We’re all potential victims
Roger Dunn* thought nothing of it when a white pickup truck pulled alongside his sedan on an Illinois expressway—until the driver tried to run him off the road. With his wife in the passenger seat and his two kids, ages 11 and 7, in the back, Dunn was desperate to avoid a confrontation with a maniac. So he took the next exit. His antagonist did the same.
As the pickup tailed him, Dunn pulled over, hoping that the driver would pass him. Instead, he skidded to a halt, threw the gear into reverse, and tried ramming Dunn’s car.
“I thought this was it,” said Dunn. “My daughter and wife were screaming. My son was praying.”
Dunn drove off, weaving in and out of traffic. He took a turn too wide, lost control of the car, and spun it around, coming to a cold stop in an intersection. When the pickup flew over a curb, barely missing him, Dunn hit the gas again. This time, he noticed a police car outside a strip mall and turned in. Minutes later, the driver, who was drunk, was arrested. Dunn never did find out why he went berserk.
The frightening thing about this true story, which came from a Reader’s Digest reader, is that it can happen to any of us. We’re all potential victims of crime.
Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, a former West Point psychology professor, has interviewed thousands of people who’ve survived life-and-death situations. The one thing they had in common was a game plan. “They had decided ahead of time what they were going to do—run, fight, or whatever it took to survive,” explains Grossman. “So at the moment of truth, they were not paralyzed.”
Grossman is not talking about living in fear. He’s talking about being smart. For example, if you’re taking a road trip like the Dunns were, program police stations and hospitals into your car’s GPS—the press of a button will direct you to safety.
Here are more tips for avoiding, defusing, and escaping threatening situations. It’s everything you need to know to become your own bodyguard.
Teach yourself these self-defense moves that could save your life.
Maintain a circle of awareness
“Criminals are looking for easy victims, people who aren’t paying attention,” says Thomas Taylor, a security expert who has helped protect every U.S. president since Gerald Ford. So turn the tables on them. If you’re in a crowd, keep an eye out for anyone who “separates himself by his behavior, his dress, or his manner,” he says. “Ask yourself, who here gets my attention? Listen to your intuition.”
Taylor’s team actually assigns names to certain suspect types, like:
- The Organizer: Somebody who is reaching into a bag or a coat pocket, something most people wouldn’t do if they’re at a concert or watching a speaker. It might be something a robber would do right before pulling out a weapon.
- The Secret Team: Two or more nonadjacent people signaling each other through gestures or eye contact.
- The Grouch: Someone other people in the crowd are avoiding because of behavior, smell, or style of dress.
- The Inspector: Someone who is watching security instead of the event.