Thursday, December 27, 2012

Guarding the streets of an Uncivil Society

The streets are burning with indignation and hurt. Yet another brutal rape screams through the night and you would have thought, so what? We will carry on with our lives, too blasé to care, too busy to dare… You would have thought a silent prayer for the poor victim and an even more earnest prayer to keep us and ours safe is all it would end with.

But we seem to have a conscience after all. We could manage to let go of our mall-walks and movie halls to gather and make some noise, to fight for the right to have a voice. But will that be enough to make our streets safe and every woman secure? Stricter laws, quicker justice, and political and executive will to implement both will surely help but would that really happen? Cynicism is not only fashionable but a survival mechanism in this country. Faith in the government, irrespective of the party in power, has only led to disappointment, frustration and a repeated sense of betrayal over the years. The politics of this country hasn’t gotten any cleaner or more committed over the years, but the electorate has… We are angrier, abler and louder, and we have greater belief in our potential to effect a change.. so let’s keep the faith in our strengths and keep pushing for a better, safer tomorrow the only way we can- by communicating, connecting and building up sustained pressure to secure a commitment from an evasive and toothless center which had supported a president who, during her years at the helm, had commuted the sentences of mass murderers and brutal rapists.

So what should we do until the government pulls up its dirty smelly socks? A lot of noise is being made about self defense programs for women and I agree… I have, on this very platform, urged women to pick up a practical and intelligent martial art like Krav Maga to defend themselves against attackers.

And I maintain that every girl, no  matter what her limitations, should spend a few hours a week practicing a martial ar. It will do her mind and her body a world of good. But when I read that the fact that the girl fought  back and bit her attacker drove him berserk which lead to the girl getting bludgeoned to the brink of death before being raped made me wonder if there were other options. Martial arts tactics are extremely effective measures against a single attacker but against multiple assailants, defiance can set egos ablaze, leading to near fatal consequences.

Call me a fool, but more than the presence of a man, it is the presence of his best friend, a dog, that can protect a woman from even a gang of potential rapists. Allow me explain my point by examining three aspects of the problem…

The Rapist(s)
Most amount of research and ‘experts’ are of the opinion that the rapist is a bully looking to dominate and subjugate a victim. His assumption, at the point of attack is that his quarry is far weaker and he is merely putting her in her place. Therefore, unlike a motivated criminal like a murderer, robber or other similar assailants, a rapist hasn’t considered the possibility of bodily harm to his own self. A man bent on murder or even a hold up is a far more desperate criminal and assumes a degree of personal risk in his endeavour. The rapist on the other hand is seeking pleasure and immediate gratification. He does not consider pain. He simply does not expect it and therefore, like a predator, picks what he assumes is weak prey. Which is why defiance triggers a fight or flight response.

A predator, be it a lion on the savannahs or a rapist in a city bus, is a bully and (under the circumstances, even a lion is) a coward. He attacks what he considers would be easiest to prey on, and when he meets resistance, he will run if there’s even the slightest risk of injury, unless bolstered by the strength of numbers that ensure that the victim would be overpowered, this time with a vengeance.

The victim
Usually a single woman, in a car, a night-club, on the street, on public transport or even at home. She is vulnerable because she is a woman. She is vulnerable because she is alone or cornered, and she is vulnerable because she is perceived to be weak. She might be a black belt and pretty nifty with her kicks and punches but the assailant does not know that. When the moment just isn’t right, she will have to defend herself against the assault. Depending on the number of assailants, the sharpness of her skills, the possibility of rescue and the nerve of the assailant, she might have to submit or survive. But how many women do we know who might have the courage, skills and determination to stand up and fight and emerge unscathed from these circumstances? In a few months, hopefully quite a few, but while you read this page right now, perhaps hardly any..
This is where the dog walks in…

The Dog
Dogs have protected man from wild animals on his hunts, his flocks and herds from thieves and predators, his home and factories and high security zones from break ins, and in South America, his children from kidnappers.
Now it is time women figured out why a dog is a better friend than a diamond.

There are as many kinds of dogs as there are people and like not every man can be an ideal protector, nor can every dog be an effective canine body guard. But some can be a better deterrent than a loaded gun. A bunch of three hoodlums might think they could take on a regular boy who might be walking the girl home after a late night at the movies but they will think twice before taking on a dog that gnashes its teeth the moment these men venture too close.

And that is so not only because a dog of the right size and temperament has obvious weapons that it displays as a threat but also because an animal with its teeth bared invokes our primal fear of being hunted by wild beasts… That fear is universal, and even an expert dog handler’s blood will run cold run cold every now and then when he confronts such a beast.

‘Manstoppers’ – dogs that are large, skilled and brave enough to take down a man with a gun would usually be too large and powerful for most women to handle with confidence. These dogs are usually above 35 kgs and have the strength to knock down a grown man. German shepherds and Rottweilers are popular ‘man-stoppers’.
But we don’t need such a powerful dog. Remember, we are not dealing with a motivated criminal but an opportunist. Even the threat of slight physical harm or a complicated exit should be enough to keep such a man at bay.

Therefore we need a dog which will be between 27 and 32 kgs, large enough to prove a challenge for an average sized man and yet not too difficult for most adult women to handle. Boxers, Airedale terriers, Chow Chows, Dalmatians and Shar Pei are all ideal breeds for this purpose. They are just about medium-sized, and yet have a lot of muscle and courage and a long history as guardians of people and property. They are intelligent and trainable and bond really well with their handlers and would happily give up their lives to protect them.

Desperate times call for desperate measures. In Brazil where carjackings and kidnappings spiraled out of control and the government could do little to stem the growing rate of urban crime, a new breed called the Dogue Brasiliero emerged. It was small enough to fit into most cars and yet had the game courage and strength to fight off car-jackers in those confined spaces.

Similarly, breeds could specifically be bred to meet the demands of women who would want a canine protector to keep them and their sense of independence safe. Until then, if you are a woman and you like this idea, go pick up one of the above mentioned breeds. Look for a puppy that is bold and playful and then invest a little time and energy on training the dog into becoming an obedient friend instead of an unruly embarrassment. You don’t have to necessarily buy a pedigreed dog. Even a puppy from the streets could prove to be an able protector. Just that you cannot predict the eventual size and characteristics of a dog from the streets. Also, usually a bold defiant dog will get stoned to death on the streets and therefore most street survivors are meek and submissive by nature – not the qualities you are looking at in your protector.

Invest in a training regimen. You don’t need to hire a trainer. Just check out obedience training on the internet. Ceaser Milan’s videos are a  great starting point.

A word of warning: If you are looking to try any of the above, please take note that you need a dog that is calm and confident to protect you. If you encourage your dog to snarl and lash out at all strangers you are only making it into a nervous and fearful time bomb that is waiting to explode on an unsuspecting stranger. All you need is a dog that is well trained, looks upon you as its family/pack and is loved and well cared for. The rest will be taken care of by its protective instincts when and if the time comes.

And lastly, if the government cannot provide laws that deter, justice that isn’t delayed or bought, or enough policemen to man our streets, the least it can do is allow trained and certified protection dogs on public transport and in malls and markets after 10 pm. It will at least help those who are left helpless, help protect themselves in the darkness alleys of uncivil society.


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