Target Hardening (Part 2) – Special Considerations For Women

This post follows on from the previous post on Target Hardening (Part 1) but covers issues that predominantly (though not exclusively) effect women.  It would probably be beneficial to read Part 1 first then return to this post, it’ll make more sense that way.

Victims Of Sexual Abuse/Assault

Victims of sexual abuse, especially during childhood, or somebody that has been seriously sexually assaulted, sometimes want to make themselves less attractive; the rationale being that if the abusers find them less sexually attractive then they’re more likely to be left alone.  This can manifest itself by dressing down, taking less care of personal grooming and hygiene, or bad diet leading to weight increase.  Ironically, this can actually have the opposite effect as an experienced sexual predator will recognise these signals and will know that this is a person who less likely to fight back and less likely to report matters to the police.

As discussed in Part 1, having an air of confidence lowers your chances of being selected by any predator, be it a sexual predator or a mugger!  The same principles apply.  If the predator thinks you’ll fight back, maybe leave identifying marks on him (such as bruises or scratches), or that you’re more likely to scream and draw attention (witnesses), then it lowers your value as a target.  Taking care of your appearance, your grooming, your personal hygiene and health are all signs of confidence.  So the irony here is, a more attractive lady who takes a pride in her appearance is less likely to be attacked than an unattractive lady.  Lets face it ladies, you know you feel better when you’re looking your best.  And that feeling better transmits confidence!

I’m not suggesting that if you take a pride in your appearance and look good, then nothing will ever happen to you, there are too many random factors.  It’s all about lowering the odds!

Shouting For “Help”

Should you be attacked, it’s a good idea to actually shout the word “HELP”.  The reason being is that if people mistake your situation for a domestic where a man is assaulting his wife/partner, they may be more reluctant to get involved.  This is NOT because people think it’s ok, or she must have deserved it, or even because it’s none of their business.  Most normal men hate to see another man beating up a lady.  Most of us consider this to be the ultimate in cowardice.

Woman being stalkedThe reason people are reluctant to become involved is because so many times people have stepped in to help a lady in a domestic, then she closes ranks with the guy who’s just been beating her and together they turn on the third party who has intervened to help her.  I did hear of one case where a black couple where having a row and the man was hitting the woman.  A white guy stepped in to help the lady; they closed ranks and he ended up being charged with racist assault.  And the lady that he was trying to protect testified against him!  So ladies, if you want help, make it clear that you want help!  Whether it’s a domestic with your partner, sexual assault by a stranger, or a mugger; if it is appropriate to do so, shout loudly and clearly the word “HELP”.

Obviously the dynamic between the different types of assault are very different and a domestic argument which turns violent can be very public whereas a mugger will take care not to have witness around.  Nevertheless, should you resist a mugger and just shout and scream, it could be mistaken at first glance for a domestic and a potential helper/witness might just walk away so as not to get involved.  A clear call for “help” lets everybody know that you want them to get involved and that it is relatively safe (in that you won’t turn on them and testify against them) for them to get involved.

Don’t Get In The Car

One of the terrifying and dangerous scenarios of all for anybody, especially women, is if somebody pulls a weapon and demands that you to get into their car.  Under no circumstances whatever should you do so.

Firstly, ask yourself why does he want you to get into their car?

The reason is that the current location is not fully safe for him!  The location is his biggest weakness and therefore your biggest strength.  Going back to Part 1, the predator wants to be able to carry on hunting in the future.  This is not just a question of their physical dominance, it also means they have to take into account the chances of getting caught.  The current location is where they are most likely to be caught, challenged by a third party, or just have witnesses that can give vital information to the police.  This why he wants to remove you from that location to another location that is safe and secure for him.  Where he can do what he wants without interruption.

These are your real nasty’s; the rapists, torturers and serial killers.  If you get in that car and get taken his safe location, there is every chance that you could end up being murdered.

So what do you do, especially if he has a weapon and you know that you have no chance of overpowering them?

Well again, remembering that their main concern is getting caught.  So should he cut you or shoot you, then drag you into his car, then his car will be absolutely covered with forensic evidence (blood), which is not easy to clean out.  So he is not going to want to use that weapon on you at that time if they can help it.  It is mainly to intimidate you into compliance.  He is more likely to use any weapons at the other end.

The other thing is, should he shoot or stab you and then make his escape; it is a dangerous situation for you, but there is a chance that you might get medical attention.  I did hear the statistic some years ago (which I can’t verify) that if you are shot once, you have an 80% chance of surviving.  If you get into his car (even without injury at that time), I’d suggest that your chances of surviving are negligible!  So as much as it is a high risk strategy to refuse to get into the car, it’s an even higher risk strategy to actually get in.

Now there are 2 main strategies that you can use here.  One is to feign compliance to lull him into a false sense of security, then strike as hard as you can to a vital point and escape.  If you don’t think that is possible, then the other is simply shout and scream as loud as you can.  This will hopefully bring witnesses very quickly.  As mentioned above, should your attacker then shoot/stab you, he is unlikely to want you in his car providing loads of forensic evidence.  Also, the longer he struggles and wrestles with you to get you into his car, the longer there is for a witness to arrive.  Even if a witness only gets the make and colour of his car, that’s the net seriously tightened around him.

I know that this all sounds bleak, but again I refer you to Part 1 where I talk about awareness and not going into dark and lonely places.  Nobody is likely to try to force you into his car in busy well lit road.

Don’t Run Away From Danger, Run To Safety

As kids, if we’re in trouble with our parents, many of us will go to our bedroom.  If we’re at school and being bullied, we don’t always go to the teacher as we then get accused of being a “tell-tale” and the bullying can actually get worse, even if its more to do with exclusion and verbal abuse than actual physical assault.  So what do we do . . . . we find somewhere to hide.  We try to get away from danger.  But it’s still not really safe if we are followed or found.

This instinct stays with us even as adults.  So imagine a scenario where you’re been for a night out and you’re retuning to your car.  You notice somebody following you.  You automatically run to your car where you perceive you’ll be safe.  However, you fumble with you keys due to the adrenaline cruising through your body, you open the door, you get in, you pull the door shut, you fumble putting your keys in the ignition and turn it on, you’re just about to put it in gear when your door is opened and you’re grabbed.  Too late.  It actually takes more time than you realise to get into your car.  Time which you don’t have unless you have a very big head start.  And you’re not likely to have a big head start as the predator is not likely to start chasing you until he’s already fairly close to you.

If your car is not available, you might just run and look for somewhere to hide.  It’s instinctive.  But, unless you know the place really really well, you’ll have to select your hiding place very very quickly with hardly any thought or planning.  That means your hiding place probably isn’t very good and there’s a good chance that you might be found.

Rather than thinking of running away from danger, think of running to safety.

Run to the nearest well lit, crowded area that you can.  Remember they don’t want to get caught, they don’t want witnesses.  You can run to a shop, a pub, a factory or even just to a group of people.  Shout for help.  When you have to go home at night and you’re walking, try where possible to plan your route where there will be safe places.  If however, that is not possible and you are away from any pubs/businesses that you could run to and their is nobody around to help, look for a house to run to and knock loudly on the door shouting for help (especially if the lights or on).  It may be that you’ve run to the house of an elderly person who won’t be able to help you fight of a would be attacker, but the attacker doesn’t know that either.  And besides, they’re still a witness!

So; there is a lot to think about.  It’s all well and good to read this post and think that’s good . . . . . then forget about it.
I’d suggest that when you’re out for any reason, especially at night, make it a little exercise to identify safe places to run to.  Especially if it’s route you take often, that way should anything happen you won’t even have to think about where to run to for safety.  As a martial artist you may be thinking that running away is not what you train for and yes, it will go against the grain a bit.  But if you’re interested in real self-protection, this is how you should be thinking (and teaching).  The actual physical fighting side of things should be the last resort!

Target Hardening (Part 1) – How Predators Select Victims

First of all just to be clear, this post is talking about how predators select their victims and how to harden yourself as a target; with regard to asocial violence.  That is the type of violence where the perpetrator does not want an audience (witnesses), such as a mugger, rapist, serial killer.  This is as opposed to the bar room or class room bully who does want an audience to show of that they are the alpha male/female.  For the sake of this post, we’ll primarily focus on the mugger as that is the most common type of asocial violence.  For more information on the differences between social and asocial violence, please follow this link.

When the subject of street predators comes up in my classes I often ask, “how do lions hunt”?
The kids sometimes come up with some entertaining answers, but sooner or later we get there.  They look for easy targets.  They look for the very young, the old, the lame, the injured or sick.  They don’t look for the biggest meatiest bull in the herd and say, he looks tasty, he’s got a lot of meat on him; lets go and show him who’s king of the jungle.

Basically, the lions want an easy kill.  They don’t want a fight, they specifically choose (if they can) a victim that with a limited fighting capability.  Lions often take down prey that are much bigger than themselves, like buffalo, zebra, wildebeest and when these animals fight back they can be very dangerous.  A lion that gets seriously injured can’t hunt for a while!  They go hungry and become a burden on the rest of the pride.  They may even starve to death depending on the severity of their injuries.

The same basic psychology is true of human predators, after an attack they still want to be able to continue hunting!  Consider for example a junkie who has to rob people regularly in order to feed his habit.  Whereas the lion only has to consider whether or not its fit and strong enough, the junkie also has to consider social aspects such as a police hunt, being recognised, being identified in a lineup, leaving evidence (forensics) at the scene and so on.  Being arrested, or having to take extra precautions to avoid arrest, can stop him from hunting and getting his next fix will feel (to him) like a matter of life or death.

There was an experiment conducted with convicts in prison showing them a film of shoppers in a busy shopping mall and asking them who they would select as a victim and why.  Quite independently, most of them picked out the same people.  Obviously physical characteristics come into it.  It’s unlikely that anybody would select somebody like Arnold Schwarzenegger in his prime as a mugging target!  But over and above big strong men, the people selected tended to be distracted and not fully aware of their surroundings.  People who you could sneak up on and easily surprise.  People who did not look like they would have the confidence to even put up a fight.

Outside of our diet and/or weight training, we are not able to do much about how big we are and certainly they won’t produce very quick results.  But one thing that we can do very quickly and easily to lower our chances of being selected for a mugging is simply to be aware of our surroundings.  If you want to send a text message for example; stop, put your back to a wall, look around, then do your text.  Don’t be engrossed in anything that takes your attention of your surroundings.  Looking down is a signal to the criminals that you are unaware.  Wearing headphones at the same time is another signal.

In London, moped gangs robing people has been a growing issue over the last few years.  In the video below, a reporter does an interview with on of them (though he hides his identity).  Please have a look at it before continuing reading:-

For me, the most poignant part of the video is where they are watching people looking down at their phones and the reporter says, “But it’s so normal”.
The moped thief reacts straight away.   “It’s not normal.  How are you crossing the road?  I saw a woman just now crossing the road with her phone, looking down.  That’s not normal, you’re crossing the road you should have all eyes on the road”.

How obvious is that?  If nothing else, we should be watching for traffic as we cross the road, but this is how conditioned so many people have become these days to focus on their phone to the detriment of their surroundings.  Now imagine that it was a more dangerous predator, not someone who just wants to snatch and ride off!

Women about to have mobile phone snatchedYou might also of noticed in the video that not all the victims were women or small men.  There were several average to large sized men being robbed too as they simply were not aware that anything was about to happen until too late.

Also on the subject of looking down, it’s not only when we’re on our phone.  It could be that we’ve had a bad day at work, a row with our partner, financial problems, whatever and we have our head down as mull all these problems over in our mind!  It’s a standard thing that we do when we’re stressed or upset.  But it’s like a big flashing beacon to the experienced mugger that we’re distracted and unaware of our surroundings.

Another way to lower our chances of being selected as a target is simply to carry ourselves with an air of confidence.  Even a petite woman who does not have much chance of fighting of a large male attacker can lower her chances of being selected by just projecting the idea that she’ll stand up for herself and fight.  Even if she can’t win, if she shouts and screams and attracts attention then you have potential for people to step in and help or simply just be a witness.  Remember the predator wants to hunt again and again.  If he’s had a good description of himself given to the police, if he’s got identifying marks such as a scratches on the face from where his victim fought back; if there’s a chance that a witness took his vehicle registration number as he tried to escape, or worse still (for him) if somebody tackled him and pinned him down; all of these things make it more difficult for him to hunt for the next few weeks or maybe even months as police pursue their enquiries.  Or possibly years if he’s actually caught and imprisoned!

And of course, don’t (if you can possibly avoid it) go into dark lonely places on your own.  It’s not always possible but try to avoid dark lonely alleys, unlit streets, empty car parks, anywhere that you’ll be on your own with nobody to help or even be a witness.  It’s basic, but so many people want to be strong and independent and consider such precautions as a sign of weakness and fear!  It’s not weakness, it’s not fear.  It’s a common sense precaution and anybody interested in real self-protection should be looking beyond just physical fighting skills.  I regularly walk my dog down a local cycle path.  In the winter it starts getting dark here from 4pm.  I don’t walk him down that path after dark.  I figure I can handle myself in most situations, but if I do end up in an altercation because I went somewhere that I didn’t need to go, then there is a serious failure of my approach to self-protection.

It has to be said though that nothing is guaranteed, there are far too many variables.  All the advise above is about lowering the odds and that’s the best we can hope for when it comes to asocial violence.  The main defence is simply awareness of your surrounding and taking common sense precautions.

What Is The Ultimate Aim Of Self Protection?

Self protection is a phrase that is often used, but what does it actually mean and what is it’s ultimate aim?  Well, self protection is a phrase that was initiated by Peter Consterdine, co-founder of the British Combat Association and it’s daughter organisation, the World Combat Association.  Loosely speaking, it combines “hard” physical skills of striking, kicking, grappling, etc; with the “soft” skills of de-escalation and dissuasion, using assertive behaviour.  The hard skills are usually referred to as self-defence and are the actual skills of violence; whereas the soft skills are non-violent and sometimes referred to as conflict management. Continue reading “What Is The Ultimate Aim Of Self Protection?” »

Line Up For Pre-Emptive Strike

When somebody is trying to bully you and it becomes apparent that they are likely to attack you, the tactics you use at that “pre-fight” stage can put you into a position of enormous advantage without the aggressor realising what you are doing. Continue reading “Line Up For Pre-Emptive Strike” »

Violence Never Solves Anything . . . . Really?

How many times have you heard well-meaning people say something like, “violence never solves anything”.

The idea that violence never solves anything has been has been around for a while in world of ever growing political correctness.  As a society, it’s a laudable goal to try and eradicate violence so that nobody has to be unnecessarily hurt and it is something that we should all work towards.  We’ll never achieve it of course as violence is part of the human condition and we are all capable of it given the right circumstances! Continue reading “Violence Never Solves Anything . . . . Really?” »

Positioning For Multiple Assailants

I came across the video below from the London Wing Chun Academy which I thought was worth sharing as goes beyond style boundaries and should be of interest to anybody who is into real world self protection.  It talks about being aware of your surroundings and how to positional yourself when facing multiple opponents. Continue reading “Positioning For Multiple Assailants” »

Best Street Fighting Style Vs Self Protection

How often do you see an advert or website claiming something like, “Best Street Fighting Style”, “Ultimate Street Fighting System”, “Scientific Street Fighting”, “The Art of Street Fighting”; or words to that effect.

Many martial arts, and I would say especially the more modern arts, like to emphasis how practical and effective they are and give themselves more kudos by emphasising “street fighting” over all other aspects of martial arts.  Some routinely position themselves as superior by deriding traditional martial arts; Continue reading “Best Street Fighting Style Vs Self Protection” »

If You Happen To Be Caught Up In A Terrorist Attack

As most people will know, there have been several terrorist attacks here in the UK over recent months, two of them involving vehicles running people over and following up with knife attacks.  Now the chances of actually being caught up in such an incident, I would say are very unlikely.  However, you never know! Continue reading “If You Happen To Be Caught Up In A Terrorist Attack” »

The Difference Between Social Violence And Asocial Violence

For anybody who is interested in real world self protection, it is helps to understand the difference between social violence and asocial violence, the motivation behind them and how to respond to them.

But first, what do they have in common? Continue reading “The Difference Between Social Violence And Asocial Violence” »

The Different Levels Of Traditional Martial Arts Training

Training in traditional martial arts simultaneously trains you on several different levels.  Not properly understanding this can lead to confusion and trying to apply a given technique in an inappropriate manner.  So first of all, lets look at the different levels at which any technique actually trains you: Continue reading “The Different Levels Of Traditional Martial Arts Training” »