Thursday, 25 February 2016

Forewarned is forearmed! How to deter a predator

       Since my adolescence, serious assaults against males and females of all ages have proliferated alarmingly. Some people, women especially, are now afraid to go out alone, even in broad daylight. City centres can be a nightmare, particularly at night. Nowhere is safe. So what do we do? How can we protect ourselves? Is becoming a karate black-belt the only answer? Would that even help?
       Of course, none of us can guarantee our safety no matter where we go, but you’re not entirely helpless. Here are a few 'weapons' which may help to protect you from attack.

Forward planning
       Whenever you go out for the evening – to a party,  club or even a cinema – make sure you get home safely by planning transport in advance – either by arranging a lift with a trusted friend or family member, or by travelling with a group. Teenagers please note - most parents will gladly pick you up to keep you out of danger! 

       Predators are rarely looking for a fight. What they ARE looking for is a perfect victim, someone who looks vulnerable, uncertain and lacking self-worth. Stride purposefully, with shoulders squared and head held high.  Act as though you know where you’re going (even if you don’t) and adopt a ‘don’t mess with me’ attitude.

       If he gives you the creeps, he’s probably a creep! Don’t be persuaded to stick around or be manoeuvred into a solitary place. Just leave. You don’t need excuses. You don't need to be polite - predators will take advantage of a woman's 'niceness'. Put plenty of distance between you and him and make sure other people are around to help.

       Should anyone make to assault you, Scream. At the top of your voice! It really is one of your best defences. A piercing, glass shattering scream may alert others and will often deter an attacker.

       Being determined to fight back surprises and disturbs the would-be assailant. As mentioned previously, most predators want an easy victim. Learn basic self-defence and be alert to potential threats.

       If possible, and as soon as you see your chance, Run. Take off your shoes if necessary and run to safety – the nearest house or any place where there are people. 

       Sorry but the way you dress DOES matter. No one has the right to assault you however you dress. BUT if you can see up it, down it or through it, you could inadvertently be sending the wong signals. Okay, that skimpy outfit may be just the thing for the party/club/restaurant - just be sure to cover up when walking home! 

       Wherever you go, stay awake, stay sober and don't rely on people you hardly know to get you home safely. Even trusted friends may slope off without you if they hook up with someone at a pub, club or party....which could also be a danger for them! 

       Whether you fear an attack or have recently suffered one, tell the police.  By reporting an incident and providing as much information as you can, you may help to prevent others being assaulted in the future.

Sunday, 14 February 2016

What is love?

       Love. What is it, precisely? I ask because, despite being the language of Shakespeare, English offers only one rather generalised word for ‘love’, yet this wonderful emotion has many variations.
       The term love is bandied about far too freely these days. For example, you might  say, “I love you” to the man or woman of your dreams and five minutes later say “I’d love a cup of tea”, as though your feelings for a  humble beverage were really on a par with those for the love of your life.
       Greeks have no such problem. When it comes to vocabulary they’re second to none, rarely having just one word to describe something when a couple of hundred will do! Whereas the English, when not actually grunting, tend to stick to our familiar catch-all, four-lettered word, our Hellenic cousins have a wealth of descriptions for different types of love.  Well, it stands to reason – if love is a ‘many splendoured thing’* then surely it deserves at least as many splendoured ways to express it.
       Eros (E’ros) is the Greek term for romantic love, the hearts and flowers, Mills & Boon type of love to which most people aspire at some point in their lives. This kind of emotion has little to do with common sense and almost everything to do with chemistry and physical attraction.  Sadly, by mistaking lust for genuine love, couples may commit themselves when they have little else in common, only for the relationship to end in rejection and tears.
       Philia (phi-li’a) is the affection we have for our friends, a close bond created through mutual trust and shared experience. True friendship can never be gained through bribes or flattery; rather, the people we choose to associate with should be honest with us, willing to listen and ready to help in a crisis.    
       Storge (stor-ge’) describes the natural warmth and personal attachment between family members - parents for children, children for brothers and sisters and, of course, Mums and Dads for each other. To appreciate just how vital this quality is, we need only consider the results when it’s lacking – domestic violence, divorce, unwanted pregnancies, estrangement, lack of interest in elderly parents and homelessness.
       Agape (a-ga’pe) the highest form of love. Guided by principle, this emotion transcends all others, as it can be displayed towards people we don’t know and even towards our enemies.  Professor William Barclay wrote in his New Testament Words “Agape has to do with the mind: it is not simply an emotion which rises unbidden in our hearts; it is a principle by which we deliberately live. Agape has supremely to do with the will.”  It’s this kind of love which prevents us from kicking our worst enemy when they’re lying in the gutter – on the contrary, impelling us to help them to their feet; the compassion displayed by the Good Samaritan for a man he knew despised him; the unconquerable love which, if manifest in everyone of us, would literally change the world!
* 1955 song by Sammy Fain & Paul Francis Webster, publicised by film of same name  

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Danger! Teenagers online!

It seems social networkers are getting younger. A recent survey for BBC Newsround suggests that over three-quarters of children aged 10-12 in the UK have signed up to social media such as Facebook+, WhatsApp, Snapchat and Instagram.

These tots now join the ever-growing number of teens already accessing the web on a regular basis. According to Pew Research Centre, 92% of US teens go online each day, while 24% are online almost constantly.

It’s not hard to understand why. With instant information at their fingertips, the ability to follow every detail of favourite celebrity lifestyles, and a whole world of (seemingly) like-minded people to befriend, no wonder so many teens spend so much time on the internet.

Which makes them extremely vulnerable to unsavoury content and manipulative people.

An article in Better Homes and Gardens explained: “The Internet is a bustling frontier where brilliant pioneers hawk the latest information; but paedophiles, scam artists, bigots, and other unsavoury characters wander cyberspace too.”

As youths like Javier* have discovered: “Some Web sites are shocking. They can pop up without warning and are trying to pull you in. They want to entice you—to get your money.” John*, another teenager, admits: “Once you start looking at improper material, it’s hard to stop—it’s so addictive.”

One major problem of the internet is that users feel free to browse at leisure in privacy. However, lack of supervision, especially for guileless teens (and younger children!), is incredibly dangerous. Not only are they prey to a sewer of morally corrupt material, but also to radical and persuasive ideologies. It’s human nature to be curious, a quality that can so easily be exploited by unscrupulous predators.

Although some websites give warning of ‘sensitive’ material, many more can seem quite innocent, drawing in vulnerable young victims before they realise what they’re viewing. Even if they close the site instantly, any offensive images are imprinted in the brain, causing anxiety and feelings of shame. Worse still, such images are designed to lure people into the site—and, once hooked, the victim may return again and again, forming a habit that’s difficult to break. Viewing pornography can soon become a pattern.
Chat rooms also present challenges. Writer Leah Rozen observed: “Techno-savvy teenagers are spending hours chatting online with anonymous strangers all over the country and even the world. Unfortunately, some of those strangers with whom teens may be talking online also happen to be adult perverts looking for sexual trysts with kids.” Even with their peers, there’s always a danger for teens from strangers who have no moral boundaries - researchers have found much of the chat room conversation focuses on sexual issues.
Popular Mechanics warned that “you have to be extremely careful” when using public chat rooms. Giving out your name or address to total strangers is just asking for trouble!
Advice for Teens: Protect yourself

Keep online devices in the living room or other well-used areas and only go online when others are at home. Maybe you feel your parents are too strict, but any boundaries they set are for YOUR protection - because they love you - so cooperate.

Beware dodgy links, blogs, sites or ‘friends’ who want to manipulate or corrupt you. If you DO stumble onto anything unwholesome or disturbing, close the site down immediately – or even get offline! Don’t allow nasty, sick images to linger in your head and NEVER let curiosity get the better of you! Pornography is highly addictive and can actually change your brain!
If you’ve already been hooked by porn, violence or other disturbing websites, speak to someone who cares about you, a mature friend or family member who will help and advise you.
DO NOT allow anyone to manipulate you, groom you, intimidate you, make you uncomfortable or mess with your head. Remember, not everyone you meet online may be the person you think they are. That cool, good-looking 18-year old may be a lot older (and uglier) than you think! Never EVER give out your address or other contact details no matter how 'nice' your chatty new friend may seem!
Browsing aimlessly can be one of life’s biggest time-wasters, so schedule the time you spend online - and stick to it—no matter how absorbed you become. This applies not only to social media and chat rooms, but also emails! Countless messages can eat into other important activities, such as homework and studies.
Never let virtual communication take the place of face to face contact with the people who matter most – family and friends.

+BBC News has reported that paedophiles are using Facebook to swap images. NEVER agree to 'meet' anyone in a secret 'room' while visiting this site.
*Names have been changed
See also

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Boy racers and ballistic buses

Guest post by Peter Coghlan, locked-in stroke survivor and author of "In the Blink of an Eye"* 

I really, really tried to end my blogs. I really, really wanted to leave it on a high note. But it’s not why I write. I started this whole thing – the book and blogs - to share my journey through brain-stem stroke and locked-in syndrome. And I feel recent events must be written about, as they include situations a recovering Stroke survivor may encounter. So I’ve asked my pal Jacy to ‘guest’ me on her blog, leaving the last post on my website as a cry of triumph!

Ok. I’ll attempt to bring you up to speed…Speed being the key word!!! Last week I visited a 20-year-old girl who’s learning to live alone with a one-sided stroke and adapting as well as she can, poor lass. But I don’t want to talk about that just now; that’s not the issue. 

On the way home, I was waiting at traffic lights when two cars T-boned each other at high speed. I was like OMG!! Unbelievably, one of the cars came hurtling towards me like a bat out of hell!. All I could do was the same as every other brave young bloke would do – cringe, pull a pathetic face and brace for impact! Scared the hell out of me, I can tell you, and I did shake a bit! Needless to say, my car was a right-off and, after a taxi ride home, It was very clear that I was up the creek!! I was starting my health care assistant course in three days’ time with no car, but I had to get there. 
So I turned to public transport and caught the bus. Planning routes and all that took some doing, as it involved 6 buses a day! I did find the service reliable, but discovered a pitfall I want to share with my followers…’Fall’ again being the operative word!

One day, the driver took off without waiting for me to sit down, hitting the accelerator so hard it threw me off my feet. I flew down the bus like a rag doll, landing on my back and hitting the bus floor at speed. It could have been worse, of course. Having survived a car coming at me like a bat out of hell, a massive stroke, cancer, a hotel roof collapsing in Bali and explosive devices in my army days, a simple thing like being catapulted from front to back of a bus moving at twice the speed of sound is par for the course! I've come across every scenario you can think of on my journey from hell!

Yes, it could have been much worse….I could have broken a hip or even my neck and found myself in a wheelchair again (not an experience I care to repeat!) 

Now, sitting here nursing my bruises, I have learned the hard way that when you get on a bus you must tell the driver clearly: “Please wait until I sit down!!! Thank you!”

So next time you catch the bus, don’t be caught out, as some drivers clearly are drag racers!! Tell them to drive off until you’re firmly and safely in your seat!

Just to end on a high - my health care course seems great – one that can send me in almost any direction! Meanwhile, I think I’ve earned my Tetley tea n tim tams today! 

Good job i bounce, i tell ya!!

*published by Amazon 

For more information, visit
See also: