About three weeks ago I had the opportunity to participate in Bristol’s CERT Safety Expo. The CERT (Citizens Emergency Response Team) program is comprised of civilian volunteers who prepare for and handle emergencies in our city and state region. The team, headed by Harley Graime, played a pivotal role in our city’s response to the October 29, 2011 snowstorm. They manned one of the emergency shelters where people could seek warmth, electricity, and food. There were a lot fewer casualties because of them and I applaud Harley and his team on their accomplishments then, and on their motivation to keep the Bristol community informed and prepared for other emergencies, natural and man-made. That was the point of the Safety Expo for them and they allowed me to share some information from my Refuse To Be A Victim personal safety seminar with people who attended.
The “quiz” I used consisted of five questions to evaluate safety awareness. How many can you answer?
1.What is “Condition Black?” 2. What is your Best Weapon? 3. What is the “Rule of 21?” 4. What is Forced Teaming?” 5. Should you answer the door if the doorbell rings when you are doing something and don’t want to be bothered?
While you are thinking of the answers, let me tell you a true story. A friend of mine and his wife were looking for their car in a parking garage about 3 blocks from a local concert theater in Waterbury. Although the garage was well lit, it was surprisingly deserted and it was night. As they started walking down one aisle, they were hailed by a stranger approaching them from the opposite direction.
“Hey there,” the man said.
“Hi…,” answered my friend, noting that the man was about 20 years younger, about 30 pounds heavier, and six inches taller.
“Are you looking for your car too?” the stranger asked.
“Yes…,” replied by friend, somewhat cautiously.
“You know,” said the stranger, “we come to these concerts looking forward to a good time with the wife; kids are at home with a sitter; and we forget whether we parked on the north or south end, the right or left side, and even what floor we’re on. It’s a good thing there are only three floors in this garage! What does you car look like; maybe I can help you find it so we can all get home sooner!”
“I found it; it’s over here,” my friend’s wife just then announced.
“Thanks, but we’re all set,” my friend said to the stranger as he started to turn away.
“Before you go,” the stranger quickly retorted, “maybe you can help me out. Will you give me five bucks for gas; the pump wouldn’t accept my charge card?”
My friend said that at that second he felt like he was “frozen.” He wasn’t quite sure about how he should respond, he said afterward. “If I refused him would it escalate into violence ? Would it escalate anyway no matter how I responded? I wasn’t sure about what my choices were!”
I asked what happened. “I gave him five bucks, he went his way and I went mine. And that was it,” he said.
I call this an acceptable ending to a potentially dangerous situation. It was a “teaching experience” for both me and my friend. He had a number of choices with which to respond and he chose one he was most comfortable with at that time. He had other options though. And the discussion points of this encounter contain answers to most of the Safety Awareness questions above.
The feeling of being “frozen” is often due to being in a state of denial. As a potential crime is unfolding thoughts run through your mind,”I can’t believe this is happening! It can’t be happening to me! This is surreal! This must be a dream! Things like this don’t happen to me!” And you a literally “frozen” in place not knowing how to answer the potential threat. The danger is that you are losing valuable time with which to prepare for your defense! This is “Condition Black.” Make no mistake ; you must get past denial to survive!
Deliberate quickly what your options are, then take decisive action to handle the threat. Mentally, and ideally physically, preparing for such encounters ahead of time helps to partially or completely remove the time lost because of denial. And as a result, you have a better chance at surviving the encounter. Remember: Denial – Deliberation – Decisive Action.
The younger, taller, heavier stranger used Forced Teaming strategy in getting my friend to part with his money. In Forced Teaming the criminal uses words like “we,” “us,” “our” to subconsciously suggest that he is like you. And if you like yourself, you’ll like him too! This works to decrease alertness, awareness, and make the victim more vulnerable to crime. See his vocabulary when he first greeted my friend. There are seven other strategies listed by Gaven DeBecker in his book The Gift of Fear and we discuss them in the Refuse To Be A Victim (RTBAV) course!
Your Best Weapon is your mind, your brain! Everything else, whether it is as simple as a pen to poke into the soft tissues of the face and neck, or as sophisticated as an electronic stun device or firearm, is a “tool.” The “tools” can help improve the effectiveness of your “weapon” when used properly. We discuss rules for using your “tools” properly in the RTBAV course. Also note that my friend did not let “his mind be embarrassed by his ego!” If five bucks circumvents a violent situation, the investment is worth it. How to use this “chump change” or “mugger money” is also discussed!
The “Rule of 21” refers to the fact that the average criminal, of the average age, with the average ability, can cover 21 feet in 1 – 1.5 seconds. Distance is safety and keeping your distance from a potential criminal will help defuse the situation. Remember, now he doesn’t have the element of surprise. Be aware, however, that if it takes you 2 seconds to take your pepper spray from your pocket or purse, you want to keep 40 feet (on average) between you and the assailant. Otherwise you may find yourself not only unable to draw and use your tool, your hand many also be trapped in your pocket and unable to defend yourself!
These and literally hundreds of other crime-prevention suggestions are provided in the Refuse To Be A Victim seminar. I hope you’ll let me share them with you! See the seminar schedule in this blog site.