to be tactful –hence my shout out for the cessation of victim-blaming brought to you here vis-a-vis my comment (enclosed below) from one online “discussion.”

But first, a request for you dear reader. Take this phrase to heart. It bears repeating:

The presence of danger always exists. Don’t get uptight about it just comprehand it fully, then dissolve or disown any illusions you may have about otherwise realities.  

And please understand this: “No one is vulnerable to sexual violence unless a person near them means them harm.” (Key phrase = “means them harm.”) It initiates with a perp’s intent. Even when it’s a crime of opportunity.

It stems from a rapist’s feelings of violent entitlement. The right to take without consent. 

Even if you or I don’t agree with the choices a woman makes, or deem certain behaviors unwise or downright foolish as I sometimes do, it does not mean she shoulders responsibility for an act of violence committed against her– and this is why I’m NOT in favor of rape prevention TIPS as primary self defense. Because:

(A) It unduly increases female fear encouraging litanies of DON’T do this. DON’T that! Never be alone…For Chrissake people, women have lives to live. (B) More importantly it misleads women into thinking that safety from violence, rape, assault rests solely upon women’s behaviors, and this potentially then blames women. 

It’s one of the reasons why many assaults and rapes go unreported — for fear of scrutiny or blame. FACT: sexual predators and victimizers assault women all hours of the day and night. And in acquaintance or date rape (such as Keri’s foiled scenario) the attacker has established familiarity AND already has proximity to his intended target. So the idea of never being alone with a would-be predator becomes a mute point.

Below is my comment– I post as “savage beauty”- which is my response to a slew of victim blaming knee-jerkery, and this overt suggestion: ” That women of color are more naturally distrustful and would never then wind up alone with a predator or abuser.”  As happened to Keri. I take issue with this, and I think it misses the point for the reasons below:

MY COMMENT: posted as ‘savage beauty” 

As a women’s self defense pro, as one who carries some street cred and who has spent time traveling and living in other cultures, let me first say: I don’t dismiss the truth that certain upbringings, cultures, experiences and mindsets heighten female intuition and perception of potential danger- that’s TRUE. And I agree: all women need alert to potential behavioral clues and draw hard lines. It’s something I call “jungle consciousness” and it’s central to my women’s self defense teaching and paradigm.

That said, the BIGGER truth and moral in Keri’s story of outrageous bravery and best use of fight and flight reflexes — not to mention her outstanding presence of mind, disallowing Marco to break her down, her execution of decisive action in The Moment of Truth when seconds counts, and additional meritorious actions which I could go on and on about here– the point is this: Men like her attacker Marco are VERY GOOD LIARS AND DECEIVERS–they’ve majored in deception, in disarming women’s radars and staging false realities in a calculated fashion under great care and cover. So Keri’s story could be any woman’s story nightmare and this goes to why women MUST be trained in emergency and aggressive “last resort” self defense strategies. Because it could be you or me or a sister or BFF.

You or I may have strict boundaries and rules. Perhaps you or I would never have gone back to this man’s apt. Good! Smart! Hooray for us! (For the record, Marco  gave Keri no reason to fear him; he was a good guy when they were at his digs hours earlier.) But don’t think for a moment that it couldn’t happen to “me” meaning any of us. Instead of Marco in Rome, maybe it’s that nice fella from church who you trust. Or the new upright man who moved into your hood and he’s been kind and protective of your kids. And one day he and you are alone and his predatory stripes come out and he goes off on you expecting favors. Or attempts to rapes you. Or maybe he IS your minister/ neighbor/ electrician or other known-to-you entity.

Predators are masterful liars. They know how to BLEND IN and have majored in staging. It can (and it does) happen to the smartest among us and because all it takes is ONE MOMENT OF weakness which we all suffer from time to time.

Let’s cease all forms of victim blaming, subtle or overt. Risk reduction, YES! Smart protective measures and bang up skills, YES! Responsibility for personal safety, YES….

My friend Keri was violently attacked by a predator who has likely done this before and she had the courage and smarts to prosecute in Italian courts and may have saved many women’s lives and integrity.

I applaud her survival instincts. I could write a book about all that she did right once it all went wrong. Including how quickly she rallied her fighting spirit and arrived at a bottom line decision – which is a critical step – deciding instantly:

“What is non-negotiable? What is uncompromising and worth fighting for? What do I hold sacred?”

It’s from that deep well of spiritual resolve that we take decisive and heroic action.

I’ll close with this: Violence and sexual violence against women is pandemic. Even when women do all the “RIGHT” things we can still be victimized. Because those who will, who violate women, do so because they can. 

Let’s stop focusing on what SHE (the woman) did, stop scrutinizing her behaviors. Heighten our knowledge and senses, and acquire savage skills and learn the “tells” and behavioral clues for sure. But let’s also move the conversation onto the vile actions of the predators and hold them accountable. Maybe knock some heads and asses around, as Keri and many other women have successfully valiantly done.

We need to stand together as women regardless of background or race or ethnicity. Because in this war on women, we’re one very big hood: Woman hood.



Dr. Ruthless: Shouting It Out For the Media!

Attention Media– if you want a fresh voice in women’s self defense call me!

Schooling women in ancient skills, attitudes, and warrior wisdom since 1986!   

From no-nonsense fight-back skills to the inner tools and emotional dimensions of self defense; from the larger issues of violence against women to controversial topics such as why women must embrace (not shun) their killer instinct. I can address it all with intelligence and panache. Le’ts shout it out!

Press Release Below–followed by additional talking points. 

Discovering the Dr. Ruthless Difference:

“It’s Not The Size of the Woman in Fight, It’s the Size of the Fight in the Woman”

AMHERST, MA – You know Melissa Soalt (AKA “Dr. Ruthless”) as the go-to expert on self defense from THE VIEW, NBC Nightly News, Huffington Post, Self, Marie Claire, The Wall Street Journal, CosmoGirl, BUST and more, where she’s shared her expertise with countless women via her no-nonsense “Dharma of Defense” – a brand she evolved from decades of immersion in the study of self defense and the female warrior mindset. Now, Soalt takes us deeper into the primal ferocity zone – a place, she says, all women need to be to recover the lost skill of “pulling ferocious from fear.”  It could save your life!

“Female socialization – ‘nice lady behavior’ – actually puts you more at risk with aggressors and criminals,” says Soalt in her blog at Forbes.com, “Being Nice Can Kill You.” Soalt points out that successful fight-back self defense often hinges upon the unspoken truth that far beyond technique, women must harness their “inner ferocity” and “maximum yang” powers if they are to effectively fend off assailants. And this is vital: When nothing else will do but counterattack, women must be ready to spring into action, using their bodies and whatever tools they have at their disposal but most importantly understanding this nugget of warrior wisdom: Regardless of technique, you ARE the weapon, the delivery system! All women have the innate capacity to be dangerous defenders, says Soalt, but in many ways this goes against social mores and traditional female mandates.” See below for the full blog entry and to learn more about “The Dr. Ruthless Difference:


Soalt also makes a splash this summer with her latest appearance on Investigation Discovery’s “Dates From Hell,” in an episode focusing on a remarkable rape-escape, set to air July 11th, 10 p.m. EST. http://investigation.discovery.com/tv/dates-from-hell/episodes/ Here, Soalt not only imparts smart fighting strategies but addresses the classic predatory mindset and tactics of a would-be rapist, gives behavior clues that often precede a violent attack which should never be ignored and discusses the stages of an attack. “Teaching women the innate skills to manage fear and adrenalin, and harness their terror, is as important as teaching women to tap into their warrior selves,” she reiterates.

Never one to shy away from bold statements, Soalt is a triple threat – an award winning self defense expert, a former psychotherapist and a Black Belt Hall of Fame recipient. Her message and method of reducing risk, of practical and forceful strategies that work regardless of a women’s size and her proven tips and how to’s have been hailed by law enforcement, street fighters and feminists alike.

Here’s a smattering of the buzz surrounding Soalt:

  • “Every once in a while someone comes along and not only leaves an indelible impression on you, but also changes the way you perceive yourself and your place in the world. Women’s self defense expert Melissa Soalt is one such person… Dr. Ruthless has a lot to offer the world.”   Black Belt Magazine

  • “If you’re Melissa Soalt aka Dr. Ruthless you preach the gospel of low-down, dirty, eye-gouging, groin-crushing, go-for-the-throat self-defense tactics for women. You take your 25 years of training and combine it with your insights as a former psychotherapist. You come up with a potent message to women that constant fear is a crippler, and that you can learn how to fight like a warrior– or a mad dog– always keeping in mind that fleeing, if possible, is your best defense.” Politics Daily (now part of Huffington Post Media.) 

  • “Dr. Ruthless KICKS ASS!” BUST Magazine  

Here is a sampling of lifesaving info that Soalt can share with your audience:

  • Practical assault deterring methods and explosive fight-back skills to facilitate escape, capitalizing on the body’s fight and flight response and minimizing freeze or panic.
  • How to morph your body into a decisive weapon and weaponize! How to use the environment and handy objects. Soalt’s formula: “Whaddya got?”
  • Resist or submit–what the data shows and Soalt’s decades of perspective
  • Use ALL the feminine wiles…where to put your focus, how to collect yourself inside and how to use trickery and deception to create openings and opportunities
  • Occupy your hips! Learn to generate maximum power from that part of the body we love to loathe!
  • Lay it on us, Dr. Ruthless. Does size matter? Yes…and no! Fight “smart” and use your strengths against vulnerabilities. Ask Soalt how!

In addition to her expertise Soalt is also a woman who has fended off attack with stories to share. For more information on Soalt, including media appearances, seminar offerings and her Fierce & Female DVD, please visit: http://www.dr-ruthless.com/index.php


First lines of defense. The nuts and bolts” — from danger recognition to body language,  boundary setting, and verbal skills to how lowering your center of gravity IS a deterrent.

Fight back and RAPE DEFENSE skills— attacks against women happen at intimate “hot breath on your face” range. To counterattack and counter the terror we need explosive gross-motor “in-fighting” tools. I’ll share practical moves, addressing PRIME targets and  WEAPONS for stand-up, pin and rape-specific positions. The goal is to disable and escape. (Did you know: the EARS make great handles and targets….More!)

The emotional and mind-setting skills to manage FEAR and remain focused in the MOMENT OF TRUTH when adrenaline and emotions flood your system, potentially producing panic. Seconds count– be there!

Clear the path: Why you MUST overcome the fear of injury and reconcile spiritual and moral conflicts in order to effectively go primal in self defense. Decide in advance: What is worth fighting for? What is uncompromising and non-negotiable? Where do YOU draw that line?

How and why FEROCITY is a superpower.

Understanding predatory tactics and progressive stages of attack. Predators are masters of deception. I can highlight specific behaviors and address “testing” and indicators that typically precede attack. Once a sexual predator gains a woman’s trust and  measure of calculated control, he will “close the deal” by using his greater size, strength, and displays of aggression- in essence, TERROR TACTICS– to gain compliance and control. These stages can happen in one night, or over weeks or months.

How to USE  the environment in self defense— beyond “get your keys or a pen in your hand” there are myriad ways to use walls, counter tops, surfaces and furnishings in your defense – as shields, weapons and barriers. Own your world!

Controversy! How facets of Pollyannaish New Ageism con-conspires in the pacification of women furthering the disconnect from our baser survival selves.

Dr. Ruthless can also address special-focus groups: from tweener and teen safety to female journalist training in sexual assault prevention- a topic she has been cited on- to deeper cultural dialogue around the FEMALE use of violent force and why the learning of radical self defense is NOT victim blaming, but a vital yet often overlooked tool in combating violence against women.





TWO BEEFS  (Come now. Does Momma look like she’s joking?)

(1) Those in WSD need to stop wielding this awful phrase as your promo: “Don’t be a victim!” Or worse: “Choose NOT to be a victim!”

Let’s be clear: YES to sensible risk reduction, heightened awareness, early recognition of danger and behavioral clues, good body language and intuitive faculties turned on. Now this: NO woman chooses to be a victim or to be attacked. Women can “do everything right” (and be Black Belts and kick-ass power feminists) and still be be violated or raped. And not at fault.

(2) Ditch last century verbiage: Some in Women’s Self Defense still promote that self defense is all about knowing “YOU’RE WORTH FIGHTING FOR!” 

Really? You don’t say!

As one who is steeped in SD and as a former psychotherapist, while I appreciate where this is coming from, I find this comment insulting; the insinuation is that most women DON’T think they’re worth fighting for. I disagree. To me this smacks of a victim mentality pinned onto and often attributed to women.

Sure. It may in fact be relevant for women struggling with DEEP self esteem issues or domestic abuse whereby they’ve internalized the doubts of their abusers and diminishing self perceptions. But most women today KNOW they’re worth fighting for and WANT to protect their bodily sovereignty. They need to learn HOW and how to overcome fear and other inhibitions.

Let’s MOVE the conversation forward- not backward!

That’s Me with INVESTIGATIVE DISCOVERY TV producer CHRIS. I was recently interviewed for a forthcoming (late June or early July) episode for a new show on “Dates From Hell.” (Seriously.  These are remarkable real life stories of women’s resolve, smarts, fighting hearts and fight back powers. The episode I was called in for is the amazing Keri Potts, who heroically, daringly escaped from a rapist who’d locked her in his studio apt. in Rome. A predator not only intent on brutal rape but possible a killer….. Stay tuned and I’ll share more.