Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Can You Talk Your Way Out Of Violent Crime?

You're sleeping peacefully in your bed when suddenly something disturbs you. You don't quite know what it is, but whatever it is, it is enough to rouse you from your slumber and so you slowly open your eyes...only to wish you hadn't. That little disturbance you felt wasn't in your mind; it was a knife being pushed against your throat. You go from being in a deep sleep to being fully awake in about a second as you see a large naked man kneeling next to you on your bed. In a blur of motion he leaps on top of you as he covers your mouth with his hand and pushes the blade of the knife a little harder against your throat as he says in a low growl, "Don't scream or I'll cut your f$%ing throat."

This scenario is extremely scary, and what's even scarier is that untold thousands of people have woken up to find that this, or a very similar situation, is happening to them. In the middle of the night an intruder has crawled through a window and now plans to victimize them, and this is probably going to be the most horrible experience they ever have. The big question here is: can they talk their way out?

This issue comes up over and over in the self defense world: can you actually talk a violent criminal out of attacking you? Despite the fact that certain martial art and self defense instructors teach various verbal techniques to do just this, the simple answer is that out of a thousand situations you might be able to talk your way out of one, maybe.

There are those people who really believe that if you talk to a criminal and you are able to humanize yourself you can then get that criminal to see the errors of his, or her, ways and they'll go away. They believe that all you need to do is get that criminal to see you as a person and not just a target, and as soon as you do their humanity will take over. If you think about it, it really does make sense...but that is the problem.

To you and me it may seem perfectly reasonable that you would be able to rationalize your way out of a violent situation, but that would be assuming that your attacker is making an out-of-character "mistake" by attacking you when it's far more likely that attacking you is perfectly "in character" for them. The real problem in this kind of thinking is that we are applying our morality and reason onto another person, but if you've never robbed someone at knife point then chances are that your particular moral code doesn't apply to them.

The truth is that most criminals commit crimes for a living so victimizing you is part of their daily life. Add on to that the fact that about 63% of attacks in the United States happen with the attacker being either drunk or on drugs. If somebody does something all the time, may possibly be doing it for a living, and there is a good chance that they are either drunk or on drugs, do you really think that you will be able to get them to stop with a few words? Unfortunately, the only thing that will consistently deter criminals is the chance of being hurt or caught.

There are only three things that will deter a criminal from attacking you. The first is the likelihood of getting caught, the second is the likelihood of getting injured, and the third is actually getting injured. Very few criminals actually care about hurting you and reasoning with them just won't work. You have to convince them that they'll be caught or injured if they commit the crime or you have to actually injure them, and the only way you can do any of this is with actions, not words. Anything less just won't work and can make the situation worse.

The only way you can convince a criminal that it's likely that they will be caught is to attract other people to you, who could possibly help or call the police, and typically this means yelling. If you are approached by a criminal and you start yelling for help you may be able to scare the criminal away but it's a gamble. Most criminals either attack you by surprise, which means that you won't have time to yell, or they come up and talk to you first and do an "interview" to size you up. If you recognize that someone is approaching you to attack you and you start yelling for help while they are 15 or 20 feet away if could work, but if the attacker gets closer and you start yelling they might lunge at you to shut you up. The success of this manner of deterrence is a matter of whether there are people in the area to attract and whether the attacker is close enough to get to you and shut you up before your yelling draws attention. In any matter I wouldn't want to trust my safety to the possibility of scaring off an attacker by yelling for help.

So if scaring them away by attracting other people isn't reliable, what about convincing them that they might get injured by attacking you? This actually works a large percentage of the time. There have been many studies done with both serial killers and repeat violent offenders in prison that try to determine what makes a violent criminal attack. Across the board the criminals said that they wanted to commit their crimes as cleanly as possible and if they suspected that their victim would fight back or that they wouldn't be able to take them by surprise then they would pick someone else rather than risk being hurt. Therefore, they carefully picked their targets and focused on people who showed certain vulnerabilities, namely not paying attention to their surroundings and certain mannerisms that showed a lack of confidence (which indicates that they won't put up a fight). Of these two, not paying attention to their surroundings was seen as a much more important vulnerability than a lack of confidence because with a skilled surprise attack they can avoid a fight.

There are certain techniques that have been identified as communicating the message to an attacker that you, as the potential victim, will either fight back or will not easily be taken by surprise, and these techniques are surprisingly simple. For example, both serial killers and repeat violent offenders admitted that if they were looking for victims and one of those candidates looked them in the eye then they most often would pick someone else. This goes back to the desire to take their victims by surprise; if the potential victim does something that shows the criminal that they know and recognize that they, the criminal, are "there" then the criminal feels that there is a lesser chance that a surprise attack can be successful. Acknowledging the presence of a criminal has proven to be a great deterrent.

The way you use this to deter a criminal is to constantly be on the lookout for them. You want to not only be aware of who and what is around you at all times, but you also want to show off the fact that you are doing so. While it is important that you walk in a confident manner, it is far more important that you walk with your head up and be constantly looking around and behind you. If a criminal sees you doing this it will make you unattractive as a target. Next, you want to acknowledge anyone that makes you feel uncomfortable or looks out of place. Look them in the eye for a second, give them a quick smile, a wave, a nod, or say hello. By showing a criminal that you know that they are there you become undesirable to all but the most determined.

The other way that you communicate to a criminal that they may get hurt by attacking you is to show them you will fight back. If a criminal approaches you to "interview" you, to test your vulnerabilities, and you appear fearful or you let them get as close as they want, then that communicates to them that you won't fight back and that you're an easy target. What you want to do is the opposite, if they try to get close you need to look them in the eye, confidently tell them to stop, and assert your boundaries. If they test your resolve by taking another step you need become aggressive with them. Again, studies with criminals have shown that if you become aggressive then they will most likely leave as opposed to risking injury or attracting attention.

Beyond that the only thing that you can do to deter them is to actually injure them and this is where a lot of people get uncomfortable. A lot of the so called "experts" tell you to not resist being victimized, to give a criminal everything they want and hope that they take what they want and leave. While it is usually better to give up a purse or wallet then risk serious injury fighting with a criminal, if they want something more than a material possession I advise you to ALWAYS fight back, even if you don't know how. If all you do is to aggressively start hitting them and screaming it could be enough to create a chance for you to escape or convince him to leave.

Don't listen to people who tell you not to fight back, and that if you do then you're just inviting more violence from the attacker. Federal victimization studies show that people who resist an attacker and fight back are not injured any more than those who don't. The fact is that it is just the opposite. Studies have shown that over half of all attackers will actually leave if the person indicates that they will resist. So if they want your purse or wallet it may be better just to give it to them, but if they want more there isn't any benefit to not fighting back.

Now, I want to make one point very clear, when I said "injure them" I didn't mean "hurt" them or cause them pain. Techniques that rely on causing pain or discomfort to a violent individual are simply unreliable because of differences in pain tolerances, the fact that some people actually enjoy pain, and also that 63% of attackers are either under the influence of drugs or alcohol which can effect the functioning of there pain receptors. When I say "injure" I mean that you have to take a part of their body and render it nonfunctional and in need of medical treatment.

If a violent criminal grabs you and you punch them in the face the result would be pain and that pain may only serve to make them mad because the punch didn't actually "do" anything. If, however, you lowered the punch and hit them in the throat you could cause an injury by crushing their windpipe. A crushed windpipe is not subjective nor is it something you can "shake off". If your windpipe is crushed you will not be able to breathe, which will quickly induce panic, and unless a tracheotomy is preformed you will die of asphyxiation. While punching them in the face will probably just make them angry, punching them in the throat and crushing it will cause them to stop their attack, involuntarily grab their throat, make a high pitched noise while trying to inhale, drop to the ground in a panic, and continue to make the noise until they...well...stop.

The point is that the punch to the face is an example of pain and the punch to the throat is an example of a medically verified injury. A criminal will only stop their attack for two reasons: if they decide to stop, or if you make them stop, and the only way to make them stop is to stop the functioning of a part, or all, of their body.

As far as talking a violent criminal out of their plans of attacking you goes, as you can tell from what I've presented here the chances are incredibly slim. The only way that someone would be talked out of the crime would be if they were a rational person to begin with, sober, did not have a criminal nature, and they were new to this whole "hurting people for kicks, money, or sex thing".

Studies have shown that trying to talk or plead with your attacker can actually make things much worse. For instance, since rape is about power and not sex, if you plead, cry, beg, or try to verbally dissuade a rapist it may increase his sense of control and make it more enjoyable for him or her.

I encourage everyone here to take what I've written to heart and not only pay more attention to your surrounds but take a reputable self defense class as well. I hope that all of you not only learn some dependable self defense techniques but also learn to get in touch with your aggressive nature because it is primarily your ability to be aware or who and what is around you and your ability to be aggressive and fight when cornered that with keep you safe.

Monday, November 19, 2007

The Most Common Self Defense Mistakes Women Make

When it comes to self defense both men and women make mistakes, but it is interesting that men and women typically make different mistakes. Men typically make mistakes by being "tough" and overly confident and they usually end up walking right into the hands of a criminal, while women typically make mistakes by not knowing what to do when someone confronts them and this lead to making poor decisions.

Here are the eight most common mistakes that women make in self defense situations. Any one of these mistakes can lead to being assaulted, kidnapped, rapped, murdered, or any combination thereof.

Mistake number one: Letting people get too close. If someone comes up to confront a man, a man will usually adopt an aggressive posture; however, a woman will usually respond with either an impartial or fearful reaction. Time and time again, when we look through case files we see that women let men walk right up to them instead of establishing boundaries.

Attackers only want to attack easy targets and there are two things that they typically look at to determine if someone is an easy target. One, are they actively paying attention to their surroundings? If they are then they might see the attacker coming and either run away or make a scene, but if they are not paying attention then they probably can be taken by surprise. Two, when I approach them, how close do they let me get to them? If the intended victim lets you walk right up to them then chances are they won't fight back, but if you start to invade their space and they stop you and establish a boundary then chances are they will fight back and you'll have to find an easier target.

You have to learn to be assertive and protect your personal space. To a criminal the invasion of your personal space is a test to see how vulnerable you are. So, if someone comes up to you, often to ask you a question such as "Do you have the time", there is no reason for them to be closer than 10 feet. If someone approaches closer you need to tell them to stop.

Mistake number two: Not being alert in transition areas such as parking lots, parking garages, driveways, and stairwells.
Criminals want to attack their victims someplace where they can take them by surprise and that makes transition areas perfect because people in parking lots, driveways, and stairwells usually are preoccupied. While both men and women are attacked in parking lots, women are targeted there more often then men and this is for three main reasons.

The first reason is that women, who often run the home, are usually busy with thoughts about the 8 million things that they have to do that day. While they walk from the store to their car they are thinking about rushing home, getting dinner ready, what they will wear tomorrow, and a thousand other things and that means that they are not paying attention to the fact that a criminal is following them.

The second reason is that women are usually easier to victimize then men. There are many reasons for this such as the fact that most women never even seriously consider what they would do if they were attacked, and therefore when that happens those women usually do nothing. Also, criminals have stated two other reasons that women are easier to victimize then men: women love to shop and often burden themselves by carrying lots of bags which make them easy pickings and virtually guarantee they can't fight back, and women's skin tight fashions drastically limit their range of motion and make it incredibly hard to fight back or run away.

The third reason is that criminals know that women generally carry more money then men, and the things they have to steal are usually more marketable then what they could steal from men. For these reasons all over the country women are mugged, carjacked, robbed, abducted and raped in parking lots. In fact, in 2002 25% of all reported rapes in America occurred in parking lots and parking garages.

While it is important to walk with confidence, it is far more important to walk with your head up and actively look around to see who and what is around you and if someone is watching or following you. If a criminal sees you actively looking around they will most likely find someone else.

If you leave a store stop and look around you to see if anyone is watching you. Don't walk straight to your car, instead walk to another area of the parking lot and zig zag around to see if anyone is watching or following you. If you walk down an isle and then suddenly cut between two cars to the next isle and you see that someone stops or changes direction to keep up with you, then head back to the store. Also be aware of cars driving slowly through the lot because some criminals attack their victims by driving slowly around a lot until they find someone they like, then pulling up next to them and jumping out to rob or abduct them.

Mistake number three: Getting into the attacker's car. If you allow an attacker to take you to another location your chance of survival is only 3%. If someone is trying to get you into a car you want to fight and scream as much as possible and do whatever is necessary to avoid getting into the car.

If an attacker has a gun and orders you into a car your best option is to turn around and run toward the closest populated area. Very few attackers actually want to shoot you, and according to FBI statistics, if you turn and run 95% of the time the attacker will not shoot. Even if he does shoot at you, you are now a moving target and it is very unlikely that he has any training with firearms, which is why you have a 97% chance of surviving because either he will miss you or won't hit anything vital. So if someone pulls a gun and orders you into a car and you turn and run your chances of surviving are over 95% compared to getting into the car and having a 3% chance.

Mistake number four: Pulling over when a man signals that there is something wrong with your car. This is another common ploy used by men to rape, abduct, and carjack women. Simply the guy, or guys, will drive up to a woman's car and wave her down by signaling that there is something wrong with her car. Then once she pulls over he pulls over too and attacks her.

If this happens, drive to the nearest well populated gas station or other well populated area. Do not pull over. Many women do fall for this because of the notion that guys know more about cars then women. Unless there is smoke pouring out of your car there is no reason to suddenly pull over.

Mistake number five: Not locking your doors while in your car. For some reason people, not just women, tend to not lock their car doors. Knowing this, criminals often walk up to a car that is stopped at a light and just open the door, jump in with a gun or knife, and either abduct or carjack the driver. Another tactic they use is to wait until someone gets into their car, and once they shut their car door they run over and open the door and have their way with the driver. The simple act of just locking your car door once you get in your car can save you from many attacks. If you are in your car and someone does run up to your car and try to open you door, just drive away.

Mistake number six: Opening your front door without knowing who is there. Unfortunately this has led to many attacks, robberies, rapes, abductions, and murders of both men and women. A criminal knocks on a door and the person opens the door to see who is there, and the man just pushes her inside and victimizes her. You should never, ever open your door without knowing who is there.

If you don't have a peep hole then you should get one installed and use it. If you look through the peep hole and you can't see the person clearly tell them to back up so you can get a better look at them. If they refuse then don't open the door. Also don't rely on the door chain protecting you because it can be broken. Unless you know exactly who is at your door never open it.

Mistake number seven: Trusting a clean cut, honest looking stranger. Many people believe that they know what a criminal or sexual predator looks like, however if you were to sit down and look through mug shot books of sex offenders you would see that they look just like everyone else. Most sexual predators are clean cut and even attractive. Also, don't be too trusting of young, old, or crippled people. There have been tens of thousands of cases of rapists being on crutches or having only one arm or leg.

If some approaches you, don't be disarmed because they are in their 70's or because they are only 13. Robbers, rapists, kidnappers, and murders come in all ages. The best thing to do is the exact same thing that you probably tell your kids: if you don't know someone then they are a stranger and should be treated as such.

Mistake number eight: Trusting people to be alone with your children. This one is more for your children but important none the less. When it comes to child molesters they are usually the last person you would think of. They are usually kind, trusting, and good with children. Although women can be the perpetrators, usually the abuser is a father, stepfather, mother's boyfriend, sister's boyfriend, brother, step brother, uncle, grandfather, babysitter, neighbor, family friend, sports coach, or other person who is supposed to give care or guidance to the child.

It is important to observe your children and see how they act before and after they spend time with someone. Often a sign of abuse is depression and poor self image. If a child who is usually out going and full of energy returns from staying with someone and suddenly they are quiet and acting depressed it may be a sign that something happened during their stay. Another good clue is how they act when their abuser's name is mentioned. If they get quiet, sad, angry, or fearful when a particular person's name is said, take notice. Make sure you observe your children and talk to them about their contact with other people

Making Your Home Unattractive To A Burglar

Usually it takes having their home get robbed before most people start to think about securing their property. Often it is only when the homeowner is standing in their looted home talking with the police that they learn about simple steps they could have taken to make their home less attractive to burglars. However, burglars are like any other criminal in that they like to victimize easy targets and avoid difficult ones.

There are many simple things that you can do to your home to make it look unattractive to a would-be burglar and make them look somewhere else. A burglar will often observe your house by walking by, driving by, or hiding and watching your home to get as much information as possible. What they see determines whether or not they will target your home.

The first thing you can do is make sure that you regularly shut and lock all your windows and doors. If the burglar sees that you're leaving your home open it can be quite inviting regardless of what other security measures you have. They know that if you're leaving your doors or windows open chances are that you're being sloppy elsewhere also.

The next thing that you can do is have a fence around your yard to make it just a little bit harder for someone to get onto your property. While this probably won't prevent someone from coming onto your property, it will put an obstacle in between the burglar and you.

A burglar will also check out your yard to see what obstacles you have there, if they can get any clues to your routine, and find out when you will be out of your home. They will look for things such as whether you have mail or newspapers piling up as this could mean that you're away from home for awhile. However, one of the main things they look for is whether you maintain your yard. Leaving your grass uncut and shrubs and trees untrimmed will make a burglar spot your house as a potential easy pick. Why is this? First of all people who don't take care of their yards usually don't take care of their house either. This means that they can expect such things as you not having an alarm system, not bothering to lock your doors or windows, and even if you do lock those, chances are it won't be too difficult to force them open.

They'll also see if you have places for them to hide while they break in such as trees, bushes, and large gardens close to your home. This being so, you want to keep all plants and other places to hide away from your house.

You also want to make sure you keep from leaving gardening and other tools around your yard. This again makes your yard look unkept and even provides tools for them to use to enter your home. A ladder left in your yard is an open invitation for a burglar to try to break into your second floor.

A burglar will also see if you have dogs in your yard. Having a dog or two in your yard has proven to be a big deterrent to burglars.

Having a well lit yard can make even the most brazen burglars pick another house. Some people choose to install lights throughout their yard to keep it lit all night, but a much more cost effective solution is to install motion lights on every side of your home. Motion lights have proven to be an effective deterrent to crime because if the lights suddenly come on while they're creeping around your yard they won't know if someone can see them and they often won't know if the lights were turned on by someone awake inside the house.

Another thing burglars look for is security systems and cameras. While I definitely suggest investing in a security system they can be pricy. If you look around you might be able to find yard signs with security company logos on them. If you put one in your yard, especially one from a large company like ADT, it can scare all but the most skilled criminals away.

Security cameras are another great tool you can use. For most people installing security cameras around their homes is not a practical expense, but the good news is that you can buy fake cameras. Many companies such as the "Johnson Smith Company",, sell them for around $10. Buying a few and putting them in visible areas around your house is a great deterrent. Some cameras even come with realistic working red lights and motion sensors that can follow people around.

With the majority of the things I've listed above in place it is very unlikely that anyone would try to break into your home. At that point chances are that the only thing that would make your home attractive to a burglar would be for you to have bad habits, and that's what well talk about now.

A very common bad habit people have is to hide a house key. Most criminals will look under the mat, around the door frame, in a garden for fake rocks, and in the areas around the door to see if they can find a hidden key before they break anything. Even if someone has no interest in robbing you, if they know you hid a key they might rob you just because an opportunity arose.

Not locking your garage or leaving your garage door open is a big invitation to a burglar, especially if your garage is attached to your house. Burglars know that the garage is often easier to break into then the house and quite often the door going from the garage to the house isn't locked or if it is it's easier to break open then the exterior door. The garage also provides someplace private to work while they break into your house. Access to your car is also very tempting because quite often people put a spare house key in their car so if the criminal gets into the garage they can get to the car and either enter the house, get a key from the car, or hide in the car and wait for you to get in in the morning. As you can see, not securing your garage is one of the biggest security mistake people make.

It doesn't take a lot to make a home unattractive to a burglar, all it takes is a bit of common sense and forming natural habits of things like locking up tools, trimming shrubs, locking all doors and windows and so forth. If you follow these rules and you have solid locks and some lighting around your house, you might not even need a professional home security system or a burglar alarm installed as they will be sufficient in preventing burglars from picking your home as a target as well as stopping them if they try anything.