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Dangerous E-mail Myths

  The Pony-Tail Myth and Other Dire E-Mail Warnings


If you are really concerned about a topic, it can be easy to latch on to what seems useful information – whether the subject is investing, your health, or your very safety.

But would you risk your life-savings on a tip from an unknown source?

We really recommend that you don't take information from unknown sources to protect the well- being and safety (perhaps the lives) of yourself and your children. Take your information from respected experts in the field, think it over, and combine it with your own wisdom and intuition.

For example, there is one particularly appalling piece of nonsense that seems to have traveled quite widely around the Net. Well-meaning friends have spread it far and wide, because, if you don't know, it seems useful. You may have received the message – what's been dubbed "The Pony-Tail Email". Do you recognize the beginning?

"Hi, girls! I just finished taking the most amazing self-defense class, sponsored by Shandwick, and I wanted to share some really valuable info with you before it goes out of my head. The guy who taught the class has a female friend who was attacked last year in the parking garage at Westport Plaza in St. Louis. He started a women's group and began teaching these classes soon after. This guy is a black belt in karate and trains twice a year with Steven Seagal. He and the others in this group interviewed a bunch of rapists and date rapists in prison on what they look for and here's some interesting facts:" etc. etc.

Emails like this make the rounds from time to time. The information in them is often so bad, so off-base, that a conspiracy nut would be forgiven for thinking that some rapist is producing them to confuse women. The very best that can be said about them is that they are produced by a well-meaning but horribly misinformed person.

Let's look at a few of the points from this message, in case you haven't seen it yourself...

The #1 thing men look for in a potential victim is hairstyle. UNTRUE (What I actually mean by "untrue" is "utter drivel and dangerous nonsense".)

They will look for women whose clothing is easy to remove quickly. UNTRUE

The #1 outfit they look for is overalls because many of them carry scissors around to cut clothing and on overalls the straps can be easily cut. UNTRUE

The time of day men are most likely to attack and rape a woman is in the early morning, between 5 and 8:30 a.m. UNTRUE.

The number one place women are abducted from/attacked at is grocery store parking lots. UNTRUE

If you put up any kind of a fight at all, they get discouraged DETERMINED RESISTANCE WORKS. To say "any kind of a fight at all" is taking it a bit too far and gives the wrong idea. If we have the old 40's movie "flapping the dainty fists on his manly chest" sort of thing, it's unlikely to discourage anyone. But attackers want privacy and control – if someone sees the fire in your eyes and energy in your voice and body language telling him that one step closer will have bystanders calling the police and possibly put him in hospital - yes – he will probably be discouraged! In most cases he will, in fact, break off his intended attack.

And so on. Most of the rest of the email is similarly poor quality and dangerous nonsense with a couple of semi-valid points mixed in.

You might consider cautioning your acquaintances about this and similar messages.

Certainly, if you've received "The Pony-Tail Email, please pass on corrective information. I've composed a possible message below. If you agree with this opinion, please feel free to copy and use this message.

Hi (your friend's name),

Recently you sent me some information about personal safety. It included some tips such as: "Rapists are most likely to attack women who wear ponytails or buns. " This has been dubbed "The "Ponytail Email".

What follows is a response to these so-called "safety tips" by some very respected experts in the field. They feel very strongly that the information in the ponytail email is misleading and dangerous.

Please pass on these facts and clarifications to whoever sent the email to you AND to everyone you passed it to.

Duplicate this whole message including this paragraph. If this email makes to every woman who read the "ponytail email" they will be a whole lot safer.

(Please notice -- the people making these comments are public figures who can be checked on Web. Their offices can be phoned.)

"The #1 thing men look for in a potential victim is hairstyle. They are most likely to go after a woman with a ponytail, bun, braid or other hairstyle that can easily be grabbed."

Is that so!?!

Best-selling author and nationally respected violence prediction expert Gavin de Becker comments: " In fact, this isn't even close to "the #1 thing," and "they" (as if all rapists are the same) do NOT choose their victims on the basis of some hair-grabability quotient... "

De Becker continues, " Ludicrous and misleading. The reader is left to conclude that if you avoid overalls and keep your hair short, you'll be OK."

Christine Schlattner, author of "Real World Safety for Women" says "The information in this email is largely invalid and dangerous. It contains many lies. The points that are valid become dangerous because there is no information on HOW TO carry them out powerfully and effectively. If a woman relied on this information to keep herself safe, she could be putting herself in great danger."

Please pass this email on to anyone who asks you about the Pony-Tail e-mail message.

Various "safety tips" emails have been making their way around the web in recent months. If someone is hungry for safety information, they may take it in.

Your name.

Take your information from respected experts in the field, think it over, and then trust your own wisdom and intuition.

Keep in mind that passing on e-mails with upsetting untrue information can generate a great deal of unnecessary fear in the lives of people you care about. By refraining from passing it on, you are taking positive action.

Regardless of the topic, if you receive an email with some kind of dire story, check it out before you pass it on!

Do some research. It's very simple and quick to do so.

Go to http://www.urbanlegends.com and to http://www.google.com Do a search for the key word - and take a look at the articles you'll find.

I've included a couple of examples, but it's very easy to do this yourself. The two most common subjects seem to be personal safety and computer viruses.

One email you may have received is the one about the lives of women or children in some dreadful circumstances. You're asked to send an email to a specific address to protest and help change things there.

The horrifying information given about the lives of women and children in many countries is sadly true. Accounts of what is going on in some places read like something out of the middle ages. But even when things start changing, the old emails still keep going around.

One e-mail about Afghanistan was started by a woman several years ago who had no idea of the power of the web. Her university's computers were swamped, the email address was deactivated, and any email you send will just disappear into the electronic void.

Another common message claims that there is a new drug. Progesterex, that is essentially a small sterilization pill. The e-mail says that this drug is now being used by rapists at parties to rape AND sterilize their victims. In fact, there is no such drug. There is a real date-rape drug of course - Rohypnol - used to make someone drowsy or unconscious. But even with that, there is a bit of good news. (from the Village Voice) "Hoffman-La Roche has recently modified Rohypnol to make it more recognizable in drinks. The new pills turn drinks bright blue. If the drink is dark, look for a cloudy appearance. They also take longer to dissolve and form chunks."

Of course, that doesn't mean that you can ignore the potential danger of this drug. It's still potentially dangerous to accept a drink from someone else, or to leave a drink unattended. And there are still huge amounts of Rohypnol around in the older tasteless, colorless form. We recommend that people not consume drinks they have left unattended at parties.

The bottom line is…

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