Newsletter (12) – A Friend’s Story

A friend of mine shared with me this incident:

In Woodlands I used to live with my operators.. 8 of us. The sly guy chose to attack the slimmest and the weakest among us .. Freak(ed) her out . No one was home, not even the neighbors. She just stood there facing the door being touched by the guy .. The only thing we could do later was to make a police report and cry. He even had a scissors pointing at her back .. I cant remember how she got out of the situation but it was sure freaky.. I think she gave him money and asked him to go ..

… this happened in 2003.. Also, we suspect this guy has been watching . And also there’s a very long corridor separating us from the other neighbors.. So yeah.. It would have been hard to run unless we exercise self defence “kung-fu” ..

A couple of points from this incident I would like to highlight:

1) Freezing

As my friend related, the victim just stood still and allowed herself to be molested. If you find that surprising, and think that any woman would have been able to scream, run or try to clobber the guy, chances are that you have never encountered a genuinely predatory person.

I’m not talking about an angry customer yelling and screaming at your company’s service personnel, or the obnoxious jerk who raced into the parking lot even though your car was already heading in. Those are triggers for Personality Based Violence, which is very different from Criminal Violence. Don’t harbour the illusion that just because you dared to face up to some loud-mouthed jerk, talk down an irate customer or overcome a difficult opponent in a martial arts match, you will not freeze if you encounter a predator.

There’s something different, very chilling about a person who sees you as prey, who looks upon you the same way the Chinese consume sharks-fin soup, or as a breathing sex-doll or a walking ATM. Unless you encounter such people regularly (working in a prison perhaps) the odds are that you will freeze if you are unprepared.

Why would most people freeze? Freezing makes sense in a very primal way. In the days when the predators we were most worried about were sabre-toothed tigers, wolves or other carnivorous animals, freezing could allow us to escape an animal’s notice (if it hasn’t spotted us yet). It could also allow us to escape being eaten immediately, because if we freeze and the lion thinks we are dead, it might think it could come back and eat us later, and so give us a chance to escape. Most people who freeze find themselves feeling that because what they were doing (nothing) hasn’t killed them yet, so it must be working.

It may sound ridiculous to you, but don’t dismiss it until you have encountered genuine criminal violence!

So how can we overcome this tendency to freeze? The only way is by training, by scenario-based training. Such training has two objectives;

  • First, to get you to move, just move. Moving may just be what it takes to break the freeze and then allow you to take necessary action.
  • Second, to take a very alien situation and make it more familiar. The attack or the threat may be delivered by a stranger, but at least the form of the attack/threat (say, a knife pointed at your back) is familiar, and your body has drilled some form of response. This helps give you a better chance of making it through this encounter with criminal violence.

This, of course, assumes that you have been trained in scenario situations, not bouncing around in a boxing ring or performing empty movements to the air…

2) Secondary location

Notice that the lady was molested at her doorstep, with a long corridor separating her from her neighbours (potential witnesses and help). That made it an ideal location for the attacker to strike. However, things could have been worse. If he had somehow gotten her housekeys and moved her inside her flat, that would have been much, much worse.

You see, when a criminal closes the distance to the chosen victim (as I described in my talks), the location is still far from ideal. The criminal runs the risk of being interrupted by other people passing by, potential witnesses and help. What some criminals may try to do (if they think ahead far enough) is to try and move the victim to another location where they can give their victim undivided, uninterrupted attention.

And that’s the last thing you’d ever want!

So if you ever run into a criminal, fight like nuts to avoid being taken to another location. Nothing good can happen to you there. This applies even if the criminal has taken your kids hostage and is threatening to kill them unless you follow him to another place. Based on actual cases in other countries, the odds are that you are better off running away immediately. He may still kill your children, but he may think it safer to try to escape first. But if you do follow the criminal to the secondary location (the place of his choosing), he will most likely torture and kill your children right in front of your eyes, forcing you to watch, before he starts on you…

Having said all that, the example I described above is a very extreme situation, and you would have to make many, many idiotic mistakes to get to that point. The best way to keep yourself and your family far away from ending up in such a situation is to just live in safety. Don’t do things that can turn around and bite you later on (like doing the wrong kind of things with the wrong kind of people) and always be aware of your environment, the dangers and opportunities therein.

In the above account, for example, the fact that her neighbours were far away was seen as a problem. It is, but on the other hand, it takes away the confusion. Simply out, any stranger at the end of a long corridor, at your doorstep, is not up to any good. You should have already begun reacting to the situation way before the person closed in to put any bladed or sharp instrument at your back or neck. You can be sure it’s not your neighbour. And even if it is, that doesn’t mean that your neighbour isn’t a criminal. After all, in urbanized Singapore, every criminal has to live next to someone, right?

So that’s my take on my friend’s story. What’s yours? Does it bring any thoughts to mind or raise any questions for you?

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About Junjie
Musician, Martial Artist and father of two boys. Rambler, thinker and compulsive teacher.

4 Responses to Newsletter (12) – A Friend’s Story

  1. Brenda says:

    This article reminded me of you mentioning about your trip to the states with your mum for your sister’s convocation. Perhaps you may want to share the potential dangers lurking around when we are not careful in how we portray oursleves in the public.

    • Junjie says:

      You still remember that story? 🙂 Let me chew on that one, I am not sure there are that many learning points within that one story…

      • brenda says:

        Haha my 2 cents worth:
        1) Never hold on to a map while venturing into some weird places
        2) Never pose for any camera shots
        3) Never talk loudly in a foreign land
        etc… i think u should be able to remember the story and scenes better 😛

  2. Pingback: Newsletter (14) – 6 Tips for Preventing Kidnapping | Walk in Safety

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