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Dealing With An Attacker
What to do if you are attacked or assaulted.

This information was originally presented during a seminar provided by a local police department in 2006.  This page is being provided for informational purposes only.  Although this information is believed to be correct, there are no endorsements or guarantees of any kind whatsoever regarding the validity or accuracy of this information.  You are encouraged to conduct further study regarding the information presented here, and draw your own conclusions.

Five steps to being prepared:

1. Understand that your only goal is survival.  
The only thing you should be concerned with during any kind of attack, is the survival and well being of you and/or your loved ones.  If you accomplish this, then you were smart and handled the situation well.

2. Know your abilities and limitations.
Be realistic about what you will and will not be able to do during an attack.  For example, if you have not studied martial arts extensively, don't think that you are going to use some "karate moves" on your attacker.  Television and the movies are not real life!

3. Learn to recognize the three types of situations.
Attacker wants property
Attacker wants control
Road-rage attacker.

4. Develop a plan for how you will handle each of these situations ahead of time.

Don't try to figure it out when the situation arises.  Prepare NOW.

5. Practice your plan well ahead of time.

If you practice enough ahead of time, your mind will automatically know what to do if the need arises.

First kind of attack: Attacker wants property (car, money, credit cards, belongings, etc.)

This type of attacker plans poorly and is generally very jumpy and nervous.  They are most often inexperienced at committing a robbery and tend to overreact.  Follow these guidelines when dealing with an attacker who wants your money, valuables or belongings:

It's not easy, but try to appear calm.  The more nervous you seem, the more nervous the attacker will be.

Move very slowly and deliberately.  Any quick or unexpected movement on your part is likely to elicit a quick and potentially violent response from the attacker.

Verbally reassure the attacker to help keep him calm.  In as calm a voice as you can manage, tell the attacker exactly what you are doing step-by-step as you do it.  For example “OK, I’m taking out my wallet and placing it on the hood of the car.  Now I’m going to back away so you can pick it up.”

Give the attacker the property he is after.  Remember, the only goal is survival and no property is worth the life of yourself or a loved one.  If possible, try not to hand the property to the attacker directly.  The close proximity can make an already nervous attacker even more nervous.  Set the property down and slowly back away so the attacker can pick it up.

At this point, you may attempt to negotiate, but only if called for.  For example: “OK, you can have the car.  And I”ll tell you what; if you please let me get my kids out of the back seat before you take the car, I’ll toss my purse on the front seat and give you the PIN number for my bank cards.”  

If, while you are shopping, an attacker decides he wants your car, he may put paper or some other item on the windshield or back window of your vehicle while you are in the store.  When you return, you will most likely enter and start your car, notice the object on your window, then step out of the car to remove it.  At this time,  you are vulnerable, the keys are in the car, the doors are unlocked, and the engine is running.  Everything the attacker wants!  Be careful not to fall for this trick.  Carefully move the car to a different location with plenty of other people around before getting out to remove the paper or whatever item has been placed on the car.

Also be extra careful if there is a van, SUV, or other large vehicle parked next to yours.  Large vehicles block other people from seeing an attack, and a large vehicle is easier to force you into.

Second kind of attack: Attacker wants control (assault, beatings, rape, torture, intimidation, etc.)

This type of attacker generally seeks specific types of targets; usually people who appear to lack confidence or who appear fearful.  The attacker is looking for someone who is easy to approach and control.  Control attackers are generally very aware of their surroundings and have usually already planned an escape route for themselves.  Most often, the attacker is someone who knows who you are.  It may be someone you know well, or someone you met very briefly.  You may not even remember them, but they remember you.  This type of attacker uses fear, intimidation and physical assault to control his victim.  When dealing with a control attacker, follow these guidelines:

Always be aware of your surroundings.  This may help you spot trouble before it even happens.  Walk/move deliberately and confidently so you don’t look like an easy target.  Keep your head up, shoulders back and continuously glance around at your surroundings.  If you are already uneasy about a situation, have any weapon you may possess already in your hand–don’t wait until you need it.  This includes such weapons as pepper spray, keys, pen, sharp object, etc.  A large part of the effects of CS teargas and mace are psychological in nature, so avoid these weapons.  Pepper spray provides a severe, physical reaction and is the best choice.  

Please don't think that a cell phone will keep you safe!  Even if you happened to be on the phone with the police at the time of the attack, how long would it take the police to get there?  Three minutes...five minutes...fifteen minutes?  How long does it take to stab you, shoot you, or crack your skull?  A few seconds?  Besides, it is generally quite easy for an attacker to forcibly remove the phone from your hands when the attack starts.  You talking on a cell phone might convince the attacker to look for an easier target, but it might not.  A woman thinking her cell phone offers her protection from an attack is just giving herself a false sense of security which could make her careless and more of a target.  Don't forget that a control attacker is often someone who knows who you are and has specifically chosen you to be his victim--a cell phone cannot be counted on to stop him.  Bottom line: a cell phone is NOT protection from a control attacker!

If possible, change your routine, destination or direction to avoid a potential attacker.  Doing the exact same thing at the exact same time on a regular basis makes it too easy to plan an attack against you.

If the attacker can’t be avoided, then take charge yourself.  Do something totally unexpected to disrupt the attacker’s plans.  Remember, the control attacker generally has a well-laid-out plan.  If his plan is disrupted, he might fear that he is going to lose control of the situation and so choose to break off the attack. The sooner you can interrupt the attacker’s plans, the better chance you have of him giving up on you.  Don’t be afraid to do something totally crazy; in fact, the more bizarre your behavior, the better chance it has of working.  Some example are: laughing as loudly as you can, acting like some kind of animal, throwing your belongings all over the place, throwing your purse/backpack through the glass of a nearby window, urinate, defecate, vomit, anything crazy you can manage to do.

When faced with a control attacker, look directly at him, but do not maintain a stare into his eyes since the attacker may see this as a challenge.

Resist the attacker.  If you submit, you are just making it easier for him to control you.  Never get into a vehicle voluntarily. As soon as you do, you have pretty much given the attacker complete control of what happens to you. You are generally better off risking being shot at or stabbed than to get into a vehicle with an attacker. You might think you will get into the vehicle for now and find a way to escape the attacker later, but statistically, you will be unable to get away later.  If you choose to resist by physically fighting back, then make sure your attack will momentarily blind or disable your attacker giving you a chance to escape.  An attack that does not give you a moment to escape only serves to anger the attacker and further aggravate the situation.  If you can’t temporarily blind or disable your attacker, then physically fighting back may not be the best option for you unless you have tried everything else and have no other choice.  A failed physical attack might be seen as a challenge to the attacker.  Ways to blind/disable might include: pepper spray, a very hard strike to the nose which causes pain and a few seconds of blindness, poking or gouging the eyes, a strong kick to the knee, stomping on the instep to break a bone in his foot.  DO NOT attempt a kick or punch to the groin. Unless you have considerable self defense training, the testicles can be a difficult target to hit effectively in an attack situation and men are generally very adept at protecting that part of their bodies.

Whatever physical attack you decide to use, hit very hard with everything you can muster on your very first try.  Humans tend to hold back on their first strike to sort of "test the water" for a response from the opponent.  Hitting hard on your first attempt adds one more unexpected element to your attacker’s plans, and may even give him the impression that you were holding back and the next hit will be even harder.  An FBI study showed that most attacks are stopped by a single, strong move or response.  Don’t forget that if you are behind the wheel of a car when accosted, a car makes a very effective weapon.  If your life is in danger, don’t be afraid to use that weapon.

If you have children with you, tell them to run.  Teach them this response ahead of time as well as how to find help once they have escaped the situation.  

If the attacker is someone you know, or he knows you are able to identify him, the risk to your own life and safety goes up considerably.  In these cases, apply all of the techniques you have learned, and fight back with everything you’ve got!

In this, or any other kind of attack, do not yell "help," "rape," or anything along these lines.  Yelling these things actually has the effect of driving help away from you.  People don’t want to get hurt or get involved so they are more likely to avoid you than to assist you.  Instead, yell ‘fire’ which arouses curiosity and actually brings people toward you since many people would want to see the fire.

If bystanders are refusing to assist, then address one of them directly and specifically and instruct them to go call 911.  For example "hey, you with the red baseball cap, go call 911."  Doing this makes them a part of the situation rather than just an observer of it; thus, they are much more likely to do as requested and offer assistance.

Third kind of attack: Road-rage attacker

This is often an unplanned attack carried out in anger and frustration.  The attacker doesn’t want property or control, he or she just wants to "make you pay" for whatever wrong he or she feels that you committed against them.  During a road-rage attack, follow these guidelines:

Slow down considerably and maintain that speed.  The attacker will often rather move on than slow down to continue the attack.  Also, at a slower speed, it is much harder to get you to do something careless or to run you off the road.  On a freeway, try to slow down to around 40 MPH if it is safe to do so.

Do not yell, call names, make insulting gestures or drive aggressively.  Avoid eye contact with the attacker.  Remember, your goal is to survive uninjured, and all you want is for the attack to end. Responding with anger only escalates the situation and can even cause you yourself to go from road-rage victim to road-rage attacker.

If the attacker passes you in anger, quickly slow down as he passes you and then maintain a considerable distance.  This makes the attacker more likely to just keep going rather than confronting you, and prevents him from causing an accident by intentionally slamming on his breaks in front of you, which is a common tactic of road-rage attackers.

Write down or take a mental note of the attackers info such as license plate, make of car, model of car, color of car, or at least pretend to do so.  Make it obvious that you are taking down his information even if you are only pretending to do so.  Pretending to call for help on a cell phone, or anything that looks like one, often works as well.  Often, just appearing to be taking down the information, or calling for help, will often cause the road-rage attacker to give up and move on.

If you feel you are actually in immediate danger, use your cell phone to call for help.  Also, drive to a manned police station or fire station.  If neither of these is available, then drive calmly and deliberately to a very crowded place such as a busy parking lot.  Be sure to pull your car right up in front of the doors and in people’s way so you cannot be missed.  If the attacker has followed you to one of these locations, honk your horn continuously as you arrive to attract attention.

DO NOT drive home.  If you do, you are actually less safe than you were on the road since you would still have to exit the relative safety of the car to get into the house.  Also, you would be letting the attacker know where you live.

Avoid barriers that may allow your attacker to block you in.  This includes barriers such as other vehicles, buildings, walls, parking barriers, construction barriers and parking garages.  Do everything you can to make sure that you have a way to avoid getting boxed in and trapped.  Always leaving yourself room to maneuver your car and leave, should be part of your everyday driving habits.

Carrying a cell phone cannot be counted upon to keep you safe.

Too many people think that carrying a cell phone helps to protect them from a violent, physical attack.  Especially if you're a woman, believing that a cell phone protects you against a physical or sexual assault, can be very, very dangerous.  Below is an excerpt from my eBook  Economic Disaster: What the average person can do to prepare.  Please read this information about physical and sexual assault, and pass the information along to others.

A cell phone offers very little protection if you are assaulted or attacked.  I sometimes have great difficulty convincing people of this, especially women who feel much safer with a cell phone in their hand.  Yes, a cell phone can be used to summon help, but that help will need time to get there.  If you are being attacked, you do not have that time.  A cell phone is easily knocked or forced from your hand and, during a disaster, might not even be able access wireless service.
To help you understand how useless a cell phone actually is if you are attacked, let us look at a hypothetical situation.  You are a woman walking to your car at night all alone.  You are on your cell phone talking to your boyfriend who is a powerful, 250 pound linebacker for his college football team, and you feel so much safer having him on the phone.  A tough-looking man steps out in front of you and you know immediately that his intentions are not good.  You tell your boyfriend that a man is blocking you from getting to your car and you are scared.  Your boyfriend says he is on his way, runs out of the house, gets in his car, and is rushing to where you are.  He is only three minutes away.  Meanwhile, your attacker punches you hard in the face sending you to the ground.  He knocks the phone from your hand and repeatedly kicks you in the head until your skull is fractured and you are unconscious.  He takes your purse, your cell phone, your engagement ring and runs away.  Only two minutes have passed since the whole thing started.  It takes another minute for your boyfriend to finally arrive.  By the time your boyfriend is on the scene, the only thing he can do for you, is call for an ambulance.

To really understand the futility of trying to use a cell phone for protection from an attacker, go ahead and time two minutes to see how long that really is.  If you take a pillow and beat on it fiercely for two minutes as if you are an attacker beating a victim, I think you will see what I am trying to tell you.  Even if you look at an unrealistic, best-case scenario, the cell phone still proves virtually worthless.  Let us say you are actually already on the phone with the police when the attacker appears.  It is still going to take the police time to get there.  Five minutes would be a very, very good response time and that is still more than the time it took the boyfriend in our example to arrive.  A cell phone is a wonderful tool if your car breaks down, you are locked out of your vehicle, locked out of your home or you need medical care—but it is of almost no use during a physical attack.  For your own safety, please convince yourself, and those you love, that a cell phone is pretty much useless in any kind of physical attack.

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