At the heart of this technique is that we are both responsible for and in control of our emotions and therefore our emotional responses to circumstances. We recognize things that are outside of our control and train ourselves to control our reactions to those things. In other words we strive to eliminate worry about and fear of things beyond our control and instead focus on those things which we can.
On Monday evening a woman on my Twitter list expressed that she was feeling fear of sexual assault. I don't usually see such things fly across my timeline (which is roughly 50% female) and felt that I should assist this woman in dealing with her fear. To that end I said that she could look at it this way: Males tend to assault other males and she is unlikely to be a victim of assault today or any other day. What followed was a textbook example of what I will refer to as "The Fear Narrative(tm)".
The Fear Narrative(tm) is what the larger society trains the general population to default to. This narrative takes on many forms. examples are:
Immigrants are taking our jobs.
Immigrants are the cause of crime in x,y or z neighborhood.
Crime is everywhere, you are constantly at risk and therefore you need a,b or c security product.
There are x-amount of pedophiles lurking out there to take your kids so your kids need a cell phone, leash, and what have you. The terrorists are over there plotting on killing us so we need to send troops over there to subdue them lest they kill us.
In reference to this blog post, The Fear Narrative centers around the following:
1 out of 4 women is sexually assaulted at some point in her life.
Read that carefully. Many people make a few fatal assumptions in regards to the above:
1) They equate sexual assault with rape.
2) They assume that their individual chance of being sexually assaulted, on any given day, is 25%.
The usual frame of reference for this statistic is "MY GOD that's so many". Indeed only an imbecile would think that any instance of sexual assault is acceptable. Since I'm not an imbecile I never made such a statement, implied or otherwise. Yet a number of people made the ridiculous assertion that I had. How did they come to such a conclusion? Let me show you.
The other side of the 1 of 4 statistic are 3/4 women who in their lifetime will never be sexually assaulted. 75% of women will never experience anything from an unwanted grope to a full on rape. Folks this is a good thing. Certainly there are many people in other countries who will not enjoy such odds. Thus my suggestion to the young lady to focus on the 3/4 rather than the 1/4 as a means of relieving her anxiety was an attempt at relieving her anxiety by reframing the same information. My suggestion was that she move from victim/subjective Fear Narrative to the conquerer/self-determinitive 'Power Narrative".
So looking at our discussion of NLP and reframing we see that my suggestion was, contrary to objections, in fact supportive of that particular woman and women in general. Those who claim that suggesting that a man (or woman) ought not lay out statistics as a means of helping a women to deal with her fear are making the implicit argument that a woman cannot be expected to use her rational faculties to deal with her emotions. That is a sexist and patriarchal idea, flowing directly from the Greek concept (since this is a society steeped in Greco-Roman ideas) that women are ruled by their emotions and cannot be expected control them. How ironic that so called independent women and the "men" who hang on their teats, who decry sexist and patriarchal notions of womanhood, will object to a male challenging a women to break such sexist and patriarchal expectations?
What got on a few people's "wrong nerve" was my use of the term "remote" when discussing the day to day odds of any individual woman being sexually assaulted. People failed to understand how I came to use that particular term, so let me lay it out.
We can look at the Departmemt of Justice's data on reported sexual assaults. On twitter I happened to link to Rape Abuse & Incest National Network, but you can go to the American Bar Association or any other number of third parties who report on this information. Using info from the linked source we have for 2007
248,300 victims of rape, attempted rape, or sexual assault.
They sourced that information from the 2007 US Department of Justice 2007 National Crime Victimization Survey. As I indicated in my discussion if that statistic is wrong, please do drop me a line with the correct information.
The current US population for 2007 was 301,621,157. Out of that 152,962,259 were female.
Simple math will tell us what percentage of women in the year 2007 were victims of sexual assault. The math is:
((the number of sexual assaults) / (total number of US females) )*100.
hopefully I don't have to explain order of operation.
(248,300 / 152,962,259) * 100 = .162%
So a total of less than 2/10 of a percent of women in the US were unfortunate enough to have experienced a sexual assault, attempted or actual rape in 2007.
Let that sink in for a minute.
My friends this is THE definition of remote. How can anyone familiar with the math even begin to move their mouths to object to this mathematical fact? In my opinion, they are stuck in The Fear Narrative (tm) They need to hold onto the frame of the victim of random, faceless, actors "out there"and they pass this on to their sisters.
Some point out that many, up to 60% of sexual assaults go unreported. If we assume that the 2007 assault cases did not include unreported instances and add those to the reported instances we can find that total expected instances of sexual abuse.
SA(t) = Total sexual assault cases = 248,300 + X (X being the unreported cases)
SA(t)*.40 = 248,300
That is 40% of the total expected instances of sexual assault = 248,300 so to find SA(t) we divide 248,300 by .40
So 248,300/.40 = 620,750
So we have an expected instances of sexual assaults to equal 620,750
again dividing this total by the total female population, we get:
(620,750/ 152,962,259) * 100 = .405%
So taking into account a 60% unreported incidents we still do not reach 1% of the total US female population at risk for sexual assault on any given day.
Of particular importance here are African-American instances.
In 2006, reported incidences of rape or sexual assault on blacks were 17,920. Blacks being 32 million strong and roughly 50% female, we can say that there are approximately 16 million black women in the US. doing the same math as above:
(17,920/16,000,000)*100 = .11%
If we take as valid the claim that only 17% of sexual assaults on black women are reported and that therefore 83% go unreported, we can operate on the same assumptions as we did for the larger population and determine the total number of expected sexual assaults against black women.
.17*SA(t) = 17,920
SA(t) = 17,920/.17 gives 105,411
(105,411/16,000,000)*100 = .65%
So black women, relative to white women have a definite relative higher risk of sexual assault. But the math still shows that it is still less than 1% for any single individual on any given day.
So lets take this back to the 1 in 4. This 25% number is the sum of all those yearly reports taking into consideration births, deaths and fluctuations in the incidences of sexual assault. If we use the above general US female population percentage of sexual assaults that includes the 60% not reported and multiply that out by the expected life expectancy of the average American female (79.1 years) we get:
79.1 * .405% = 32.03%
That is just a hair under 1/3 of women who live to age 79 will have experienced a sexual assault. The reason we don't see the 1/3 number is, as previously stated, due to birth and death rates, fluctuations in actual incidences of assault, and the fact that life expectancy has increased over the past few decades. In fact in just 1970 the average life expectancy of a US female was 74.7 years. Clearly with the increase in the longevity of life in US females, more are around to report their experiences.
So it is important to note how this 1 in 4 number is a huge eclipse over other much smaller numbers that inform it. The average mind can readily comprehend 1 in 4. Most people cannot picture 0.4% Even saying it seems cold, unreal and unfeeling. I'm sure that a large portion of the persons reading this not only glossed over the math but didn't check it and said to themselves I don't even want to be bothered with all that. As one commentator said "What's the math got to do with it?"
Well here's the answer:
Going back to reframing we understand that we can shift our focus and therefore our responses to situations. The Fear Narrative would have women look at the 1 in 4; identify with or as the 1 in 4 (assuming she has not already been a victim) and ignore the 3 of 4. The Fear Narrative would have a woman look at the .4% and not the 99.6% The Fear Narrative views the glass as containing milk. The Power Narrative and the power frame says that the chances on any given day of being a victim of violent crime on any given day are so small as to be generally incomprehensible. The Power Frame asks "Why should I be afraid of something so remote?"
The Power Narrative:
Every day I wake up I have a 99.6% chance of going back to bed sans drama.
For 75% of women, they will live their entire life for 79 years and never have a male violate them.
Everyday I choose to identify with the 99.6% and the 75%.
Every day I choose to not allow a male I do not know to have space in my head.
Every day I choose not to allow any male I do know to trigger fear in my head.
That last point is very important since a large portion of sexual assaults on women involve either intimate partners (husbands, boyfriends) or family members.
In conclusion lets admit that it would be powerful for our sister to wake up everyday knowing that as sure as she woke up this morning, she is going to come home safe because she knows that's the odds. That she knows that she's too old to be molested by uncles (or aunts). That she knows how to read men and situations that may cause her to be a statistic? That if that intimate partner decides to "go there", that she knows how to defend herself? Isn't that a preferable state of mind?
Shouldn't we support those individuals who readily pass along information that informs and therefore empowers women? Why should we wait until a woman becomes a victim before we give her the tools and information to reduce the odds of her victimization?
None of this is about minimizing the very real fear that any woman has. It is about minimizing the level of fear any woman has. If you don't get the change in emphasis on the last sentence then I can't help you.
None of the above negates the continued need for adequate post trauma support of those women who have been abused.
None of the above negates the continued need to educate and re-educate males about the importance of consent.
None of the above negates the continued need to be hard on women who lie about sexual assault since such actions maintain a climate of disbelief of actual victims.
This is only an offering of an alternative means of thinking. If you prefer a frame of fear and to follow The Fear Narrative that's your problem. Not mine. I can't and won't help you with that.