CHILD PROTECTION OPTIONS
By George and Lisa Demetriou
Copyright © 1999 and 2003
Reprinted from the AWSDA journal, The Fisted Rose™, with permission of the authors
A young Long Island mother of 4 month old twins returns home after a visit to the pediatrician. Before she can remove the infants from her sport utility vehicle she is confronted by a man who tries to throw a towel over her head. She swipes the towel away not even sure if this is a prank or not. It is not. The man who had the towel also has a knife.
The woman watches the knife go up, as if it were in slow motion, and then plunge into her shoulder. She falls to the ground and fights from her back. As she attempts to get back to her feet she feels a second knife stab into her back.
She didn’t realize there were two attackers! The woman continues to fight with both assailants, while doing so she locks the truck doors with the remote switch, then rolls under her truck. By now this has apparently taken too long and been too much work for her assailants so they leave. They walked away, laughing. The woman suffered 7 stab wounds, a punctured lung and a broken jaw from this assault. More importantly she protected her children, herself and even her property. The emotion during the attack was anger- "These guys are trying to kill me in front of my kids!"
A Brooklyn woman out with a friend and the boys nephew were enjoying the park when a man walked up to the five year old nephew and placed a knife to the boy’s face. "Give up your money or I cut him", the assailant demanded. Naturally the adults complied, but the woman saw anger in the man’s face and noticed the robber was not leaving even though he got what he wanted. Suddenly the woman snatched the assailants hand, not wanting any harm to come to the boy. The robber was so startled he dropped the knife and ran. No one was hurt.
A woman seated in the back of her parked car feeds her infant child. While tending to the baby and waiting for a friend a man slides into the driver seat and proceeds to drive away. The car jacker ignored all the woman’s pleas to stop and let them go. The woman was terrified and felt the carjacker was probably armed. The woman remembered her cellular phone was in the baby bag and dialed 911 without removing the phone completely. She spoke to the assailant, asking where he was taking them all the while giving directions to the police dispatcher. 18 minutes later the police stopped the vehicle and placed the man under arrest. No one was harmed.
All the above-described incidents are true. As a concerned parent or a person interested in controlling one’s own destiny these incidents contain valuable lessons:
- These women had the "warrior spirit" to fight against criminals, even armed criminals
- Action is better than inaction when defending others or yourself
- It is possible to remain calm and strategize under extreme duress
- Your destiny and your children’s destiny should not be left up to some thief or predator.
What are you prepared to do in similar situations? Have you a plan in case some thug picks your family as the victims of the day for a robbery, carjacking or worse? I hear you yelling out there. This kind of thing does not occur often or doesn’t occur where you live. Well we don’t have the stats for this for two reasons. The first, if it happened once it could happen again. To this day the perpetrators from incident one and incident two are still at large. But even if they were caught these assailants did not invent this sort of thing. Carjackings and robberies are not uncommon. The other reason is these type of incidents can occur wherever there are human beings, you do not have to be in a so called "bad neighborhood".
Do not mistake the message here. This is not about trying to cause unnecessary fear or panic. In fact the message is a positive one. This is basically about awareness. The real life incidents described above all have one thing in common-they all have happy endings.
While preparing for violent confrontations while we are with our children we organized three main principles: Awareness, Strategy and Tactics. Everything done in Child Protection Options can be modified, added to or deleted, but it will fall under these three principles. It is easier to remember concepts, especially under stress, than having to remember every single thing you learned in some specific order. But everyone can remember to be aware (once they know what to be aware of) strategy (once the awareness is raised) and tactics (simple physical principles for self-defense and defending others).
Criminals, whether they are petty thieves or vicious predators, look for the "weakest gazelle in the herd". They look for the "easy" target. The people who commit robberies are not looking for a challenge. The first line of defense is not looking like the weakest gazelle in the herd. When you are truly aware of yourself and what is going on around you the bad guys will know. To a bad guy an alert person means potential struggle which is time consuming and noisy. The two great enemies of criminals everywhere are time and noise. Bad guys know that a struggle, especially a long, noisy one, could lead to police response or the involvement of Good Samaritans. Bad guys will go to great lengths to avoid capture. Criminals understand that a person who is not paying attention, the person thinking about bills, the children’s health, the argument they had with a relative, is vulnerable to a sudden attack. Yes, they can look at you and see you have other things on your mind other than the present moment.
The first way to make yourself a "hard" target is to be aware constantly. The time for pondering is not when you are out driving or walking with your children. Walk with your head up scanning the area. Scan while you are driving or more importantly, while you are waiting at a light or parked somewhere. Be aware of who is by your home or your car. Avoid activities that impede on awareness-driving while on the phone(unless it’s an emergency),running or walking with a walkman on, playing the car stereo loud, reading in the car (yes, we often see this one in the morning). Most of defending yourself and protecting loved ones is common sense. Yet we find that in many self- defense situations common sense is uncommon. Children have been abducted right out from underneath their parents. This could only happen when awareness goes astray. A heightened awareness may be the factor that sends the bad guys looking for another target. If being aware is not enough and there is an attack it is important to have a clear mind as opposed to one that is "cluttered" or fixated on one thing in particular.
TRUSTING YOUR INSTINCTS
Everybody is born with a tiny voice inside their head that let’s you know when something is very wrong or there is danger approaching. As we get older we rely more on rational thought and don’t trust the tiny voice, the instincts as much. Those instincts are there for a reason and will always serve you, but you have to listen and trust. Instincts or intuition has nothing to do with rational thought which is why people often ignore the signals sent. We may dismiss that "bad feeling" by trying to rationalize-"Why would he do that?" or " Nah, it can’t be." In her book Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom, Dr. Christine Northrop defines intuition as "the direct perception of the truth or fact independent of any reasoning." To truly understand trusting your intuition read the book, The Gift Of Fear, by Gavin de Becker. As soon as you’re done read de Becker’s second book, Protecting the Gift, which addresses vital information for protecting your children. Read these books and in the meantime when you have a bad feeling about a particular person or situation act on it. Trust the feeling. Do not try to understand "why?".
Pre-confrontation strategy is basically "hardening" your family as a target and mentally preparing to avoid or escape an assault, robbery, abduction or worse. In order to strategize at this stage we must place ourselves in the shoes of a potential assailant and recognize our vulnerabilities. It is human nature to relax (read: be in a state of dulled awareness) when we are entering or leaving our homes. This is an Area of Vulnerability (AOV). Who expects to get attacked on their own driveway? Not too many people. Yet it happens and not infrequently. Consider entering or leaving your vehicle. It’s been done thousands of times without a problem. Then one day while taking your child out of her car seat a stranger approaches and begins punching you. This is an AOV too. The fact that you are engaged in a routine, predictable action while remaining almost stationary makes certain places AOV. Realizing when one is vulnerable is the first step toward mapping out Pre-confrontation strategy.
PRE-CONFRONTATION STRATEGY CHECK LIST
- When possible observe the area you are about to enter before leaving the building you are in.
- Practice getting your key in the car door lock and house door as quickly as possible without having to focus on the locks.
- Practice getting children in your car and in your home as quickly as possible.
- Encourage children as young as possible to enter your vehicle on their own-under parent supervision. In case you have to fend off an attack as you are entering your car.
- Instruct children on use of an alert word or phrase to communicate possible danger. Yelling, &quo;tGet down" to my children while in a car will cause them to IMMEDIATELY drop to the floor without asking, "Why?". This takes practice, so make it a game.
- Look into your car before getting in or placing a child in. Bad guys have been known to enter cars and wait until an unsuspecting person gets in.
- Whenever practical walk around the entire car and look before getting in. Some criminals have caused damage that is not meant to disable a car immediately, but down the road, away from a busy area. Others have actually attacked women while hiding underneath the car. This is one reason why it is important to think about vulnerabilities. Who looks under their car before getting in?
- Make sure your car is well maintained and gassed up at all times. Carry spare key.
- Get a cell phone. Even if you have it just to call 911.
- Never pull up to the bumper of the car in front of you. Leave enough space to escape without having to backup.
- Scan while driving and while parked.
- In extreme emergencies be prepared to violate traffic rules to escape danger. If you feel something is wrong do not wait at the red light.
- Be prepared to place small children or infants on the floor of the car in order to make a quick getaway from approaching bad guys. As soon as it is safe pull over and make the proper adjustments.
- Do not get out of a vehicle solely because a person bumped you with their car or because someone told you there was something wrong with your car. If the accident was legitimate you can exchange information where there are more people around or you can tell the other motorist to call the police while you wait in your car with the windows up and the doors locked. If there is truly something wrong with your car you will see, hear, feel or smell it before another motorist does.
- When shopping put your children in the car before you put the packages in. This places them in a position of relative safety as opposed to being in a parking lot while you’re concentrating on what you just purchased. Some have said that this strategy is poor because a car jacker could take off with your child. Maybe. I know a car jacker wants my keys. Armed with this fact and knowing that the assailant expects compliance creates opportunities. More on that later.
- Consider this: It is very difficult for a bad guy to take you, your property or your loved ones if your car is moving. The less time being idle the better.
- Do not drive home if you believe you are being followed. A good way to tell if you are being followed is to make 3 consecutive right or left turns. It is highly unlikely that another motorist will do the exact same thing unless you are being followed. If you are being followed go to a well lighted, populated area.
- Visualize attacks and how you would successfully deal with them.
There is more to Pre-confrontation strategy but this is a good starting point. The idea is to think about things pertaining to family safety you may not have thought about before. Just visualizing problems and their solutions will give you more of an edge than you had. When you have heightened your awareness, trust your intuition, have your pre-confrontation strategy in order and things are going bad anyway it is time for Confrontation Tactics.
This is the "hands on" portion of the lesson. It is important to remember what was mentioned previously in this article Bad guys want to avoid capture therefore they want to avoid noise, time consumption and injury. As a chosen target you always have one thing going for you the bad guy thinks he has you beat already. A target is chosen based on the assailant’s perception that he (they) think they can get away with the crime with relative ease. If criminals enjoyed challenges they would probably have legitimate careers! A criminal may expect token resistance, but they will not expect a sudden, vicious onslaught by the intended "prey". Especially when you appear to be going along with the script that they mentally rehearse. There is a saying from where the authors train-"If I control your body I’ll beat you half the time, but If I control your mind for even a split second I’ll beat you every time. I will have taken too much of an edge." You can control an assailant’s mind for at least a split second by cooperating then going on the offensive just when the assailant seems to think things are going according to his plan.
If you have no self-defense experience you will want to find someone who can specifically help with this particular topic. Being a martial artist is not good enough. You want to seek out a person who trains for the reality of a dynamic, violent confrontation not the instructor who has the most tournament trophies in the window of his school. This should be well researched. Protecting your family and yourself has nothing to do with protocol, ranking, belts, rituals or sport. Parents are to their children what the secret service is to various dignitaries with one major exception-YOU ARE NOT EXPENDABLE! You have to survive in order to protect your loved ones. The following should be included when training specifically to protect yourself and your children at the same time:
- Where to position the children should I have to fight.
- Tactics if one or both hands are occupied.
- Tactics if my hands are occupied by a child.
- What can I show my kids to help themselves not get taken away by a bad guy?
- Tactics if the assailant is in the car with me.
- What if there is multiple assailants?
- What if a person is demanding my car and my children are already inside it?
- What if I’m grabbed as I’m walking into my house or getting into my car?
- What if the assailant has a weapon?
- What can I do if I’m grabbed from behind while I’m holding my infant child?
- Should the children run for help?
- What should the function of both parents or 2 adults be during an assault while in the company of children?
- What to do if an assailant reaches into the car while the car is parked?
- Discussing bad guys with the children.
- Tactics while walking with a baby carriage, shopping cart or stroller.
Gaining insight and increasing awareness regarding child protection can be done in a few hours. Training for a real situation will take time and practice. The training should include confrontational simulations (instructors with full protective gear "attacking" trainees in various scenarios) and a realistic environment (a bus, train, car, an elevator, a narrow hallway). Remember the actual incidents from the beginning of this article. Those women used their fear and anger for action. They kept their cool and employed the greatest weapon of all – the mind.
The chances of being attacked while with your children are slim. If it is something that concerns you then it’s worth looking into. Just questioning yourself about "what you would do if?" is a good start. Increasing overall awareness, trusting your intuition, and getting proper training is the winning formula. The goal is to have options should the bad man and your family cross paths.