There is a high profile sexual assault case going on in our Province right now. It involves the kidnapping and sexual assault of a teen girl by a man posing as a police officer. The young person was pulled over by an individual who appeared to be wearing an RCMP uniform, with grill lights on his car. She was informed that her vehicles tags were expired and was instructed to get into the back of the car. Believing he was a police officer she complied. Once in the car, she was taken to a secondary location and repeatedly sexually assaulted. Much later she was released by her abductor. There is also the case of the teen in California who was gang raped while attending a high school dance. They are two very different cases of predatory violence with some similar themes. It is important to note that in both cases the victim was lured or brought to a secondary location. Statistically your odds of surviving decrease rapidly by going to a second location. In this case neither young woman knew she was being led/taken to a secondary location.

Let me begin by stating THEY DID NOTHING WRONG. The very fact they survived their ordeal means these young women did everything right. This month I wanted to talk to you about predators and some strategies for identifying and avoiding/escaping them. I refer to predators generically as wolves. However there are different types of wolves; each with their own modus operandi. As a peace officer I have the opportunity to work with all types of predators and observe them in action. It’s a unique opportunity to learn why/how these types of individuals choose certain types of victims over others and our options for avoidance, escape or defense. Let’s just say there is a great deal of controversy in the field as to how this goal can be best accomplished. I’d like to provide you with my perspective.

Predator Dynamics

It’s important to understand that there is one common element to all predatory attacks, and that is they all require a victim; aka you. If you remove yourself from the equation as a potential victim, then the crime cannot occur. This is over simplified and is not always possible, the point being possessing strong Personal Safety skills does a great deal to reduce your risk of becoming targeted as a potential victim in the first place.

It’s also important to note that predators see you as a commodity, a means to an end (sex, money, property, drugs, status, and power) and nothing more. Working on an Emergency Response Team, I’ve witnessed and responded to hundreds of assaults, attacks and ambushes. Witnessing and dealing with these incidents as made a few things quite clear.

• Predators don’t fight fair. They use ambush, deception, surprise; shock and sudden violence too quickly overpower their victims and get what they need. They also use a variety of social engineering techniques to size up or gain access to potential victims.
• Not all predators are the same. There are some generalities that we can make about predators, but to say all predators are the same is dangerous and incorrect. There is a huge difference between how a group of gang members coordinate an assault on a rival and how a predatory rapist or child molester stalks, selects and acquires their victims. It’s vitally important to tailor your training and education and Personal Safety Plan to include the predator types that are relevant to you.
• Predators use terrain, tactics and surprise to their advantage. It only makes sense. A predator is looking for a resource (you) and to procure it in a means that places him/her at the least amount of risk.
• Predators are adept at recognizing those that are less confident, alone and unaware and taking advantage of their situation. Like their wild counterparts, predators always try to select the weak, unsure, unaware or those with no self-confidence. For the predator this greatly lowers their risk of retaliation, being caught or escape of the intended prey and increases their chances of success.
• In most cases the predator will have the advantage. Sorry; but it’s true. You can train and prepare for how to reduce your risk of being put on their radar in the first place and how to survive if you are targeted. You can’t however always predict who, what, where, when, and why a specific target will be chosen. Action is always quicker than reaction, so prepare yourself for the reality that if you are attacked it will likely be from the direction/angle you least expect and places your attacker at the greatest advantage. You may need to defend yourself hurt, stunned or badly positioned. Your attacker will already be in a highly adrenalized state and you will be at condition normal. Never assume that you will quickly or easily deal with an angry adrenalized predator. It’s a dangerous assumption and one that can cost you your life.
• Predators sometimes hunt in packs. Always be aware of the possibility that there may be more than one individual involved. Group dynamics are complex and fluid and can change rapidly.


As I stated earlier, not all predators are created equal. The con is the predator that most of us would likely encounter at some point in time during our lives. This is the individual that has learned that it is easy to get what they want through bullying, threats and intimidation. Sociologists may disagree, but I feel most criminals fall into this category. They see taking what they want from others as their right and are not above using violence to get it if they have to. A crack addict with a knife is just as potentially lethal as an apex predator like a serial killer. If you take nothing else away from this article take this; Never make assumptions. Cons generally get to spend some time incarcerated and learn to fine tune their predations while in jail. Jails are an interesting place. Put a bunch of people who victimize others into a confined environment and what do they do? The answer is they continue to victimize others. Predators are not above preying on other weaker criminals.

Apex predators are top of the food chain. These are a different animal all together. These predators are different because they’re motivation is different. They are still looking at you as a means to an end, but they are motivated by an internal drive or compulsion (fantasy) to commit the act. Serial killers, serial rapists, sociopaths would fall into this category. Often when I read reports of what these people have done it is difficult to link the act to the individual. Many of them appear normal, are reasonably intelligent and charming. Not the slavering monsters their crimes would indicate. Once again, Never make assumptions. Appearing non-threatening was likely what got some of these killers close enough to their victims to strike. Do your research there are some excellent publications that will cover the predatory criminal mindset in detail. You can’t protect yourself from something you fear and don’t understand.

Dealing with Predators

The best way to deal with a predator is never being viewed as potential prey in the first place. Easier said than done right? Yes and No. There are risks and resiliencies in all of our lives that increase or decrease the chances that we will be targeted by a predator. There are some excellent Personal Safety and Self Defense programs that can vastly increase your chances of avoiding, escaping or surviving an encounter with a predator and as a potential victim of crime in general. Everyone should receive training and education in basic Personal Safety and Self Defense. As I tell my children; it’s better to have something and not need it than to need something and not have it. Saying you’ll never be in this situation is not the same as the reality that someday you might.

You must do some personal research. Pick up a copy of Gavin DeBecker’s “The Gift of Fear”. This incredible book discusses the importance of “Listening to your Gut” when it comes to meeting and interacting with people. It should be on everyone’s must read list. I have always been impressed with Mr. DeBecker’s work as it is practical, realistic and makes sense. It’s a great starting point in your education about predators and crime in general.

Understand that predatory attacks do not occur in a vacuum. They are dynamic and the situations and motives are as varied as the predator. There are some general guidelines that will help you begin to understand the continuum of events that occurs prior to and after the attack. What I’ve observed is that in many predatory attacks there is a pattern that repeats itself time and time again. If you understand this and are able to disrupt the cycle, then you are removed from the pool of potential victims.

• The Approach. In order to be successful in securing a victim, contact must be made. Unlike what the media has led us to believe violence and predation look like, real predatory violence is different. The way to deal with the approach is to switch gears. When dealing with predators it’s a good general rule to always be ready to “throw the switch” because the quick blitzkrieg type of attack is the predator’s stock in trade. I have always found that when confronted with a potential predator maintaining a relaxed/I’m not a good target demeanor is the best policy. It’s easier for them to find another target than to deal with the painful result of a miscalculation in their choice of prey. Maintain Situational Awareness and consider your options. Always have a plan B and an escape route in case it all goes sideways.
• Predator Interview. This is how the predator initiates contact with the potential victim. Contact can take a myriad of forms and not all of them are obvious. We know that up to 85% of communications is non-verbal. Predators will use these non-verbal messages when conducting their cost/benefit analysis of the situation to determine who is and who is not a viable target. Self confident, aware, assertive people are far less likely to be targeted as potential victims by predators due to the personal risk involved in making the wrong choice of victim. Shutting down the interview is as simple as not playing the game. Don’t be afraid to be perceived as rude. Be direct and assertive (loud). Drawing attention to yourself is a good thing, predators generally don’t want witnesses. Eye contact and posture are excellent indicators of self-confidence, use them to communicate non-verbally that you are a bad choice as a victim. Keep your hands out of your pockets and ready in case you need to defend yourself.
• I’m a big believer in the; run if you can, de-escalate if you can’t, and fight if you have to philosophy. In order to harm you a predator must always have one thing; Contact. Keep this in mind, if they can’t touch you, they can’t hurt you. Always know where you are, where you are going, where you can find safety, or where you can safely run if you need to escape and evade. Directly and assertively redirect any attempt to initiate contact with you at times or places that are inappropriate or at which you are potentially vulnerable. This doesn’t just mean physical contact, be aware of other media such as the Internet where you could also be placed at risk. This all comes down to planning. You must think about how you will handle these situations before you are scared, adrenalized and possibly injured.
• Attack. When a predator attacks it will generally be brutal, swift and efficient. You must be prepared for the reality of how quickly and painfully violence occurs. You must also realistically train for how you are going to deal with it. If your training and education do not realistically address these realities you are being placed in a dangerously overconfident state of mind. Never make assumptions about how you will be attacked. I can tell you from personal experience, in all my years working with violent offenders; I’ve never seen a predatory attack occur in a manner that would be deemed fair or equitable to the victim. It’s usually from behind, when they can’t defend themselves or when it’s 5 on 1. Account for these factors when you are planning and training.

Taking yourself out of the potential victim pool is about becoming more self-confident, mentally tough, better educated and prepared. As I mentioned earlier, predators are looking for victims they perceive as easy, weak or controllable. As they look at you they are conducting their own risk/reward assessment and are making choices based on your reactions to their interview, past experiences and their level of arousal. If you are perceived to be too big a risk/threat, then they will likely bypass you as a potential victim. Self-confidence and mental toughness are skills that can be acquired through education, training, and practice.

The other side of the coin is learning the Urban Survival and Self Defense skills that will allow you to survive if you can’t avoid or escape a predator. It’s vitally important to understand the difference between Self Defense and the Martial Arts. Both have enormous value, but they are not the same things. Once again you must do your research. It is your life and your responsibility.

Training should be realistic, simple and make sense. There is no sense in spending time learning skills designed for the ring or sport and expect them to transfer to a real situation. They won’t. Let me give you an example. You know how to ride a bicycle right? Does that mean you know how to ride a high powered drag motorcycle, or a dirt bike on a track? The reality is that most “Self Defense” does not account for someone who is trying to repeatedly stab you with a knife or has already knocked you onto your belly on the floor with a strike from behind.

Training must incorporate the Adrenal Stress Response that both the predator and prey will be experiencing. Training should take into account the fact that the predator could be under the influence of drugs and alcohol and immune to a good deal of pain and damage. This severely impacts how you would need to neutralize them as a threat and what techniques are likely to accomplish the goal with as little damage to yourself as possible. You need to be realistic here. A wrist lock/nerve strike isn’t going to do anything to an angry, irrational man who is high on methamphetamine. Don’t believe me? Well, I work with a great group of guys on an ERT Team; we have a lot of years/variety of experience in the combat arts. We train regularly, we are in good shape, and we are experienced and motivated. Here’s the thing, with all of those things behind us, I’ve seen psychotics getting up off the floor with 500 lbs of peace officer on their back, arms and legs. The point is; be prepared. If you find yourself dealing with this type of individual, you’d better be ready to do them some serious damage or better yet run, because if they get their hands on you it could be very, very bad.

Lastly you must implement what you’ve learned and maintain your training. The best laid plan in the world is completely useless if you don’t use it. Proper training will go a long way to keeping you safe but you’ve got to practice to make it work. Continue to educate yourself on how predators and other types of criminals operate and why they are successful so much of the time. Learn everything you can about social engineering and how it’s used to gain access to potential victims. Learn from people who have real experience working with these types of individuals, because their insights could save your life. Keep in mind what I said earlier about assumptions. Not all predators are the same, nor are they looking for the same victim type. Everything is fluid and you must be able to roll with the punches. Always have a plan “B.

Kerry Sauve

Author's Bio: 

I am a veteran Peace Officer working in a maximum security facility. I am also the Director of StreetSense Safety and Security Inc. StreetSense specializes in Reality Based Personal Safety & Self Defense training. I am a 35+ year student of the combat arts and a nationally certified coach.