Do supposed crime experts endanger your safety? Myth Busters debunks their urban myths, urban legends, and folklore that do you more harm than good.
I'll walk you through common sense, nonsense, and half-true crime safety tips. Beware: the news media usually dishes out a mixture of good and bad advice ranging from a dimwitted “expert” with impressive credentials to simplistic pap from a government agency.
Worse, safety tips floating around the email grapevines are almost always a distortion of expert advice, bad advice, or a total hoax. Here’s a typical widely distributed email list of safety tips (in Italics) and my myth busters' critiques:
“A self-defense expert interviewed a group of rapists and date rapists in prison on what they look for in a potential victim and here are some interesting facts.”
This Myth Busters' safety-tip list is already suspicious by being so vague – no names, dates, or location.
1. “The first thing rapists look for in a potential victim is hairstyle. They are most likely to go after a woman with a ponytail, bun, braid or other hairstyle that can easily be grabbed. They are also likely to go after a woman with long hair. Women with short hair are not common targets.”
FALSE: Rapists’ “favorite” targets are peculiar to each rapist – but they usually settle for any female they can easily trap. Opportunity is key – not some silliness about hairstyle.
Besides, even if it were true, what are women expected to do with this supposed fact? Should they shave their heads? And what about a woman’s limbs or clothing? Those can be grabbed too! And grabbing or immobilizing her limbs is far more strategically effective than grabbing her hair. This list is off to a dismal start.
2. “The second thing men look for is clothing. They will look for women whose clothing is easy to remove quickly. Many of them carry scissors around to cut clothing.”
FALSE: If this poppycock were true, more women in bathing suits would be raped. But they’re not. Besides, clothing is removed easily enough without the need for scissors. Again, opportunity matters most. And even if it were true, how could a woman use this “tip” – wear a suit of armor?
More to the point, since some barbaric males believe that women in Western clothing deserve to be raped, you should take extra precautions if you do dress that way, especially any clothing that impedes your running and fighting ability. See Rape Escape Options - Ultimate Rape Prevention.
3. “They also look for women on their cell phone, searching through their purse or doing other activities while walking because they are off and can be easily overpowered.”
TRUE: Being distracted and unaware of your surroundings is certainly dangerous, especially while in a lonely location.
4. “The time of day men are most likely to attack and rape a woman is in the early morning, between 5 and 8:30 a.m.”
FALSE: The US Department of Justice reports that most rapes occur between 6 PM and 6 AM. But even this factoid is irrelevant because many occur during the day. Why clutter up a woman's mind with useless factoids? I call them “clutter facts.” Again, rape is a matter of opportunity. A woman should always be on guard.
5. “The number one place women are abducted from/attacked at is grocery store parking lots. Number two is office parking lots and garages. Number three is public restrooms.”
PARTLY TRUE, but just another clutter fact. Most rapes occur in isolated areas – such as lonely stairwells, elevators, laundromats, bus or train stops, biking or jogging trails. A victim’s home also provides seclusion for a rapist during a burglary or invasion.
6. “The thing about these men is that they are looking to grab a woman and quickly move her to a second location where they don't have to worry about getting caught.”
TRUE, but just another clutter fact. A woman is either attacked in a secluded spot or is dragged to one. Everybody already knows that. What’s the point of this writer stating the obvious?
I’ve created this simple concept to give you a handy rule-of-thumb: a violent criminal is either a force predator or a friendly predator. You’ll instantly know a force predator – he’ll suddenly attack you from the open or from ambush, though he might first play cat-and-mouse while deciding whether or not to attack you. However, a friendly predator will first try to get near you to isolate and trap you... then attack you.
Many victims, afraid to appear rude, ignored their gut feelings and were trusting, easy, naïve prey for a friendly predator. Your tip-off is any attempt to get near you or isolate you in any way. Never forget that and you’ll never fall for a stranger’s lure.
See SET YOUR BOUNDARIES in Facing Danger.
7. “Only 2% said they carried weapons because rape carries a 3-5 year sentence but rape with a weapon is 15-20.”
FALSE: The U.S. Department of Justice reports that seven percent of acquaintance rapists and thirty percent of stranger rapists use a weapon to intimidate the victim.
But even a rapist without an actual weapon still has fists and shod feet that can bludgeon and hands that can forcefully subdue or strangle. 100% of all rapes involve force, threat of force, or coercion – no matter whether or not the rapist brandishes an inanimate weapon. See “What If He Has A Weapon?” at Rape Escape Options - Prevention.
8. “If you put up any kind of a fight at all, they get discouraged because it only takes a minute or two for them to realize that going after you isn't worth it because it will be time consuming.”
TRUE: Survival odds favor fighting back rather than submitting. Most rapists do indeed quickly give up and flee. But submitting may sometimes be necessary. Again, see Rape Escape Options - Prevention and also see Victim’s Options Overview.
9. “These men said they would not pick on women who have umbrellas, or other similar objects that can be used from a distance, in their hands. Keys are not a deterrent because you have to get really close to the attacker to use them as a weapon. So, the idea is to convince these guys you're not worth it.”
Possibly TRUE, but so what? What’s a woman supposed to do with this clutter fact, always carry an umbrella? It’s better to carry a readily accessible Personal Security Alarm (screamer or noisemaker) and Pepper Spray in plain sight. And far more important than an umbrella is a pit-bull attitude that a woman can always project.
Street-kids, though sometimes trembling inside, learn to swagger and act meaner than a junkyard dog. It’s all acting – the way frogs puff up, cats arch and hiss, and dogs bare their teeth and growl.
Pretend to be tough – and be truly ready to become a pit-bull if you can't run. The essence of survival is projecting a tough attitude that helps ward off a predator as well as helps motivate you to fight for your life like a mad dog if you must. See Stress Control - Acting.
10. “Several defense mechanisms he taught us are: If someone is following behind you on a street or in a garage or with you in an elevator or stairwell, look them in the face and ask them a question, like what time is it, or make general small talk, I can't believe it is so cold out here or we're in for a bad winter. Now you've seen their face and could identify them in a lineup, you lose appeal as a target.”
PARTLY TRUE, but flawed advice. While predators do tend to stay away from alert prey, the chitchat malarkey invites him in. Nervous “small talk” makes you look weak and gives a predator an excuse to get closer. Instead, be a tough target. See Victim’s Options - Posturing.
And don't think being able to identify him is always an advantage – eyewitnesses are often eliminated. Verbal ploys need to be far more strategic than babbling like the village idiot. See Victim’s Options - Outsmarting.
11. “If someone is coming toward you, hold out your hands in front of you and yell Stop or Stay back! Most of the rapists this man talked to said they'd leave a woman alone if she yelled or showed that she would not be afraid to fight back. Again, they are looking for an EASY target.”
TRUE: Ah, finally! Now you’re talking – with the mad dog attitude described above in #9. Simply imitate the most vicious dog you’ve ever seen and you’ll scare off most rapists. But if he continues coming toward you, you’ll know for sure he’s a threat and you can flee sooner. See Optimal Mindset.
12. “If you carry pepper spray (this instructor was a huge advocate of it and carries it with him wherever he goes), yelling I HAVE PEPPER SPRAY and holding it out will be a deterrent.”
13. “If someone grabs you, you can't beat them with strength but you can by outsmarting them. If you are grabbed around the waist from behind, pinch the attacker either under the arm between the elbow and armpit or in the upper inner thigh -- HARD. One woman in a class this guy taught told him she used the underarm pinch on a guy who was trying to date rape her and was so upset she broke through the skin and tore out muscle strands the guy needed stitches [sic]. Try pinching yourself in those places as hard as you can stand it; it hurts.”
HIGHLY DOUBTFUL: Just like a victim clawing at a strangler’s hands doesn’t stop him from choking the life out of her, pinching is far too mild a tactic to attempt while suddenly being attacked by a stranger. Besides, he’s got three other limbs to use as weapons before he even notices a silly pinch.
Further, I very much doubt the truth of the story. To tear through the layers of very tough fascia surrounding muscle fascicles and bundles requires the grip of a lumberjack or a pair of pliers.
Pinching might help convince a date rapist that you truly mean “NO!” but it surely won’t debilitate him – it’s more of an annoyance – if he even notices it. So go ahead and pinch a date rapist to emphasize your “NO!” but be very ready to immediately follow up with the following strategies that are far more effective. See Rape Escape Options - Ultimate.
14. “After the initial hit, always go for the groin. I know from a particularly unfortunate experience that if you slap a guy's parts it is extremely painful. You might think that you'll anger the guy and make him want to hurt you more, but the thing these rapists our instructor [sic] is that they want a woman who will not cause a lot of trouble. Start causing trouble, & he's out of there.”
TRUE: But the term “Start causing trouble” is far too mild. Attack him – Stun & Run – ONLY with ferocity – otherwise don’t bother. See Victim’s Options - Fighting.
Launch a sudden, maniacal attack on his most vulnerable areas – his throat or his four balls (eyeballs and testicles) – then suddenly run off howling to a safe haven. It’s highly unlikely he’ll pursue such a demon. See Fighting Options - Sucker Punch.
At this moment while you’re comfortably reading this, such extreme techniques seem extremely gruesome. Well, yes of course they are gruesome! That’s the point! You want the most drastically effective lifesavers instantly available if ever attacked. At that life-or-death moment, your survival instinct will roar to life to save you if you know simple lifesaving tools.
Think of the typical dead strangulation victim found with her killer’s skin-scrapings under her fingernails – she’d merely clawed at his hands – evidence of her fatal ignorance of saving herself.
Even if you ultimately lose, at least you'll go out with a roar rather than a whimper. Yet a roaring attack may very well save your life after all. See Stress Control - Willpower.
15. “When the guy puts his hands up to you, grab his first two fingers and bend them back as far as possible with as much pressure pushing down on them as possible. The instructor did it to me without using much pressure, and I ended up on my knees and both knuckles cracked audibly.”
HIGHLY DOUBTFUL: This is wildly impractical in the manner described. So what if a highly practiced instructor took a neophyte student to her knees? Big deal!
Think about it. A real-life blitzkrieg grab is too sudden to react effectively with such a precision move. And the first two fingers on a man are quite difficult for a woman to instantly find and overpower – especially while he’s got a second hand attacking you.
Many martial arts instructors get too complicated – especially with short-term students – rather than using the K.I.S.S. acronym: Keep It Simple, Sweetheart! Outside the artificial setting of the martial arts classroom, hand-to-hand combat is essentially a dogfight – and the meanest dog wins. See Stress Control - Acting.
If a man begins pummeling or grabbing a woman, she should “clinch” (bear-hug) her attacker so she can stifle his blows while attacking his eyes with her fingers. Trading punches or wrestling with him won’t work as well as clinging to him while severely injuring his eye before running off howling. It's unlikely he'll chase you. See Clinch-Attack in Fighting Options - Strategies.
Only if a woman is bear-hugged from behind should she pry off his weakest finger – the little one – and snap it mercilessly. Then proceed to shred his “four balls” (eyeballs & testicles) and throat and run off howling.
16. “Of course the things we always hear still apply. Always be aware of your surroundings, take someone with you if you can and if you see any odd behavior, don't dismiss it, go with your instincts. You may feel a little silly at the time, but you'd feel much worse if the guy really was trouble.”
TRUE: But, of the above 16 “safety tips,” only 5 are helpful (31 percent); the rest are irrelevant or illogical. The problem is separating the good from the bad and the clutter facts.
The worst part is that many people will believe all 16 – and have their minds cluttered with useless factoids and dangerously bad advice. And the above list is somewhat typical of most news media and email safety tips. Beware.
Ultimately, though riddled with holes, the above list of urban myths, urban legends, and folklore did allow Myth Busters to teach you commonsense safety tips and to be skeptical of news media and email safety tips.
A predator's biggest advantage is the naïveté of the prey:
• ignoring your intuition,
• worrying about hurting someone’s feelings rather than ensuring your safety,
• assuming mid-day is safer than midnight,
• fighting for your valuables rather than giving them up and fleeing (see Purse Snatching at Facing Danger),
• waiting too long to escape or waiting too long to attack the attacker to expedite your escape (see When to Fight),
• allowing yourself to be abducted or bound (putting yourself totally at the mercy of a criminal) – see Survival Options - Kidnapping,
• giving up.... see Optimal Mindset.