Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Constructive Confrontation

One fine day recently on the Metro (DC area commuter train/subway) :

Young "man" and young woman kissing. He seems just a bit more eager than she is, judging from her facial expression.

Young male puts his hand partially around young woman's throat.

I look at them - especially the male - pointedly and ask "Is there a problem?"

It's likely that he's trying to hurt or coerce her - but not a sure thing. All I know is what I've seen in the last couple of minutes. So I don't make accusations I can't prove.

What I'm doing is letting him know that someone else - who may be willing and able to intervene in some way - is watching, and doesn't necessarily approve.

Young man removes his hand from her throat. They begin kissing again, and she doesn't (seem to) feel anxious any more. Things seem better, at least until I get off the train.

You might face such a situation yourself. Do you want to have to choose between standing by as someone's getting hurt and overreacting? Check out this excellent piece by a world-renowned self-defense expert.


Anonymous said...

Great blog on actually building common ground! :D

I think you might find this case of what not to do (raising her son to keep pursuing a woman who rejected him, dismiss a restraining order as too neurotypical, etc.) interesting. I mean, wow.


"Not long ago, Orange County, NY, dismissed a man from a volunteer position he had held for many years. The grounds for dismissal? Another employee complained that James McElwee, age 35, “violated her personal space” and made her feel uncomfortable ... In a suit against the county, attorney Stephen Bergstein pointed out that its action violated the Americans with Disabilities Act. It failed to take into account the fact of McElwee’s Asperger’s syndrome, and how it can affect a person’s perception and behavior."


“The article explained why such relentless pursuit can be frightening to a woman. Gavin de Becker makes that point in his book The Gift of Fear. De Becker says that while a man can worry that women will make fun of him, for women the fear is of violent assault and rape. Miss M had no way of being assured that Ryo was a gentle, peace-loving Aspie who only wanted a friend.”


“He really did like her, and regretted any trouble he caused. But when he learned about the knife, he was heard to mutter “Psycho bitch.”…”


"Recently I came across a book I had bought for something I was writing. It was Obsessive Love by Dr. Susan Forward. The title says it all and the attitudes and behavior it describes are appalling. What appalled me the most was that it seemed to echo Miss M’s take on what happened between James Ryo Kiyan and herself. The purpose of this blog is to emphasize that Aspies (those with Asperger’s syndrome) experience the world differently from non-Aspies. They should be viewed according to who they are and not judged by inapplicable standards." [as if Miss M should have just lay back and thought of Asperger's when treated with stalking behaviors]


"It’s wrong to feel threatened by people when you don’t have a good reason, isn’t it?" [again, dismissing her not enjoying all his attention as "wrong"]


“What followed might have been avoided if someone had had the wits and compassion to get Ryo and Miss M together and help bring about a mutual understanding. That would have eased Miss M’s fears”


"I could only try to imagine Miss Mall’s feeling of being stalked, although my own reaction would have been annoyance rather than terror....As a character in The Revengers [here she is citing her own latest novel as proving something IRL] points out, “Just because a person is different doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with him.”"

"I did get a lot of the “other side” from Gavin de Becker’s The Gift of Fear, and have written an unpublished novel about a girl who really was stalked. I can certainly empathize with such victims. Even so, perhaps because of my close relationship to the alleged “stalker,” I can’t help feeling that in this case Miss Mall overreacted." [completely ignoring the fact that although she is the stalker's mother other people are not the stalker's mother and *therefore wouldn't have the same memories and experiences of him*]


“He wanted to fix the misunderstandings and show the woman there was nothing to fear. The harder he pushed . . . the more fiercely she pushed away.”

Jeff Deutsch said...


Excellent points!

You're absolutely right that Aspies' behavior can cross the line into the unacceptable. That's an important part of the story here.

Keep in mind:

There's a difference between not wanting or enjoying someone's attention and feeling threatened by it. The former is just a matter of opinion that anyone is entitled to - and that others must respect once they know about it.

The latter is a prediction - kind of like a weather report. You can say that it's 90% likely to rain tomorrow given what you know now, and only because the cold front ends up not coming in does it not actually rain.

So, certainly one can't be blamed for being afraid of someone if he does certain things. (In fact, self-defense and communications expert Marc "Animal" MacYoung has written a good working profile of potential rapists and stalkers.) On the other hand, she - not to mention anyone she complains to about the behavior - should be willing to listen to the other side of the story, if one exists.

Conversely, each of us has a responsibility to do everything we reasonably can to avoid setting off other people's alarm bells. And that means many Aspies need to do some extra work on our words and actions.

Gavin de Becker's The Gift of Fear is another excellent resource. In fact, he makes the point that when throwing someone out of your life, you need to be forceful and direct without attacking him. He suggests saying:

No matter what you may have assumed till now, and no matter for what reason you assumed it, I have no romantic interest in you whatsoever. I am certain I never will. I expect that knowing this, you’ll put your attention elsewhere, which I understand, because that’s what I intend to do.

Another good resource (which includes some of de Becker's advice) is the Vermont Victim Assistance Academy's work.

As for the term "Psycho bitch" - well, this is where differences in perception come in. I wouldn't hold it against Miss M for carrying the knife and pepper spray, since given not only Ryo's actions but also many rapes and murders committed by men against women, she had reason to believe she was in danger.

On the other hand, I wouldn't hold it against Ryo for muttering about her being a psycho bitch either - since given his understanding of the situation, if he wasn't doing anything wrong why should someone carry a knife with him in mind?

(Indeed, if he had carried a knife for protection against Miss B or someone else, people might have seen it as further evidence of his danger potential!)

Being offended at someone's strange but non-threatening behavior is one thing. Being alarmed at someone's behavior which has been correlated with violent intentions is quite another. Whether or not, and if so to what extent, we blame someone for saying and doing things that cause legitimate concern, we certainly cannot blame others for taking precautions - as long as they include due regard for the alleged harasser's or stalker's rights as well.

Life is pretty complicated sometimes, and this is no exception.

What do you think?

Jeff Deutsch

Anonymous said...

I think you're a genius.

Anonymous said...

About that quote "What followed might have been avoided if someone had had the wits and compassion to get Ryo and Miss M together and help bring about a mutual understanding. That would have eased Miss M’s fears"

What would Ryo and his mother have done if, had someone got Ryo and Miss M together to discuss this, afterwards Miss M *still* felt afraid instead of obediently changing her mind to enjoy the treatment Ryo and his mother wanted her to enjoy?

Jeff Deutsch said...

Good point.

Nothing is guaranteed in this world, least of how how humans will respond to something.

Getting two people in a situation like this together is often (as distinct from always) a good idea, but doesn't always work.

Please note that the speculation you quote is from Caroline Crane's post, not mine. You may want to leave a comment there with your question.


Jeff Deutsch