Recently there was a very violent abduction/sexual assault in our city. While this is not surprising in a major city anywhere in North America, it is however sad that we rarely think twice about the impact this type of crime has on the victim and society after the headlines fade. I would like to state that anyone who survives any kind of violent encounter made exactly the right decisions. No one can or should second guess the actions/decisions of any survivor of violence.

There are some alarming statistics surrounding the crime of sexual assault that we all seem to be conveniently ignoring.

• A sexual assault occurs every 1.3 minutes in North America.
• One in three women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime.
• 85% of sexual assaults are committed by someone known to the victim.
• Only 8%-10% of sexual assaults are ever reported to the authorities.

We need to wake up because the “it won’t happen to me” argument isn’t working. In fact it is being proven catastrophically wrong at a rate of 683,000 times annually. If it is not happening to our wives, daughters and loved ones, then who are all of these statistics that keep on growing year in and out. I would like to share some practical Personal Security information with women in an effort to reduce these terrible odds, one wife/mother/daughter/loved one at a time.

Sun Tzu said “Know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a thousand battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle”. Believe it or not these words apply to your personal safety as well as armies, in order to understand and defeat a predator you must first understand how they think, operate and select their victims.

The psychology of violence and criminal behavior has long been debated and postulated about. For our purposes we only really care about how predators choose their victims and the techniques they employ to perpetrate their crimes. For a predator to be able to harm you several things have to happen;

• Something has put you on his radar. Some things are controllable; such as whether you choose to sleep with your windows open at night or whether you lock your garage door when you go out. Other things are not such as your looks, age and sex. Keep in mind that the majority of sexual assaults are committed by someone known to the victim.

• He perceives you as potential prey. Predators utilize a lot of Social Engineering and grooming techniques to determine if a potential victim is someone he can manipulate and control. I call this the interview. It works much the same way any good salesman would and is designed to gather as much information as possible, test for compliance and control. The easy way to deal with this is to short circuit the interview process. Know that these types of techniques are always trying to sell you something. What is important is not so much the message, but the context.

• He has access to you. Sexual assault does not just happen in back alleys, jogging paths and remote locations. Sexual assault can happen anywhere there is an opportunity. A great deal of our lives can be controlled through our behavior and actions. Ensuring that you maintain good personal security practices with respect to your person, premises and information reduces potential access for a predator.

• He has opportunity. In order to harm you a predator must have the opportunity to do so. Both opportunity and access are generally within our sphere of control. Once again it is the context of a situation that must be examined. Understanding this allows you to prevent yourself from becoming a target of opportunity.

I approach teaching Personal Safety and Self Defence from a reverse engineering perspective and have learned a great deal from researching psychology, criminology, sociology, case studies and interviews. I have also been a peace officer for the past 17 years in a maximum security facility and have learned a great deal about how predators stalk, choose and attack their victims by observing them in their daily lives. My goal is to teach women how to recognize assess and reduce risk in all areas of their lives and avoid being placed in a potentially vulnerable position in the first place.

I view predators as you would any large carnivore. You know they are dangerous so treat them with caution when they can’t be avoided. In my world we call predators wolves. They actively hunt for potential victims and often don't look like wolves. What is clear and common with all predators is that they are looking for easy victims that they perceive as non-threatening and controllable.

How do you make yourself less attractive as a potential target? First and foremost, make yourself less visible and potentially vulnerable to predators. There are some very simple changes women can make in their lives to reduce their risk of becoming the victim of sexual assault.

• Educate yourself. Take the time to take courses on basic self defence and personal safety. Attend an in-service at your local hardware store to learn how to properly secure your home and belongings. Read as much information as you can find on “Social Engineering” and other methods used by people to control others.

• Ensure that your home is secure and that any security deficits are corrected. (i.e. window bars, dead bolts, security screws, alarm system)

• Maintain good security practices. (Keep the shades drawn at night or always if you live in a ground floor or basement suite. Doors and windows should always locked. Always keep a charged cell phone close at hand).

• Maintain information security. (Don’t list your first and last name in the phone book or on mailboxes if you are a single woman. Use your initials instead. Don’t provide any personal information online or over the phone without first verifying who will have access to it and how it will be used).

• Maintain Situational Awareness. Staying alert and confident goes along way to keeping you safe. It means paying attention to your environment, the verbal and non-verbal cues being given off by others and to the context of our interactions.

• Have a plan. 90% of all security is planning, preparation and practice; the other 10% is action and implementation. Why is so much time and effort put into planning? Because if it is done properly it will substantially reduce your level of risk. Planning for your security doesn’t have to be overly onerous or restrictive to your lifestyle. A good Personal Security Plan is one that you will use everyday. If it is too complex and restrictive, then you won’t use it.

• Listen to your instincts. If you get that funny feeling when you are in a certain situation or with someone you viscerally don’t like, listen to what it is telling you. We call it the “Creep Meter”. Believe it or not you are an expert at reading human behavior. Your system is hardwired to pick up the subtle verbal and non-verbal behavioral cues all social primates display. Remember that sometimes wolves will disguise themselves as sheep, but underneath they still act like a wolf. It’s all about the context of the situation and interaction.

• Act fast. If you think you are in potential danger quickly move towards safety. Don’t wait or second guess yourself. The longer you wait the less options that you have available. If you have to defend yourself, end the conflict as soon as you can. Fight dirty and like your life depends on it, speed and aggression are the best way to go in situations such as this. This is where a well structured self defence strategy is invaluable.

While I know that it is unlikely that we will ever completely eradicate this crime, we can still take steps to reduce the number of victims and ensure that our wives, daughters and loved ones can live their lives knowing they have done everything possible to keep themselves safe.

Author's Bio: 

Kerry Sauve is a peace officer with over 17 years experience working in maximum security facilities. He has been active in the combat arts for the past 25 years. Kerry is a nationally certified coach and sought after facilitator. He has provided training and consulting services for Calgary's largest institutions, corporations and events. Kerry is the Director of StreetSense Safety and Security Inc. StreetSense specializes in full contact Padded Attacker courses for women, Street Proofing courses and Corporate Team Building.