You or Your Child May be Tar­geted for As­sault or Kid­nap­ping. Learn the Risk Fac­tors and How to Stay One Step Ahead

RECOIL OFFGRID - - Contents - By Jared Wi­hongi Pho­tos and self-de­fense se­quences cour­tesy of Am­ber Stak­lin­ski and Ryan Hoover of Aper­ture Fight Fo­cused

You or Your Child May be Tar­geted for As­sault or Kid­nap­ping. Learn What the Risk Fac­tors are and How to Stay One Step Ahead

Six­teen years ago while work­ing as a po­lice of­fi­cer for Salt Lake City PD, I was in­volved in an in­tense and fran­tic search for a miss­ing ju­ve­nile. It was the stuff of ev­ery par­ent’s night­mare. In the mid­dle of the night, a cold and cal­cu­lated psy­chopath crept through the win­dow of a teenage girl’s bed­room while her fam­ily slept. He kid­napped her at knife­point and, with the help of his wife, sub­jected her to nine months of in­tense men­tal, phys­i­cal, and sex­ual abuse. Mirac­u­lously, the vic­tim, El­iz­a­beth Smart, was found and res­cued. Most vic­tims of such crimes aren’t so lucky.

Women and chil­dren con­tinue to be some of the most vul­ner­a­ble mem­bers of so­ci­ety to crimes of this na­ture. On aver­age, 321,500 peo­ple are vic­tims of rape and sex­ual as­sault in the United States.

Eighty-two per­cent of ju­ve­nile vic­tims are fe­male. Ninety per­cent of adult vic­tims are fe­male. Fe­males be­tween the ages of 16 to 19 are four times more likely than the gen­eral pop­u­la­tion to be vic­tims of rape, at­tempted rape, or sex­ual as­sault. Not all crimes per­pe­trated against women and chil­dren are sex­ual in na­ture ei­ther. The so­cio­pathic na­ture of vi­o­lent crim­i­nals is to tar­get those they per­ceive to be easy tar­gets. An­other alarm­ing statis­tic is that there are 21-mil­lion peo­ple traf­ficked for sex­ual ex­ploita­tion world­wide each year, 96 per­cent of which are women and girls.

So what steps can be taken to be­come less vul­ner­a­ble? How can we teach our loved ones to be less vul­ner­a­ble? Let’s ex­am­ine some of the con­di­tions and en­vi­ron­ments in which crimes against women and chil­dren com­monly take place:


The con­cepts shown here are for il­lus­tra­tive pur­poses only. Seek pro­fes­sional train­ing from a rep­utable in­struc­tor be­fore at­tempt­ing any tech­niques dis­cussed or shown in this story.

Rapes and Sex­ual As­saults


48% of vic­tims were sleep­ing or per­form­ing an­other ac­tiv

ity at home when at­tacked

29% were trav­el­ing to work, school, or other places

12% were work­ing

7% were at­tend­ing school

Who: Sta­tis­ti­cally, it isn’t a masked man hid­ing in the bushes who com­mits most of th­ese types of crimes. Sixty-six per­cent of rape vic­tims know their as­sailant, while 48 per­cent are raped by a friend or ac­quain­tance. Thirty per­cent are per­pe­trated by a com­plete stranger.

When: The ma­jor­ity of rapes, 43 per­cent, hap­pen dur­ing the six hours be­tween 6 p.m. and mid­night. The sec­ond high­est six-hour win­dow is mid­night to 6 a.m., when 24 per­cent of rapes hap­pen. The re­main­ing 33 per­cent hap­pen dur­ing the 12-hour time frame from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Al­co­hol is com­monly a fac­tor in rapes and sex­ual as­saults. It’s the most com­mon sub­stance uti­lized in drug- fa­cil­i­tated sex­ual as­saults, con­sid­ered the num­ber-one date rape drug. Ap­prox­i­mately 50 per­cent of sex­ual as­sault cases in­volve use of al­co­hol by the per­pe­tra­tor, the vic­tim, or both.

Child Ab­duc­tions

Where and When

Child ab­duc­tions are most com­monly per­pe­trated or at­tempted when the vic­tim is trav­el­ing to and from school, or school-re­lated ac­tiv­i­ties, be­tween the hours of 2 and 7 p.m. This ac­counts for about 32 per­cent of th­ese crimes.

In 70 per­cent of child ab­duc­tions, the per­pe­tra­tor was driv­ing a ve­hi­cle, at­tempt­ing to force the child into the ve­hi­cle. The aver­age age of child ab­duc­tion vic­tims is 11, with 37 per­cent be­ing be­tween 10 and 14 years old.

Th­ese statis­tics help us un­der­stand the three themes that con­stantly re­oc­cur when teach­ing about sit­u­a­tional aware­ness: peo­ple, places, and things. Be­fore learn­ing phys­i­cal self-de­fense tech­niques, the most im­por­tant thing

to un­der­stand is how to avoid be­ing in a po­si­tion where you’d ever need to use self-de­fense tech­niques.

Un­der­stand­ing statis­tics can help us know where, when, and how th­ese types of crimes are com­mit­ted, which in turn can help us with our gen­eral sit­u­a­tional aware­ness — not mak­ing as­sump­tions as to who is or isn’t ca­pa­ble of such crimes, and mak­ing sound de­ci­sions as to where we should or shouldn’t be, and what we should or should not be do­ing. It’s also im­por­tant to train for sit­u­a­tions in which no mat­ter what steps we’ve taken re­gard­ing aware­ness and pre­ven­tion, things some­times just hap­pen and we need to be pre­pared. At the end of the day, we can’t hide from the world, but we can pre­pare to de­fend against the bad peo­ple in it.

Jeff Cooper’s color codes can be valu­able when teach­ing gen­eral sit­u­a­tional aware­ness and are worth fur­ther study. As men­tioned ear­lier, peo­ple, places, and things are con­stant themes that come up with Cooper color codes Let’s ex­am­ine each of th­ese themes in depth:

Peo­ple: Many peo­ple wrongly as­so­ciate neg­a­tiv­ity with the term “pro­fil­ing,” when in re­al­ity pro­fil­ing is an es­sen­tial com­po­nent of sit­u­a­tional aware­ness. While pro­fil­ing based strictly on race is cer­tainly wrong, race is one of many fac­tors that con­trib­ute to an in­di­vid­ual’s pro­file. Other things in­clude the in­di­vid­ual’s gen­der, age, size, hair style and color, ac­tions, cloth­ing, de­meanor, ac­cent/lan­guage, ver­biage, per­sonal be­long­ings, and odor, to name a few.

Does the pro­file of a per­son in your gen­eral en­vi­ron­ment stand out for some rea­son? If so, you might shift from Con­di­tion Yel­low — gen­eral aware­ness — into Con­di­tion Orange, or a height­ened sense of aware­ness of one or more peo­ple around you. Do they look, act, speak, or smell like they’re in­tox­i­cated? Does their cloth­ing sug­gest they could be con­ceal­ing a weapon? Does their gen­eral de­meanor sug­gest they’re ner­vous or para­noid?

Are they in a group, and if so how many? Are they in a place where they shouldn’t be, based on the lo­ca­tion or

time? In­stead of just teach­ing “stranger dan­ger” to your chil­dren, teach them to never ap­proach a stranger’s ve­hi­cle if be­ing lured un­der any cir­cum­stances. Prac­tice cre­at­ing “what-if” plans in your mind when­ever you see some­one who has caught your at­ten­tion. Teach your chil­dren to do the same if ap­proached by a stranger.

Places: Part of be­ing sit­u­a­tion­ally aware is be­ing aware of what kinds of sit­u­a­tions you should avoid.

One thing I of­ten say is “the fight you’ll al­ways sur­vive is the one you’ve been able to avoid.” Avoid­ing places that have a higher like­li­hood of get­ting you into trou­ble is al­ways a good idea when pos­si­ble. This might be a cer­tain part of town, a par­tic­u­lar night­club or bar, or a party where you know bad peo­ple will be or are known to con­gre­gate. Teach­ing this prin­ci­ple to your chil­dren is es­sen­tial. Not just where they shouldn’t be, but to avoid be­ing alone or trav­el­ing iso­lated routes while walk­ing to and from school.

When­ever you find your­self in un­fa­mil­iar en­vi­ron­ments, whether it be an­other part of town or an­other coun­try, con­stantly be on the alert as to your sur­round­ings. As­sess­ing points of egress is also part of be­ing fa­mil­iar with your en­vi­ron­ment. When­ever pos­si­ble, po­si­tion your­self with your back to a wall with vis­i­bil­ity of en­trance points and prox­im­ity to points of egress. Take ad­van­tage of re­flec­tive win­dows or sur­faces to see who’s be­hind you, or ca­su­ally stop to act as though you’re check­ing your phone, if you feel you’re be­ing fol­lowed to fur­ther as­sess a sit­u­a­tion. Pre­pared but not para­noid.

Things: Be­ing aware of things in your gen­eral en­vi­ron­ment can also high­light life­sav­ing in­for­ma­tion. It might be some­thing sus­pi­cious, like an unat­tended bag or pack­age in a sub­way sta­tion. It might be things in the hands of a stranger who’s walk­ing to­ward you in a park­ing lot (or the in­abil­ity to see what things he might have in his hands). When some­thing sus­pi­cious catches your at­ten­tion, be aware of what things you have in your hands or are in the gen­eral en­vi­ron­ment that can be used as weapons or dis­trac­tions when hurled at an as­sailant’s face. Don’t get too at­tached to ma­te­rial things. If some­one is steal­ing your wal­let, purse, or car and you’re con­fi­dent that’s all they want, give it to them. Don’t risk your life over re­place­able things.

This may seem like a lot of in­for­ma­tion, so how can we con­di­tion our­selves to a state of per­pet­ual vig­i­lance? Try to make a game out of it. When in pub­lic, con­stantly prac­tice run­ning “what-if ” sce­nar­ios through your mind. Not only is this a great way to be­come more aware of your sur­round­ings, but as­sess­ing “what-if ” sce­nar­ios can ac­tu­ally help you re­act much faster and more ap­pro­pri­ately to a threat should it ma­te­ri­al­ize, and as you’ve al­ready iden­ti­fied it be­fore it hap­pened. To teach

1. Hav­ing rec­og­nized a po­ten­tial threat, the mom sends her child to hide un­der the ve­hi­cle. She pre­pares the con­tents of her hands (a mug full of hot cof­fee) to be used as an im­pro­vised weapon. 3. Con­tin­u­ing to stay on the of­fen­sive, she turns to face the sec­ond at­tacker, ready to strike with the cof­fee mug. 5. She im­me­di­ately fol­lows with an oblique stomp kick to the at­tacker’s knee.

7. ... and boot to kick him in the head. 2. The at­tack­ers are com­ing at dif­fer­ent an­gles, so in or­der to keep dis­tance and cre­ate a dis­trac­tion, she throws hot cof­fee into the face of the first at­tacker. 4. Us­ing a back­hand ham­mer type strike, she hits the sec­ond at­tacker in the jaw with the mug. 6. Be­cause the ini­tial at­tacker is still a threat and block­ing a safe en­try to the ve­hi­cle, she uses her shin ... 8. Once the threat is no longer im­mi­nent, she lo­cates her child and moves to safety while call­ing 911.

your chil­dren, make fun games out of it. When in a su­per­mar­ket or shop­ping mall, ask them to point out the near­est exit. Where’s the car parked? The man who just walked by — what were in his hands? How many peo­ple were in the room we just left? Help them to pay at­ten­tion to peo­ple, places, and things.

Tools for Self-De­fense

Some­times, no mat­ter what steps you take to avoid a bad sit­u­a­tion, you may find your­self fight­ing to de­fend your­self. If forced into a self-de­fense sit­u­a­tion, there are a few things that sta­tis­ti­cally have proved to be ef­fec­tive:

Force mul­ti­pli­ers. Weapons. In Novem­ber last year, a fe­male jog­ger in Utah was sex­u­ally as­saulted while jog­ging dur­ing the early morn­ing hours. She was car­ry­ing a knife for pro­tec­tion and was able to stab her at­tacker sev­eral times, forc­ing him to flee. When deal­ing with an at­tacker who’s larger than you, im­pro­vised weapons or weapons by de­sign can not only be great equal­iz­ers, but they can turn the tide dra­mat­i­cally in the de­fender’s fa­vor.

Dis­trac­tions. Like weapons, th­ese can be im­pro­vised or dis­trac­tion de­vices by de­sign and can buy you time to draw a weapon, de­liver a counter-at­tack, or dis­en­gage from the sit­u­a­tion. Ex­am­ples of im­pro­vised dis­trac­tions could be what­ever you hap­pen to be hold­ing thrown into some­one’s face. Ex­am­ples of dis­trac­tion de­vices could be a tac­ti­cal light (strobe or oth­er­wise), pep­per spray, or a con­duc­tive elec­tronic weapon (stun gun).

Mar­tial arts: Fun­da­men­tal, gross mo­tor de­fen­sive tech­niques that tap into nat­u­ral move­ment and ath­leti­cism can be eas­ier to learn and re­tain at a func­tional level for the long term. The se­quences il­lus­trated here in­cor­po­rate th­ese prin­ci­ples. While we give you some ideas for self-de­fense to add to your tool belt, it’s im­pos­si­ble to build a solid base of func­tional skills from read­ing an ar­ti­cle. You need to get out and train — even bet­ter un­der the tute­lage of a com­pe­tent and cred­i­ble self-de­fense in­struc­tor. Lo­cate and re­search mar­tial arts schools in your area and take trial classes to find an in­struc­tor you like. Get in­volved in dif­fer­ent groups and net­works that host self-de­fense or mar­tial arts sem­i­nars and work­shops. Keep it fun, or it won’t last long.

Fend­ing Off a Larger At­tacker

Size and strength dy­nam­ics be­tween prey and preda­tor will al­ways be a fac­tor. But just like in the an­i­mal king­dom, it’s fully pos­si­ble and plau­si­ble for much smaller prey to drive of f their would-be at­tacker. Many preda­tors aren’t will­ing to get hurt or risk get­ting caught, and will quickly flee once they re­al­ize they’ve bit­ten off more than they can chew. Re­search has shown some com­mon pat­terns with chil­dren who es­caped at­tempted ab­duc­tions.

1. They were phys­i­cally proac­tive in their de­fense, in­clud­ing ac­tive re­sis­tance and run­ning away when pos­si­ble, as op­posed to pas­sive be­hav­ior.

2. They were loud in ad­di­tion to be­ing phys­i­cally ag­gres­sive, scream­ing and yelling to at­tract at­ten­tion.

When be­ing phys­i­cally proac­tive, the more con­trol a child can have in their ag­gres­sion, the more suc­cess­ful they’ll be. Part of con­trolled ag­gres­sion is to un­der­stand the con­cepts of weapons and tar­gets. In the ab­sence of im­pro­vised weapons, empty-handed weapons in­clude kicks, punches, el­bows, knees, claw­ing at­tacks, and bit­ing. Sen­si­tive tar­gets on the body should be the fo­cus of th­ese weapons. For ex­am­ple:

Claw­ing at eyes with the fin­gers

Punches or el­bows to the nose and throat

Knees or kicks to the groin, shins, or face, if it can be reached


The goal as al­ways is sur­vival, and even if the prospect of phys­i­cally in­ca­pac­i­tat­ing a much larger at­tacker isn’t en­tirely re­al­is­tic, just con­vinc­ing them that they’ll be hurt or caught can be enough to send them pack­ing.

Find ways to make your­self a hard tar­get. Be­ing within the most vic­tim­ized de­mo­graphic doesn’t mean you have to be­come a statis­tic. Don’t be of the mind­set that it could never hap­pen to you — that can put you in a vul­ner­a­ble state of mind. Rather, be of the mind­set that it’s only a mat­ter of time un­til some­one will try to vic­tim­ize you, and do all you can to be pre­pared for that mo­ment.

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