I had the distinct pleasure of speaking with Melissa Soalt a.k.a. Dr. Ruthless (Facebook | Dr. Ruthless), a former psychotherapist-turned-self-defense expert. Her website is a MUST READ for anyone reading my blog. My Marie Claire article was what brought our two worlds together and I am so excited, because Lord knows, I have questions! While it was intentional to mention self-defense in the Marie Claire piece as well as the USA Today one, I always wanted an analysis of the things I did during my time with Marco to learn of some of the things I failed to act on could have made me safer. Most importantly, I wanted to know what I could pass along to women reading my story and blog to make self-defense something that they crave to learn and not feel overwhelmed by. I assure you, Dr. Ruthless has all the answers. So, let’ s get right to it with some excerpts from my conversation with her.
Is it wrong of me to think that Marco had done this before? He was a first-time offender in the eyes of Italian law. But I just feel he was choreographed, so calculated in how he went about setting up the assault. And he just looked so smug and triumphant at one point. I remember it and it still boils my blood.
“One of the things about attackers is…they get cocky. When they’ve done it before, they start getting sloppy. He had made a major mistake leaving that other door open. Also, what tells me he’s done this before was the fact that [Marco] was in a predator bravado. Stalking you around the table was the classic predator-prey dance. It’s meant to subdue you, to make you fearful, to break your spirit. And if the mind breaks, the body is his for the taking.”
When Marco had just tossed the door keys to his bed, he turned his back to me and was walking away. I saw the bottle of rum on the kitchen table next to me and knew I could get a solid shot off to his head with it. I remember my left hand twitching toward it. But I stopped myself. “What if I kill him?” I thought. “I will never get out of Italy.” I remember that distinctly. I did not grab the bottle. I let that opportunity pass and minutes later, I wish I had not.
“There’s no substitute for good judgment. What is true in most of these cases is there’s usually more than one opening. I understand your fear of “Oh my God, what if I kill this guy?” I think the fact that you could even hold off in this moment, you knew on some level that you would figure something else out…You knew you were going to take charge. And you were prepared mentally to do so. But you would do it in the next moment an opportunity appeared.”
“It’s common that people will pass on an opportunity because maybe they want a better opening. There’s self-defense, and there’s LEGAL self-defense.”
“The general rule of thumb on this – the general view from SWAT team people and serious pros – is that sooner is better than later. The longer a criminal has control over you the more difficult it will become to facilitate escape…That’s what I teach women in my classes. Your goal in self-defense is to reduce your interaction time as much as possible and to facilitate escape.”
Honestly, I did feel I would find another way. I remember not worrying too much about letting the rum bottle go, but my mind was calculating at the speed of light what my next options were all the while watching him to see if he would go for a weapon. I sort of already knew I was going to engage him physically…
The 500-pound elephant in the room? The thought I had a lot in those early days after the attack is “How on earth did I let myself get in this predicament. It all seemed so innocuous.”
“Were there any indications beforehand that made you feel uneasy”
Sort of. Looking back, I really did find the abrupt manner in which he’d just swoop in when I was mid-sentence and kiss me, uncomfortable. He only did it a few times the whole night, but it was always in public and didn’t seem to make sense as to what triggered it.
“He was testing you that way. It’s a classic predator-prey dynamic. A predator will probe a woman’s space to see how she responds to his intrusions. So, he was testing you and based on what he found, he figured you’d be an easy prey. Sometimes, it’s just a verbal probe. Sometimes, it’s a physical one. There is always some test. If there is a learning point or teachable moment, that is one.”
Why didn’t he attack me the first time I was up at his balcony, checking out the view he had bragged about? Maybe he thought taking me to the Enoteca would loosen me up? He probably did think that.
“It’s called “privacy of control” because in order for an attack to happen; he needs to isolate you (he needs privacy) and he also needs to be able to control you in order to accomplish his task. if you don’t allow either of those, that’s great. You’ve just reduced your odds by 90 percent. But, we;re human, and it’s not always easy to avoid it.”
PART 2…coming soon.
NOTE: Dr. Ruthless’ words “He will test you to see how you respond to his intrusions” just sticks with me. Think about it. Think about how many times a guy has approached you at a bar. Maybe he leans in too close, or makes an inappropriate or bold comment, maybe he touches you. And you find yourself having to decide between making a firm, possibly argumentative comment back or just letting it slide and playfully brushing it off. I’ve often – surprisingly – chosen the latter tactic because I don’t want to have an unpleasant argument while I’m in the middle of a nice night out with my friends. I always get irritated that men will put me in this position, where I either have to cause a scene or let them continue being inappropriate.