Self Defence Programs
Some people, especially if you have been the victim of violence, may find some of the subject matter contained in this article disturbing or traumatizing. If you are still in the process of recovering from violence and abuse, you may want to consult with a mental health professional before reading this content. The subject matter is also intended for an adult audience, and so if you are under 18, you should have an adult read the material first (parental guidance is advised for people under 18). This article addresses the subject matter head-on, so reader discretion is advised.
THE PROBLEM WITH “RULES”
We all have rules, concerning our personal safety, that we’d never do – e.g. we’d never let a stranger into our house, we’d never get into a stranger’s car, we’d never walk down a dark alleyway, etc. In reality, we’ve probably done all of these things – sometimes without realizing we are doing them. We’re very adept at convincing ourselves that our “rules” don’t apply to a particular situation or person and that adhering to them would make us appear rude and paranoid.
One “rule” that many of us would state that we adhere to is that that we’d never get into a stranger’s car. Predatory individuals (rapists, sexual assailants, etc.) understand this, and so would never present themselves as a stranger, instead reframing the situation so that they appear to take on another, more familiar and safer role.
When we first decided to adopt the rule, that we’d never get into a car with a stranger, we probably had a particular scenario in mind; one where an unfamiliar car starts to trail us, as we walk along a street. At some point just ahead of us, the driver pulls over – maybe opening the passenger door – and asks us to get in. In imagining the situation, we may have imagined that they tell us are heading in our direction, and it would be no problem for them to give us a ride – we may also have thought of our response, telling them that it’s ok, that we’re not in a hurry, that a friend is picking us up shortly anyway, etc. This, in reality, is not how predators get people to get in their cars.
Firstly we have to evaluate, and possibly change, our definition of “stranger”. A stranger is anyone you don’t know, or have experience of, how they will act and behave in a particular situation, context, or scenario. You may believe that you “know” a work colleague, who has asked you out on a date, however, you only actually know them in a work-related context – you don’t know them in a dating one. In a dating scenario, your work colleague is and should be treated as, a stranger. Your experience of them and your expectations of how they act and behave are limited to a very specific context: the work environment. You don’t know how they will act, react, behave and respond in a different scenario, and so in every non-work related situation, they should be treated as a stranger. If your boyfriend’s best friend turns up at your house at a time when your partner isn’t home, and you’ve not experienced them in such a scenario, then they should be treated as a stranger.
So how do sexual predators get women to “voluntarily” get into their cars? They change the context in which they are viewed as a stranger. Imagine a scenario when you are at a restaurant on a date, which is going great, and the person you have met suggests that you both go on to another location such as a bar/club to continue the evening, and this is something you wish to do and so agree to it. As you are going to your respective cars in the parking lot, your date suggests that you should both take their car, as they don’t mind being designated driver, etc. what do you do? Do you refuse, or do you accept? The person seems nice as well as responsible (they’ll be designated driver), and the date is going great, so how should you respond without offending them? Is the situation a safe one, or an unsafe one?
The truth is, there is no easy way to tell if the person is a sexual predator, but they are a stranger – even if they’re a work colleague. Would you ever get into a car with a stranger?
One Rapist’s MO (Modus Operandi) was to rear-end lone female drivers in out-of-the-way places. Our default behavior, when involved in a car accident, is to get out of our vehicle and inspect the damage – regardless of the actual situation, we find ourselves in. Once out of the car, this predator would suggest that his victims sit in the passenger seat of his car, whilst they both filled out their paperwork. The car was stolen, and the confused/distraught victim would then be driven to another location where they’d be raped and assaulted. We may all say to ourselves that there are things we would and wouldn’t do, but we never account for the situations when we would go against our better judgment – predators unfortunately do.
If you’ve ever gotten into a car where the driver was not somebody you know but was the friend of a friend, understand you have gotten into a car with a stranger. This doesn’t necessarily mean you were in danger, just that you are prepared to flout a rule which you intended to keep you safe. We all do this. This is why simply following “good rules” doesn’t work, and that instead, we should learn to make dynamic risk assessments of situations we find ourselves in.