Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

Opinion

January 8, 2013

RANDOM THOUGHTS: Learning self-defense

CROSSVILLE — How many women think of self-defense? I never did until a rash of women were attacked in our community. During that stressful period the local police offered a free self-defense course for women and it filled rapidly.

For three hours on four nights I joined twenty other women to learn some basic rules of protection. On the first night the focus was on avoiding situations which could be dangerous. For instance do not park your car during daylight hours on a street that is not well lit at night. Instead park where there is light at night if you return after dark.

The last three nights we were taught a number of techniques to create distance from an attacker plus ways to fight. Our class was held in a large school gymnasium and each of us was tested individually. One exercise that was really scary was entering the gym after the lights were turned out. I was told to walk around that huge dark space expecting to be attacked at any moment. It was terrifying but when the attack came I was prepared.

At the end of the last night we hoped we would never use any of the physical exercises we had been taught but at least we were prepared and felt a bit safer.

I thought of that early training as crime writer Ann Rule spoke to the National Federation of Press Women in 1988. Her first book in 1980 was on serial killer Ted Bundy, The Stranger Beside Me. She worked beside him at a Seattle crises hotline center but never suspected he was the killer. Even after he was convicted Rule corresponded with him until he died in the electric chair in 1989.

Rule has published 33 books since then. The latest in late 2012 is Deadly Neighbors, Fatal Friends, and Practice to Deceive. She remains one of the most popular crime writers. Reading her 1988 speech I wonder what she is thinking of the mass murders we have endured these past years.

She was interested in crime from her early years because a number of her relatives had professions associated with criminals. In college she majored in creative writing and minored in criminology, psychology and penology.

Rule married and gave birth to four children before the marriage ended in divorce. Later she had a daughter Leslie, who also writes crime stories. To care for her family she began writing true crime stories for detective magazines in 1965. In the next 14 years she published 1,400 stories. Finally after the first book on Bundy many more followed.

As the public recognized her understanding of crime she appeared on TV shows and was asked to give seminars on serial murders. Rule was also certified as an instructor for police, parole and probation officers in Oregon, Washington and the U.S. Justice Department.

Rule said she asks the “why” behind the crime. “What happens to nice little children to turn them into murderers?” In the many cases she had studied the common thread was an abusive childhood. “Something happened at the time when little kids grow consciences.”

She said of serial killers, “I don’t think they know who they are. They kill for the sake of killing. They are addicted to killing the same way drug addicts are to drugs. It makes them feel normal for awhile.”

Rule added that serial killers do not kill people they know. “Their victims are just objects that give them power….if they know you, their power is diminished.”

Ann Rule must agree with the words of La Rochefoucauld, “It is easier to know mankind in general than man individually.”

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