When I was in sixth grade, our local “Officer Smiley,” the name he gave to kids, visited classrooms once a month to talk about “Stranger Danger.”
I feel like this was a common occurrence for most schools — they wait until kids were old enough to handle some of the smaller dangers and inconveniences of the world and then help them prepare for it with some self-defense education.
I’ll admit, this sounds great in theory. I’m sure there was a local, kid-friendly police officer equivalent of “Officer Smiley” in other Midwestern schools, and I’m sure they were all great at their jobs.
Except for my Officer Smiley. This guy was a bit intense.
The only way I can describe his demeanor is the slightly popular “Living in a Van Down by the River” skit from Saturday Night Live.
For some reason, Officer Smiley was always chewing on cinnamon gum, and his bloodshot eyes rivaled those of a crack addict. His pants were perpetually falling down, and he was convinced that we were all going to get drugged, kidnapped and murdered on the mean streets of Bloomington, Indiana.
He taught us what he called “essential and basic self defense,” and what I called “deleted scenes from Taken 2.”
He taught us not to try and run away if we were grabbed by a stranger, but rather to try and gouge their eyes out with our thumbs.
He taught us to be wary of any car with more than five seats and less than four windows, how to break out of duct tape handcuffs and how to kick through the taillight of a moving vehicle if we were ever locked in a trunk. Which is exactly what you should tell a group of 12-year-old children in order to make them feel safe in their neighborhoods.
In my 19 years of life, I have never had any of these experiences happen. I am, however, still terrified of suspicious looking cars.
I’m not saying that I’m not grateful for Officer Smiley’s lessons. His vibrancy and inability to talk without spitting on you contributed greatly to his scarring lessons. Regardless, I feel like a more realistic self-defense lesson would’ve been more beneficial.
According to the Polly Klaas foundation, I am more likely to be struck by lightning twice than be kidnapped as a child. However, just because I am a college student, I’m 20 percent more likely to be assaulted than another woman my age who isn’t a student.
While I feel completely prepared to create a full on “Home Alone” security system in my dorm for potential criminals, I would love to learn some new ways on how to get rid of drunk boys who no longer understand what no means.
The narrative of sexuality is ever changing, so many of the things that have worked in the past for getting rid of creepy guys at bars are no longer effective.
Saying that you have a boyfriend only gets rid of the honest creepy guys. The rest of the sleazebags will just “promise not to tell him.” Lying and saying that your best friend is your girlfriend gets rid of the insecure homophobes, but leaves you with overconfident douchebags who can “turn you bi.” And yes, that did actually happen to me.
The species of overcompensating man-children has evolved with our ability to dodge their efforts, and what worked in the past is no longer effective. As women, we need to evolve and come up with new ways to combat potential assault situations.
We are currently facing an antibiotic resistant plague of unwanted penises, and we need to learn how to develop a cure before it tries to wipe us out.
Again, I’m not saying Officer Smiley’s lessons were pointless. All I’m saying is that they prepared me for the least likely case scenario. There needs to be some sort of education, whether it starts in grade school or college, that can teach people how to deal with these less threatening but uncomfortable and more common situations.
Because despite how fun it might be, if we tried to gouge out the eyes of every man who grabbed us at a bar, we would have a slightly different problem on our hands.