Senior Musings February 2012

Posted 02.07.11

You do not have to be a victim

BobbiMost of us grew up in safer times. If we lived in dangerous neighborhoods, the boys knew how to fight off an attacker, and girls were usually protected by fathers, uncles, brothers, or pals.

Recently we read about Jacyee Dugard, who was abducted in broad daylight, at the age of 10, and of women taken from a mall or on a public street and forced into a car.

Why don't they resist? Often it's because the attacker has a knife or a gun. What would you do, or advise your children to do, if faced with a criminal brandishing a weapon and insisting that you obey him?

Police advise us not to try to resist an attacker, but that applies to a situation where someone wants to rob you or steal your car. Certainly, you're less likely to get hurt if you let a thief take what they want, get as clear a description as you can, and call 911.

On the other hand, police always tell anyone that it's important not to allow an abductor to take you away from the primary location.

The key element here is a weapon. So that's what we have to consider, calmly and logically, and prepare ourselves and our children to react to.

I have a friend whose mentally unstable husband went berzerk one evening and slashed her throat from ear to ear with a machete. Her oldest child herded her brothers upstairs, locked all of them in a bedroom and called 911. She saved her mother's life.

This brave woman bears a visible scar on her neck, but she survived without any permanent damage.

There's a lesson here. You're unlikely to die of a knife wound, even one that severe, if help is called quickly.

So if you're in a mall or on the street and someone threatens you with a knife, insisting you go with him or get into his car, your chances of survival are much higher if you scream for help and resist.

What about a gun? Actually, your survival rate is even higher. Note how often trained police officers, taking careful aim, aren't able to take down a fleeing subject. It's very unlikely that you will suffer anything more than a superficial wound if you struggle with an assailant with a gun. Many times the attacker is brandishing a gun just to scare the victim. He doesn't intend to use it.

In any case, quick, calm thinking and a few basic rules of self-defense can disarm him. Throw the assailant off balance by shifting your weight and kicking, then hit the hand holding the gun. And keep screaming.

The key thing is to make noise, a lot of it. People don't ignore someone who screams or yells for help in a public space. Some strangers will come to your aid, but even if they do nothing but call 911, you'll escape serious injury and the criminal may even run away.

And what if you're stabbed in the side or shot in the leg? In a public place, you'd be surprised how many bystanders know first aid. You may even have a nurse or a doctor at your side, with security guards rushing to help.

Nobody needs to be a victim. Teach your children to think ahead, always look around to avoid suspicious strangers, and avoid dark alleys or other solitary places. But, most important, remind them to scream for help instead of letting fear take over.


Barbara Florio Graham is the author of Five Fast Steps to Better Writing, Five Fast Steps to Low-Cost Publicity, and Mewsings/Musings, as well as the Managing Editor and one of 18 contributors to Prose to Go: Tales from a Private List. Her information-rich website is www.SimonTeakettle.com, where you'll also find Simon Teakettle's popular blog.

Copyright © 2012 Barbara Florio Graham/Log Cabin Chronicles/02.12