In the now 10-year-old book The Gift of Fear, author Gavin de Becker gives example after example of women becoming prey to dangerous men because they wanted to be polite. You don't need to be polite. Politeness can get you placed in a trunk and carried to the woods and it's over. Instead, you need to listen to your gut and maintain some best practices in your daily routines. You can apologize for unnecessary rudeness, but you can't come back to life. My wife and I often receive questions from people, women especially, about how to protect themselves and how to avoid becoming a victim of violent attack. The Eliza Fletcher abduction in Memphis and the nearly-weekly reports of violence against women, illustrate just how important it is to keep your eyes and intuitions open so you don't become a statistic.
Politeness is No Virtue. Wariness is No Vice.
The first thing to know about predators is that they like easy prey, especially human predators. They don't want to go after the kind of person who is going to draw attention or put up a good fight. So an unknown man suddenly appearing to "help" you, for instance, should probably throw up a red flag and put you into defensive, security mode. Here's a rule: Any unknown man suddenly appearing or showing too much interest should be treated as a threat, and threats should not be treated with kindness or politeness. If somehow you find out you were wrong, you can always apologize later. Remember: It's okay to maintain an outward appearance of irritation in strange situations. It'll make the groomers think twice.
Guilt Trips Are Red Flags
If you've ever been to a car dealership and started showing interest in a car, you've probably also experienced the pressure tactics employed by the salesperson when you said you'd "think about it." They make you feel like you've wasted their time, like it's your responsibility that they won't be able to feed their kids, etc. These are called high-pressure sales tactics. While we're not saying that all car salesmen are murderous predators, high-pressure sales tactics are part of the grooming process of dangerous people who are trying to force their way into your life through guilt. So, view those guilt feelings as a prompt to get yourself and your loved ones away from that person. Remember: Trust is earned so distrust should be your default—especially of men (and even women) who seem to want to invade your space.
Keep Your Information Private
Predators like to stalk their prey, and you need to throw off the scent of any potential attacker. This means being aware even of who is watching you get in your car in a parking lot. And if an obvious weirdo is watching you, you might want to do a U-turn back into the store instead of him seeing your car and following you. Don't tell strangers at airports or other hubs what hotel you're staying at or how long you're in town, etc. Don't broadcast your room number at the front desk, the elevator, or anywhere. Be careful about your use of alcohol in those situations as well.
Don't Knowingly Walk Into Dangerous Situations
We have friends who like to go on walks alone in the woods, and some of those friends like to wear their headphones. Walking alone in the woods and not being able to hear what's happening around you could make you a pretty easy target. And this brings up a great point-- Avoid going places alone where you are vulnerable to threats, and, no matter where you're going, maintain situational awareness. Allow your senses to do their job of protecting you and giving you time to respond to threats.
Use Your Alarm System Appropriately
Alarm systems should be set any time you leave the house and whenever you're home inside. Of course you don't want to be awakened to a home invasion, but you also don't want to walk into an ambush when you return home from the grocery store or while asleep by some guy slithering out of hiding. And if you don't have an alarm system, you should get one. Take our security test. Train Hard. Train Smart. Don't be afraid to be rude.