To Stay Safe Learn to Set and Defend Your Boundaries- Then Do It!
Imagine: You’re walking home after a night out with your pals when a man notices you, fixing his gaze. He adjusts his pace and approaches. At first he seems harmless but then he moves in closer, asking personal questions. You’re uncomfortable, frightened. You move to the side wishing he would leave, but he brushes against you, lightly stroking your shoulder. His hand lingers. There’s no place to go.
What should you do? (A) Lunge at his face and scratch his eyes out? (B) Slam him with a nearby brick? Hold on… not yet. Instead set a firm clear boundary.
Quickly and decisively – sooner than later- reclaim your space. Move apart to regain distance (ideally two arms length) and speak up, sending a clear signal and strong verbal message—“This is not okay. I want you to stop.” Meanwhile be prepared to take stronger measures.
Setting and defending our boundaries is our first line of defense. For women it can be highly effective, nipping a situation in the bud.
Boundaries help keep us safe. They are the lines and borders we draw around our comfort zones, personal space, and private lives. Boundaries communicate how much contact we’re okay with or want –and don’t want. Not just with strangers but friends, co-workers, and loved ones.
In the absence of firmly communicated boundaries we are more vulnerable to predators or those who will take advantage.
Not everyone who approaches is harmful- of course not!. But this scenario included telltale signs and an escalation of behavior that often precedes an assault or attack: selective targeting and approach, probing questions, crowding and intimidation, and unwanted intimacy and touching.
While a nice guy will back off, a creep or worse with harmful intent may continue to encroach and wear down your defenses to gain the upper hand.
Get Your Boundary On
To effectively set boundaries use four tools: solid body language and a good stance (feet shoulder width apart), a firm tone of voice, clarity of language (specific not vague) and a no-nonsense demeanor with direct eye contact. Congruency matters. Don’t be cute and bob your head while firmly stating, “No. I don’t want to (fill in the blank.) We’re done here. You need to leave now!”
In other words: Say what you mean and mean what you say.
Respond proportionately, matching the level of intrusion. In a higher level threat or would-be attack, increase your volume and yell while maintaining a perimeter, “Get Back! I need help!” Your voice is both deterrent and weapon.
If you’ve been raised to always be polite and respond favorably to flattery, give yourself permission to break that rule. It could place you at risk.
Pay attention to how you feel in the presence of strangers and non-strangers alike. Command respect and present yourself with authority. After all, who is a better authority on your body and life then You?