Posts Tagged ‘rape defense’

Power to the Word? Or Power to YOU?

Thursday, February 6th, 2014

The other day, I was talking to a young lady who was interested in taking my Women’s Self-Defense class. She wanted to know if I thought it would be a good idea. “Absolutely. You’re in high school, you’re starting to go out on dates, to parties with lots of people you might not know well, and you’ll be around people who are drinking alcohol.”

“You teach how to fight?” she asked. When I told her that we do, her excitement grew. “Cool! What else is in the class?” I described that we cover the mindset of the attacker, how to recognize threatening behaviors… rape…

“RAPE?” She threw her arms out in front of her, then turned her head away from me and hugged herself, shutting down any further conversation. The word scared her so much, she no longer wanted to know how to protect herself, how to fight off an attacker, or how to be safe just walking through a parking lot to her car.

As a RAD Instructor, I get this response from women fairly frequently. But here’s the thing: Rape is a word. So is igloo; so is fern. But these other words don’t strike fear in a woman’s heart, don’t send chills up her spine, like the word rape does. Clearly, this is because when we hear the word rape, we imagine the crime that it names. We think of the terror, the violence, the degradation inherent in the act, and we want to distance ourselves from it as much as possible. It’s a natural survival technique.

Unfortunately, it’s also harmful, and can lead to death by extreme violence, or physical, emotional, and psychological damage that can last a lifetime.

RAD stands for Rape Aggression Defense. Our techniques combat the kind of assaults women encounter against one or more perpetrators who use anything from verbal coercion to physical violence to commit the crime of forced sexual relations. And the word RAPE is right there in the center of our logo. Anytime a RAD Women’s Self-Defense class is being held, participants will see that logo–and that word–on our registration forms, self-defense manuals, class eval sheets, and on the uniforms we wear as Instructors. Some women cringe at it. Others have asked RAD directly to remove it from their logo, because of the negative reaction it causes.

And that’s exactly why RAD put it in their logo to begin with–and why it stays there. The point is not to upset the women in our classes (some of whom are rape survivors). It’s to take the power away from the word. Think about it: if just seeing the letters R-A-P-E renders a woman so fearful that she freezes, what will happen to her when an attacker grabs her and threatens to kill her if she doesn’t do exactly what he says? RAD’s point is this: if you can’t say even the word… if you won’t acknowledge that it exists… you can’t fight it.

RAD takes the strength away from the word RAPE and gives that power to women.

Time Over Content?

Tuesday, November 26th, 2013

The other day, I received a call from a young woman representing a small women’s group here in the city. The members of the group had expressed an interest in learning self-defense; could I teach them? Absolutely, I replied. As we began discussing potential dates and times for a Saturday or Sunday (their preferred days), the caller stopped me. “Just what all is involved in your class, and how long do you need to cover it?”

I explained that we taught how to recognize a dangerous individual before it’s too late, de-escalation techniques, blocking and parrying, various hand strikes, proper punching and kicking techniques, as well as how to break strangle holds, wrist grabs, bear hugs, etc. And that we cover ground fighting and rape reversals, among other things.

“Well,” the group leader said, “that certainly is… a lot of material.” Yes, RAD Women’s Basic Self-Defense is a very thorough course. It has to be to effectively combat the broad spectrum of violence perpetrated against women in our society. But it was more than the caller and her group wanted. She asked how long I would need to pass all this information on to her group of 12-15. After all, “it’s important to keep in mind that they’re taking time out from their busy lives for this class.”

“For a group that size, we can offer a one-day workshop. We will complete the course in 6 hours. Three hours for the first half, maybe a short break for lunch, and three hours for the second half.”

“I see,” she replied. “That might be more time than they’re able to give. Keep in mind that a lot of these women are moms. They have to run the kids to team practice, piano lessons, etc. And some of them work on weekends. What can you teach them in two hours?”

Two hours? “Yes,” she stated firmly. “Time is more important than content.”

Rather than answer her question, I had to ask one myself: “With all due respect, ma’am, do the members of your group want to know how they can save their lives in case of an attack by a violent criminal? Or do they just want to pretend they know? Because in 6 hours, we can teach them how to break a hold, neutralize an adversary, and escape. In 2 hours, we can’t teach them anything, but they can kid themselves that they’re safe.”

When it comes to self-defense, there are no shortcuts. We’re happy to work with people, to set up classes around hectic schedules; to break up classes into multiple meetings if necessary. But knowing how to punch and kick with maximum effectiveness, to be able to rely on muscle memory to execute the technique… these are not skills that can be grasped by reading a book or watching a video. Nor can they be learned in a quick demonstration class. They have to be done, and done again, and again. Not slowly, and not against an imaginary “Bad Guy.” RAD understands the importance of dynamic impact–striking the specific targets of a padded attacker or martial arts dummy at full force, full power.  And we give each woman in the class personal attention and instruction to hone her technique.

I know you’re busy. You’ve got work, the kids, the house, your life! And learning how to fight for your life takes time and practice. But it’s not about giving us more time than you can spare. Give yourself  the time; we’ll bring the content.

In Case of Rape, Throw Up??

Wednesday, February 20th, 2013

Has Colorado lost its collective mind? First, Democratic State Representative Joe Salazar warns that women should not carry firearms for personal protection because, wait for it… they might shoot someone. “[I]f you feel like you’re going to be raped, or if you feel like someone’s been following you around or if you feel like you’re in trouble when you may actually not be, then you pop out that gun and… pop a round at somebody.”

He would have us believe that he knows what women are thinking and whether they are really in danger, even if the women themselves don’t. In a life-threatening situation, he wants us to wait for others to come save us, recommending we make use of call-boxes, whistles, and ‘safe zones.’ In other words, “Don’t you worry your pretty little head, missy. You just wait for a big, strong man to come riding in on a white steed and rescue you from another man who wants to bash your face into the sidewalk, rip your clothes off with a blade, torture and maybe kill you. Heh, heh.”

As if that insult to women’s intelligence and judgment wasn’t bad enough, earlier this week, the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs posted a 10-point “safety list” entitled What to Do If You Are Attacked. They refer to these so-called techniques as “crime prevention tips,” but the fact that they are all reactions to being attacked, rather than proactive measures to avoid an attack illustrate their lack of effectiveness in a rape/mugging/domestic violence situation.

Topping the list is “Be realistic about your ability to protect yourself.” This patronizing warning tells women they just aren’t smart enough or strong enough to defend themselves against an aggressive male, hell-bent on harming them. It’s also downright untrue. Hundreds of thousands of women realize that they have more than enough power in their bodies and minds to save themselves in an attack. They understand, first and foremost, that they are not weak, helpless waifs whose lot is to suffer simply because some criminal has chosen to mess with them. They also know that a solid punch, kick, or elbow strike to certain vulnerable targets will put a dent in an assailant’s plans and afford them an opportunity to escape.

Also recommended as “survival techniques” on the University’s list are vomiting and urinating, to convince the attacker to leave the intended victim alone. So, seeing a woman doubled over, hurling in the bushes, he might think… what? “Oh, gee, she’s having a bad enough time already. I’ll go ruin someone else’s life.” Not likely.

Also, I must point out that it is difficult to force oneself to vomit or urinate on demand–especially in a life-and-death situation such as a rape attempt. Not to mention, while one is trying to accomplish these acts, one can neither fight off the attacker nor run to safety.

Two of the tips on the list actually contradict each other: “Yelling, hitting, or biting may give you a chance to escape. Do it!” is immediately followed by “Understand that some actions on your part may lead to more harm.” In other words, little lady, let him do whatever he wants. Don’t try to fight the Big Bad Man or you’ll just make it worse for yourself. The US Department of Justice reports that women who actively defend themselves against a rapist are more likely to minimize the attack and/or escape than women who don’t fight back. And, they are no more likely to be injured than women who don’t fight back. Note: in some instances, compliance may be used as a survival technique. For example, women who have been told by a rapist with a weapon, “Just be quiet or I’ll hurt your kids” have used compliance to save their lives and those of their children. However, compliance as an option is not the same thing as making yourself helpless in the face of sheer hell.

There are quite a few women’s self-defense classes available on college campuses, at martial arts dojos, in cities large and small throughout the country. Most are good; some are excellent. The instructor who developed these so-called “survival strategies” is not someone I would want teaching my sister, my daughter, or my friends. These tips would seem to teach how to become a victim rather than a strong, empowered woman.



Use What You Have

Saturday, June 25th, 2011

Upon leaving church a few nights ago, a woman was grabbed and shoved into a nearby alley. Her attacker then forced his tongue into her mouth. Unwilling to become a victim, she fought back using what was available to her at that moment–his tongue. And her teeth.

Biting is not one of the techniques taught in RAD’s Women’s self-defense classes. (RAD does not want the attacker’s blood to get into your mouth. Also, they want you able to yell, and to get plenty of air to fuel your defense. Some schools of self-defense, however, do sanction this technique.)

But back to our heroine. Thinking quickly, she used what she could, struck back fast and hard, and survived. In fact, her attacker was the first to flee the scene. When police arrived, they found “a substantial piece” of his tongue on the ground–about an inch long.

The point is, in a life-and-death situation like an attack, you do whatever you have to do. While RAD doesn’t teach biting specifically, we do teach you to use the tools you have to work with against the vulnerabilities of your attacker. Such improvised weapons absolutely can work for you. For example, at a sports bar in Florida, a woman fought off an assailant with her spike-heel shoe. After a few strikes to his forehead, he was unable to hit her again.

Then, there was the 58-year-old New Yorker who was sitting in a pew in her church, praying and making notes in her journal. A would-be rapist jumped on her and tried to push her down onto the pew. She stabbed him in the neck repeatedly with the pen she had been using to write with. The church’s security cameras recorded him running away, holding his neck.

There have been several reports of women, accosted in parking lots, who fought off their attackers by cutting their faces with car keys. One woman whose home was invaded threw a vase into a mirror in her den and slashed her would-be rapist with a shard of glass.

All of these events have something in common: the women thought quickly, moved quickly, and defeated their attacker. Choosing not to respond with fear and helplessness but with action, they outwitted muggers, rapists, and killers. There would be time to be scared later; during the attack was the time to think and fight for themselves. That’s just what they did. And how they won.

Sitting Duck

Tuesday, February 15th, 2011

I was parked in a large lot yesterday, trying to help a friend into my car. (My friend needed the help because he currently has casts on his arm and leg from a skiing accident.)  A young woman, 20-something, had just entered the car parked next to mine on the passenger’s side. I waited for a moment for her to back up and drive away.

She sat.

Okay, no problem. I would roll my buddy up to the door and we would proceed from there.

I walked up the narrow space between my front passenger door and her driver’s side door, conscious to avoid startling her. I need not have worried; she never noticed I was there. She was busily balancing her checkbook and chatting on her phone. (In my mind’s eye, I could see police officers shaking their heads and rolling their eyes already. This behavior, much more popular with women than with men, drives them crazy.) There’s nothing wrong with connecting with friends or keeping track of personal finances. In fact, both are recommended. There are, however, safer places to do them than in one’s car in a parking lot in the middle of the day. I also noticed that her door was unlocked and her window was lowered several inches.

The combination of her ongoing discussion and her financial calculating made her extremely vulnerable to attack. And I was directly beside her, my fingers right next to the handle of her unlocked car door. How easy would it have been for someone to rip open that door and either pull her out or jump in on top of her?

Her cell phone would have done her no good; the person she was talking to might hear her scream in surprise, but that’s certainly not going to deter a rapist from carrying out his plans. Her checkbook, lying open on the seat? It spells out her full name, address, phone number, and possibly other private information(driver’s license, Social Security number?) that–if she thought about it–she would prefer strangers and Bad Guys not to know.

After a few semi-acrobatic and balancing moves, my friend was able to get into my car. I turned to look once more at the lady next to us. She continued to chat and scribble away on her paperwork, never seeming to notice us. Her window was still open and her door, still unlocked. I thought about dropping a note in to her through that window, advising her to take a women’s self-defense class–she certainly could use some tips to make herself safer in today’s world. But, I didn’t do it. I didn’t want to scare her.

“It’s So Great!”

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010

Upon finishing my most recent RAD Women’s Self-Defense class, I asked the participants what they thought. Had they gotten what they wanted from the class? Did they feel safer going out into the world? They responded that, yes, they had learned new ways of protecting themselves, and if they ever found themselves in a dangerous situation, they would be ready to do what they had to do.

My youngest student, a young woman of 17, said to me, “You know what’s really cool? It’s so great to find out what you can do!” During the class, she found out that she had not only the will, but the power and the ability to take down a male attacker much taller and heavier than herself, and to render him incapable of continuing his assault. She found out that, if she ever needs to, she can and defend herself successfully. She can fight for her life and win.

That knowledge alone makes her safer as she goes about her life. Why? Because muggers, rapists, and thugs of all kinds are experts at body language. They can spot a potential target from across a parking lot, or down a busy street. The person who’s looking down at their feet, who’s thinking, “Don’t anyone look at me; I don’t want any trouble,” is going to pull their attention. The one busily chatting on her cell phone, telling herself that it will keep her safe, is going to have him shaking his head and chuckling before he slips quietly behind her and grabs her. (And what will her friend on the other end of the phone do to “help” her at that point? Tell the police that he heard her scream and drop the phone.)

Then there’s the RAD woman who strides to her destination with purpose, looking at what’s happening around her. The one who’s thinking, “What if someone came from over there? What tools do I have available to fight with right now?” He’s going to stay away from that one–too much trouble. She’d see him coming and be able to provide the police with a description. She also might be ready to counter his best take-down move. He’d lose the element of surprise. If he can’t sneak up on her so she’s paralyzed with shock and fear, she’s liable to start yelling and attract attention. And that’s definitely not what he wants. Better to find a easy victim and leave the RAD chick alone.

A Child’s First Weapon

Tuesday, August 17th, 2010

In the news today, an 83-year-old man was arrested for groping an 8-year-old child. He went through mug shots, prints, jail time, the whole bit. Now he has a police record. This was his first arrest. ‘Think this was his first time molesting a kid? Not a chance. Sexual abuse of children is a serial crime; perpetrators do it over and over throughout their lives. In fact, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the typical molester abuses 30-60 kids before he’s ever arrested, and as many as 380 in his lifetime. 380 children. Groped, molested, and/or raped. It’s mind-boggling.

The good news in all of this? Parents are teaching their kids to fight back. Not necessarily to punch the sex offender in the face, which could lead to immediate and even more dangerous consequences for a child alone with an unbalanced adult. But to use the first weapon available to them–their voice. Kids are being taught to tell! And they’re doing it, and their parents are taking action!

What are they saying? To the predator, they’re saying, “Stop! Don’t touch me!”  To their parents, teachers, and counselors, they’re saying, “Mom, Mr. Owens put his hand on my chest,” or “Mr. James touched my rear,” or “Ms. Linwood was doing something weird to my arm, and I didn’t like it.”

We’ve all heard stories, maybe even know some people who were abused as kids. Some readers here were victims themselves. Maybe they told their parents. Most likely, they didn’t. Some were taught that “respecting their elders” included allowing themselves to be hurt by adults. Others were afraid, believing the predator who told them, “Your folks will be mad at you if they find out,” or “If you tell what happened, we’ll both go to jail.” Still others tried to tell, but no one believed them: “What a terrible thing to say! Shame on you!” or “Mr. Smith would never do such a thing! Are you looking for attention??”

What police, psychologists, and others who work with child predators have learned between then and now is that

  1. Kids rarely make up stories about being molested. So, if a child tells you that someone touched them in the wrong way, it’s most likely true.
  2. Abusers can be male or female, in the city, the suburbs, or the countryside, young, old, or in-between.
  3. Child molesters are charming, friendly… and manipulators of the highest order. They will seem to you to be the nicest, warmest, safest people around. They’re very good at what they do–they made their victims feel safe long enough to molest them. They are wolves who will smile at you and try to trick you into accepting the word of a criminal, and not believing your own child.

So, if your child comes to you and confides that someone has molested them, know that it’s not your child’s fault. And then, for their sake, act. Call in the pros, the police. Let them do their jobs. Continue to love and parent your child, and give them what they need. Your teaching has shown them that they’re special and valuable, and that no one has the right to hurt them. And it has shown them the importance of using their voice, their first weapon, to defend themselves and stop the Bad Guy.

Targeted Attack

Wednesday, May 5th, 2010

“What are my tools? What are my targets?” I repeat this to the women in my self-defense classes throughout the sessions. Thinking about these vital points in an attack scenario allows them to realize they’re not helpless. This, in turn, means that they’re not likely to freeze up in fear if they need to use their self-defense skills in real life.

I don’t know exactly what a particular elderly lady in Portland, OR was thinking at the time she was attacked, but she surely knew she was not helpless; nor was she about to freeze up in fear:

88 years old and wrapped in her bathrobe, the intended victim of Michael Dick was picking up logs for her fireplace when he entered her home through a sliding glass door. Dick, nearly half her age at 46 years old, was completely naked. He followed her through her house and pushed her, face-down, into a living room chair.

Remembering a news story in which a woman was similarly attacked and how she escaped, this little old lady reached behind her, grabbed his testicles and squeezed. Hard. The surprise counter-move caused her attacker to change his plans. As soon as he could tear his… parts out of her grip, he ran from her home. Her 911 call led police to capture him a short time later.

In RAD for Women, we reveal to our students nearly one dozen tools (parts of the body they can use to defend themselves) that women have in their possession at all times. We show them how they can forcefully apply these tools to 18 specific targets (vulnerabilities) that male attackers have at all times. The results are quite advantageous to the women.

Other self-defense techniques teach similar information.The point is not necessarily to know RAD self-defense, but to know how to defend yourself–at any time, any place, any age. Do you know your tools and your targets? Could you use them tomorrow if you needed to?

Is It Really the Police Pulling You Over?

Thursday, April 8th, 2010

It’s after midnight, and you’re driving down a stretch of dark, empty road, heading home after a night on the town. You’ve got your girlfriend–your wing-woman–with you. You figure you’ll drop her off at her place and be home in 15 minutes. Suddenly, the inside of your car is lit up by flashing lights. Police lights.

You pull over, get out. The car behind you is unmarked, but sure enough, it’s a white Ford Crown Victoria. And Crown Vics are the preferred models of police departments around the country. When the driver opens the door to approach you, the interior light turns on and you see not a uniformed officer of the law, but 5 guys drinking out of cans and looking like trouble. It hits you: This is not the police. You’re in danger. Get out of here!

That scenario wasn’t a figment of my imagination. It actually happened to 2 young women in California a couple weeks ago. It doesn’t have to involve a Crown Victoria or even a white car. Any vehicle can be outfitted with flashing lights that look to unsuspecting motorists like those of an official, yet unmarked, police vehicle. So, what do you do if a car pulls up behind you one night and signals you to pull over? Refusing to stop for a police officer is a crime. And trying to explain to an angry cop that he had to chase you down because you didn’t know if he was the real deal isn’t going to help your case.

Just how are you supposed to know if the car behind you, flashing its bright lights in your rear-view mirror, is legit? Should you pull over, but be ready to run if the situation turns out to be dangerous? No, your best protection is to stay in your car and keep moving.

Slow down, so the car behind you sees that you are responding to his signal. Police will understand what you’re doing. A predator will think he’s got you fooled. Call 911 on your cell phone. Tell them where you are and ask if there’s a police car following you. They will know. If there is, find a safe place to pull over. But if 911 tells you that no bona fide law enforcement vehicle is behind you, continue driving at a reasonable speed. Help will be there shortly as real police vehicles rush to your location to apprehend the guy impersonating a police officer.

If you don’t have a cell phone, or you’re in an area where you can’t get a signal, find some place that’s well-lit and populated, such as the parking lot of a restaurant, night club, or theatre, and pull in there. Stay in your car so that, if you need to, you can escape quickly. Watch the individual get out of his car; his interior ceiling light is your friend. Did you see anyone inside the car with him? Is he in uniform? (Even when driving unmarked cars, police officers must wear their uniforms.) Does he have proper ID?

One more thing: notice the color of those flashing lights. Police use blue lights, sometimes combined with red and/or white, depending on location. Fire trucks and ambulances have red-and-white lights; tow trucks, yellow. You don’t have to memorize which agency prefers which color scheme. The point is that no one uses just white lights. But white flashing lights are often the easiest to buy–so if a car pulls up behind you late one night and flips on flashing white lights, you are in danger. Grab your cell and call 911. The real cops will be there quickly–and he’ll be the one getting pulled over.

It’s Your Safety–Take It Personally

Sunday, March 7th, 2010

Two years ago, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill senior and Student Body president Eve Carson was shot to death, her body left in a street just off campus. Police soon arrested two suspects, and categorized the murder as a random act of violence.

Since then, parents of college students have become more concerned about just what is being done to keep their children (many of whom are living away from home for the first time) safe from such crimes. Raleigh mom, Angela Dunn, whose daughter attends NC Central University, tells her repeatedly never to walk anywhere alone, that “adults are getting killed everyday.” She also maintains frequent cell phone contact with her daughter. But neither of these practices will improve her child’s safety on the campus. Constant reminders about the odds of being killed do not offer protection, and they probably create unnecessary anxiety. Frequent phone calls also do nothing to increase personal safety. They may reassure the mom that nothing has happened to her child yet, but the very conversation could serve to distract the young woman’s attention from someone sneaking up behind her.

Universities themselves are taking steps to show that they are sincere in their desire to increase campus security and protect their students. UNC Chapel Hill has instituted Safe Walks, a kind of “buddy system” so students don’t have to walk anywhere alone at night. Other colleges and universities have similar security guard-accompanied escorts. But there are built-in problems with this system. The first is that, when not carefully screened, some dangerous individuals (such as rapists) have been given positions of authority and, it turned out, opportunity when escorting women across a dark campus.

A second problem inherent in the buddy system/security escort is that it undermines a woman’s independence. Let’s face it: college guys are not the ones calling for someone to walk them across the quad at midnight. Putting this kind of system into operation tells a woman quite plainly that if she insists on walking the 2 blocks from the party to her dorm alone, she’s taking a big chance with her safety and it’s no one’s fault but her own if “something happens.” It’s saying that she needs someone to protect her.

To the worried mom and the universities, I want to say, “What about personal responsibility?” What about encouraging young men and (especially) women to take ownership of their safety, instead of relying on Mom and Dad, or The University, or some other Entity, to do it for them? The best way for people to stay safe is to take care of themselves. Not to wait for help. Not to naively believe that bad things can’t happen at their school. But to be able to handle whatever bad things (or people) slip through established security measures. That could mean a guy who doesn’t understand what “No” means… 2 strangers knocking on your door, in need of “assistance”… or someone who jumps into the elevator with you at the last second and gives you a creepy smile.

How do people take control of their personal safety? By being observant, first and foremost. By looking around as they walk. (Did that shadow just move? I think I’ll cross the street.) By hanging up the cell phone and listening. (Are those footsteps I hear behind me? I’ll just stop under this street light and let them pass.)

Okay, now you’re paying attention to what’s going on around you. Your next move should be to find a good self-defense class, in case you have to get physical. Sometimes, just letting a would-be attacker know he’s been spotted is enough to make him back off. Sometimes, a strong, loud warning to leave you alone is needed. If he gets his hands on you, you might have to execute a quick punch to his nose and a hard run down the street to get safe again. Would you rather have that knowledge and ability, or press a blue light and wait for the police to show up?

RAD is taught in a lot of colleges. If it’s not at yours, demand it. Administrators talk about the importance of keeping you safe, about enacting new security measures and precautions. Tell them your personal safety is your business, and you need them to provide the proper education and training. After all, getting the best education possible is what you’re paying them for.

Could You Fight for Your Life?

Thursday, March 4th, 2010

Police have found evidence that California teenager Chelsea King was raped and murdered along her favorite jogging trail by a known sex offender. We don’t know if Ms. King fought against her killer, was rendered unable to fight, or froze in terror. Whatever the case, she should never have needed to defend herself in the first place.

A  few weeks prior to Ms. King’s attack, another young woman was assaulted on the same path, apparently by the same man. How did Candice Moncayo survive and escape? She fought until she could get away.

Moncayo was running along the trail when, without warning, she was tackled from the side and thrown to the ground. She said later, “I thought he was going to rape me, so I told him he’d have to kill me first.”

Whether these words had any effect on her attacker, I don’t know. But I do know that they reflected Moncayo’s willingness to fight for her life. And the very act of voicing them helped her survive. How? Because speaking or, even better, yelling, during extremely stressful situations keeps us breathing. Rather than gasping for shallow breaths, when we vocalize, we automatically take air in more deeply. This allows oxygen to reach our brains, so we can think clearly and make split-second decisions necessary for survival. It also ensures we get enough oxygen into our arms and legs, so we can run when an opportunity opens up.

The attacker grabbed her by the shoulders and shook her hard, for what seemed an eternity. Still trapped in his arms but unwilling to give up, she executed an elbow strike–and hit pay dirt. She landed the blow right smack into his nose, smashing it.

Stunned by the sudden pain, he stopped shaking her and loosened his grip momentarily. Seeing her chance to escape, she ran for her life and made it to safety.

I don’t know how Moncayo learned to use the elbow strike to defend herself. But I know how you can. Find a good Women’s Self-Defense class and take it. In RAD classes, we go over (and over again) how to yell and not scream… what to yell… and how to deliver effective elbow strikes–as well as many other techniques. We also cover ground-fighting and rape-reversals, so important for women to know. I realize you’re busy; I understand that the last thing you have the time and money for right now is a self-defense course. But this is your life we’re talking about here. Make your safety a priority.

An added bonus to Moncayo’s use of the elbow strike–it left a sample of the perpetrator’s DNA on her arm that police were able to swab for identification and evidence. Knowing how to fight for yourself–it’s empowering.

The Biggest Reasons NOT to Attack a Woman

Thursday, January 28th, 2010

Criminal psychologists, sociologists, and others who study human behavior have gone into prisons to ask convicted rapists and murderers how they chose their targets. What they have learned may surprise you. Attackers don’t look for the smallest woman, or the one who seems weakest. They’re not really concerned with what she’s wearing or how far from the store she parked. They look for what’s not there: confidence and awareness. Criminals are expert in interpreting the nuances of human behavior, and they can quickly size up who most likely will and won’t fight back.

Someone walking with her head down, perhaps with her arms crossed in front of her body, projects insecurity. Because she’s trying so hard to be invisible, she’s not paying attention to what’s going on around her. This leaves her open to a surprise attack.

Conversely, a woman who walks briskly with her head up, eyes alert and scanning the scene around her, signals, “Don’t mess with me.” According to many of the convicts interviewed, they won’t.

Imagine the following scenario: A serial rapist lurks in the shadows outside a shopping center. He’s assessing potential targets as they exit the mall and head into the parking lot. Who would make an easy victim?

  • First is a cute 21-year-old in a slinky dress, probably going to meet her friends for a night on the town. She strides purposefully to her car.
  • Then, there’s you, dressed for function rather than to impress, in relaxed-fit jeans and a comfortable top. You’re chatting on your cell phone with a friend.
  • And here comes an elderly lady, toting shopping bags and looking around the parking lot as she makes her way slowly to her car.

Who is he going to pick? Not the youngest of the three. The strong, alert way she moved indicated she would fight for herself. Attackers don’t want to have to battle with their victims; that’s too likely to draw unwanted attention and intervention.

He won’t choose the oldest woman, either. Even though her arms were full of packages, she continually noted what was going on around her as she made her way through the parking lot. She would see him approaching, and have time to prepare.

That leaves you. Because your attention is divided between your phone conversation and your walk to the car, you don’t even know he’s there. You’ve made yourself the easiest target for him to surprise, subdue, and violate–probably to the point of serious injury, possibly to death.

Don’t allow yourself to become easy prey. If you feel you need a boost in projecting that “Don’t mess with me” signal, get into a self-defense class designed for women. In RAD, everything we do is designed to strengthen that double shield of confidence and awareness.