Verbal Self Defense for Women

Crime victims teach verbal self defense lessons in what to say – and what not to say.

The FBI says that the best way to deter a threatening predator is by distracting him in an abstract discussion in the present tense. The more he talks, the less chance he'll attack. Show yourself as a real person with struggles and dreams. That often destroys a predator's fantasy (BEFORE he’s in the heat of his attack).

A victim's fear and begging arouses a rapist. Show no emotion, don't appear frightened or arrogant, and keep the tension low.

Do NOT say:
• “You’ll go to jail for this.” He might kill his only witness.
• “I have VD” or “I am pregnant” – it might reinforce his belief that women are “bad” and deserving of rape and death.
• “What if I was your mother, sister, or daughter?” – it might trigger his hatred of them.

13-year old Esme Kenney was jogging and literally ran into serial killer Anthony Kirkland, spilling his beer. She apologized. Kirkland said he beat the girl and raped her. She didn’t scream or fight. Instead, she just talked to him. She asked if he had children. That’s when Kirkland said he saw the hated mother of his son and he killed the girl.


The diplomatic approach to defuse a confrontation is to avoid arguing or humiliating him and show him the respect he pathetically craves. You should speak simply, remain calm and use soothing words and tone of voice. Listen to him and repeat his statements to show he's been heard, then redirect the conversation.

However, a more assertive approach may be needed. Oftentimes, a woman is too docile when she softens a command statement by putting it in question form or apologizing, such as, “I’m sorry, would you mind stopping that?" Instead you must be direct, be blunt, demand, and never apologize. Match your tone-of-voice and volume to suit the situation with the short, to-the-point command, “Stop!” Don’t justify yourself, don’t leave room for bargaining, and don’t answer his questions. Act tough and show no fear.

The extreme is fierce talk. Hissing, snarling, cursing, and bellowing a profanity is the only language some criminals understand – best used with a ferocious attack. See optimal mindset.


Talking and acting tough (blustering) is a "street" strategy to scare others into obeying (or keeping their distance). It ranges from subtle posturing, scowling, and sullen speech to blatant swaggering and vile threats, such as, “I’ll rip off your arm and hit you with the bloody end,” or “I’ve got pieces of punks like you in my turds.” Such “street talk" is often a sporting contest of thugs trying to top one another's creative threats (“woofin”) and disrespect (“dissin”).

Though it sometimes escalates to actual violence, such tough talk is often intended as a bluff to avoid the need for violence (see Posturing). A true intention to hurt someone doesn’t require a warning – and may spoil a surprise attack.

Predators fluent in belligerent talk often seek victims who appear easily intimidated. The victim's best verbal defense is either talking tough as well – or calmly ignoring him while quickly leaving as gracefully as possible. (You may also pretend to cringe to set up a surprise-attack Stun & Run.)


Serial killer Danny Rolling got in through an unlocked window and, at knifepoint, bound and raped Janet Frake. She stayed calm, and asked if he would like to take a break with a cold beer. He went from a violent monster to being calm and relaxed. He started to remove his ski mask, but she told him she didn't want to see his face (fearing he would kill her). Rolling told her of his miserable childhood, and she told him bogus tales of her own past. Hours later, she suggested it was time for him to leave and he did. She was his only victim known to survive.


Serial rapist and killer Troy Graves slipped through security bars on a Philadelphia apartment’s open window and attacked a 28-year-old woman. He never raped her, mainly because she kept him talking. She asked him many questions to keep him focused mentally, not physically. She told him she had AIDS and he could die from it.

They were smart to “connect with him as a person” – that's often the major factor in spoiling a serial predator's rape/murder fantasy. But telling him that she had AIDS was risky – as the FBI advised above. Fortunately for her, “connecting” with him outweighed that risk.


The best verbal ploy is to pretend to cooperate with him until you can find a chance to escape. Here's another example:

Adrienne, a coed at Columbia University in Manhattan, was walking near her campus when confronted by a young man with one hand in a jacket pocket. He said, “I have a gun. Come with me and you won’t get hurt.” He wanted to go to a park further away from campus. He said nothing about rape, but she assumed it was his intent.

She also assumed that he truly had a gun. Even so, she didn’t realize she could have simply run away with scant chance of him shooting her with witnesses all around. Nonetheless, she hit upon a sly strategy.

Thinking quickly, Adrienne calmly said, “Oh, let’s go to my dorm room instead. It’ll be much more comfortable.” Surprisingly, he agreed. Walking along, she kept him distracted with friendly chatter. Approaching her dormitory building, she saw other students coming and going. Leaving him flatfooted and speechless, Adrienne suddenly darted screaming through the door, slammed it shut, and braced against it. He fled.


A burglar crept into a Chicago woman’s bedroom window, woke her, and told her he was going to rape her. She told him she’d love to have sex and asked him to get some beer from the kitchen so they could make a party of it. While he went to the kitchen, she escaped through the window he'd burgled.

SUMMARY of Verbal Self Defense for Women

Avoid the following verbal self defense (unless used as a ploy to set him up for a Sucker Punch – Stun & Run):

• Do not believe his promises. Never trust him. After all, a criminal survives by lying.
• Do not beg nor show fear – it emboldens him and tempts him to abuse his newfound power.
• Do not insult his dignity. That will certainly provoke him.
• Do not try to reason with a criminal – his values are very different than yours.

In all, you must guard against mirror imaging. That is projecting your values onto a predator without realizing how evil his mindset is (see Predatory Mind). Remember: we tend to see and hear what we want to see and hear – hoping for the best while trusting a deceptive predator. Instead, outsmart him.

Also see Workplace Safety - Risks & Remedies for more on verbal self defense – defusing a confrontation and maneuvering toward escape.


Deter a predator - beforehand - by carrying a Personal Security Alarm (screamer or noisemaker) & Pepper Spray in plain sight. Those pages tell you how to use them most effectively.

Pages related to Verbal Self Defense

Rape Escape - Rapist Types
Victims Options - Outsmarting
Rape Escape - Ultimate
Self Defense Techniques

See Liability Disclaimer for Self Defense Techniques

Crime-Safety-Security > Fighting Options Overview > Verbal Self Defense

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