Don’t buy the idea that you can’t understand violence. Learn about violence. Don’t be the only animal in nature that doesn’t. You think there’s a female kitten that isn’t learning about violence, or a female bird that isn’t learning about predation and isn’t focused on that subject? Why would you be the only creature in nature that is not endowed with a nuclear defense system?
We must learn and teach our children that niceness does not equal goodness. Niceness is a decision, a strategy of social interaction; it is not a character trait. People seeking to control others almost always present the image of a nice person in the beginning. Like rapport buiding, charm, and the deceptive smile, unsolicited niceness often has a discernable motive.
The cliche, Being nice doesn’t get you anywhere, means so much more in terms of victimization. Don’t worry about being rude, he urges, by declining a stranger who has approached you on the street. Or about “letting off someone easy” which gives mixed signals to people who become a stalker.
In the passage below, de Becker spells out the way women are expected to behave in our society, and how this may put them in danger. It seems so old-fashioned. As I read it, I had visions of Mad Men, the secretary bringing Don Draper a drink. But in terms of expectations about politeness, not much has changed since the 1960s:
I encourage women to explicitly rebuff unwanted approaches, but I know it is difficult to do. Just as rapport building has a good reputation, explicitness applied by women in this culture has a terrible reputation. A woman who is clear and precise is viewed as cold, or a bitch, or both. A woman is expected, first and foremost, to respond to every communication from a man. And the response is expected to be one of willingness and attentiveness. It is considered attractive if she is a bit uncertain (the opposite of explicit). Women are expected to be warm and open, and in the context of approaches from male strangers, warmth lengthens the encounter, raises his expectations, increases his investment, and, at best, wastes time. At worst, it serves the man who has sinister intent by providing much of the information he will need to evaluate and then control his prospective victim.
Yet, even as societal expectations remain patriarchal, the culture has in other ways shifted to be sexually open in an egregious way, which is doubly threatening.
Statistics prove that most violent crimes are committed by someone who the victims knew. De Becker does this trick, where he tells the reader to imagine the worst possible thing that one person could do to another (I fell back on scenes from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Silence of the Lambs, which far exceed anything I could imagine). Then he points out that we just proved we were capable of thinking the unthinkable. “The resource of violence is in all of us; all that changes is our view of the justification,” de Becker explains.  When we try to label predators as the other, then we begin the process of denial. But our warning systems are there. De Becker lists them for us:
Intuition of the highest order is fear, then apprehension, suspicion, hesitation, doubt, gut feelings, hunches and curiosity there are also (less urgent) nagging feelings, persistent thoughts, physical sensations, wonder, and anxiety.
I’m still learning from de Becker. This book is fascinating.
 Gavin De Becker, Lenny, The Lenny Interview: Gavin de Becker, http://www.lennyletter.com/life/interviews/a271/the-lenny-interview-gavin-de-becker/
 Gavin De Becker, The Gift of Fear, New York: Dell, 1997, 58.
 Gavin De Becker, The Gift of Fear, New York: Dell, 1997, 59.
 Gavin De Becker, The Gift of Fear, New York: Dell, 1997, 44.
 Gavin De Becker, The Gift of Fear, New York: Dell, 1997, 72.