Sometimes, we can sense an impending threat. Escalating abuse in relationships of various kinds, for instance, gives us many indicators – if we choose to acknowledge them. Sometimes, a “predictable assault” offers mere seconds to avoid, escape, or de-escalate a situation (e.g. road rage). Of course, there are times when we are completely surprised.
Our reactions to various situations are partially based on our assumptions about violence and how assaults happen. Some of these are insightful while others are misguiding.
To foster awareness, it is worthwhile to explore some of our assumptions about assaults.
Here are 4 points to consider.
When? Crimes often happen at night when darkness helps to conceal. Many assaults, however, occur during daylight hours including early mornings. A couple of years ago, for instance, a man posing as a salesperson entered a Toronto home at around 9 am and assaulted, two women. Likely, he reasoned that people are less guarded during the day. If he knocked on their door at 9 pm would they have let him in?
Where? Some people might assume that assaults happen only in “rough neighbourhoods” or in areas where an assailant can isolate an individual – walking paths, quiet side streets, underground parking lots, etc…. Assaults, however, can occur anywhere including very public places such as subways, malls, bars, busy streets…
Who? The assailant stereotype is that of an unkempt wild-eyed man, yelling or sneaking up on an unsuspecting victim. History tells us, however, that assailants can be well-groomed, hail from various backgrounds, and be very presentable and charismatic. Perhaps the most infamous example is Ted Bundy.
Why? “Motive” can be discernible, especially after an assault has taken place – a jealous partner, a stalker, someone with a personal vendetta… The motive is often less visible beforehand and, in many cases, there is no premeditation – acts of rage, crimes of opportunity…etc. You might simply be a random target.
Prevention is sometimes possible if we are aware and the assailant offers visible signs of aggressive intent. In most of these cases, our decision-making window is small. Self-defense training must prepare you for situations that defy our traditional notions of how assaults take place and to prepare you for the unexpected.