Fear is the mother of safety

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Trust your instincts …. and survive.

There are countless stories of women who accept help from a stranger – be it carrying heavy bags or helping with a car breakdown – only to find themselves the victim of an assault or rape.

But the gift of fear doesn’t only relate to women – it applies equally to men. “There’s a universal code of violence and the means to break that code is inside you,” writes US security expert and author Gavin de Becker in The Gift of Fear. “When asking people who’ve suffered violence, ‘Did you see it coming?’, they usually reply, ‘No, it came out of nowhere.’ But after a while, they’ll add, ‘I felt uneasy when I first met that guy.’”

The capable face-to-face criminal is an expert at keeping his victim from seeing red-flag signals. So, don’t be deceived.

Survival tips
De Becker lists fundamental survival know-how.

Forced teaming: Attackers often use the word ‘we’. This is deliberate teaming, projecting a shared purpose or experience where none exists. It’s one of the most sophisticated manipulations. Eg. ‘Both of us’ or “How are we going to handle this?” Forced teaming is about rapport-building, which is generally perceived as admirable, when in fact it’s usually self-serving.

Charm: Yet another overrated ability – and it is an ability, not an inherent feature of one’s personality. Almost always a directed instrument, charm, like rapport-building, has motive – to control by allure or attraction. Think of charm as a verb, not a trait.

One way to charm is with a smile, called ‘the most typical disguise in masking emotions’. Niceness doesn’t equal goodness. Take note, niceness is a strategy of social interaction, not a character trait. Unsolicited niceness often has a discoverable motive. Therefore, the advice is to rebuff an unwanted approach explicitly.

Too many details: People who want to deceive often use a simple technique: too many details – providing titbits of their life in unwarranted situations. When people are telling the truth, they don’t feel doubted, so they don’t feel the need to elaborate. However, when people are lying, they keep on talking to disguise the lack of credibility.

Should you be approached by a stranger, no matter how engaging he/she might be, never lose sight of the fact that he/she is a stranger.

Self-defence
At the core of self-defence is this basic concept: get out if you can. It really is as simple as that. There are no bonus points for beating up the bad guy. There’s no special award for meeting the police with the attacker on the ground next to you. The only reward in a violent attack is the ability to survive and continue to live a life afterwards.

A violent attack is often unexpected and extremely fluid. Despite any previous training that the victim may have had, there will most certainly be a brief moment of shock that results in a very slow, or non-existent, response to the threat. This happens when the brain attempts to catch up to the real-time situation. That process could take less than a second, or it could take minutes.

When the victim is able to re-engage and begin to defend him- or herself, the main objective is to get away. Anyone who’s been involved in an attack or has been dedicated to training with realistic scenarios will testify that an attack can take place in any number of unpredictable stages, situations or environments.

The bottom-line is, trust your instincts. Nobody can advise what would be best for you in a hazardous situation, because they wouldn’t have all the information. But you’ll have all of it – and the wisdom that comes from having heard it all by listening to yourself.