When Strangers Approach

December 2015

Overview

Most people in the world are good and would never intentionally harm another human being. However, there are people out there who are predators who seek to harm, sexually assault and possibly murder innocent strangers. Although you may never encounter one of these individuals, it is best to be prepared and to have a plan. This article describes several scenarios and possible defensive tactics that can be used to thwart the attack.

For all of these situations, it is important to be alert and to listen to your intuition. In Gavin DeBecker’s book The Gift of Fear, he interviewed multiple women who survived near fatal sexual assaults. In all of the cases analyzed, the women sensed they were going to be attacked but ignored their instincts in an effort to be polite. It is critical to listen to and trust your instincts; if someone is making you feel threatened or is trying to put you in a dangerous situation, you need to be assertive with both your words and your actions.

Approached by a Stranger on the Street – “You could be a model!”

Recently in New York City, a tactic to lure women into a potentially dangerous situation is for men to approach them on the street with an offer of acting, modeling or voice over jobs. They represent themselves as agents for large well-known companies and say they have high paying positions that need to be filled. They attempt to get the women to come to their car with an offer of a business card or brochure. Once at the car, they attempt to lure the women into the car.

Fortunately, most women see through this tactic immediately. Below are the appropriate actions to take in this situation:

  1. Stop the conversation immediately and state you have no interest in further discussion. There is no need to be polite! If they persist, let them know you are going to call the police.
  2. Get a description of the person and the location of the incident. Elements to take note of are:
    1. Age
    2. Height
    3. Eye color
    4. Ethnicity
    5. Clothing
    6. Hair style
    7. Accent or speech pattern
    8. Scars
    9. Tattoos or piercings
    10. Other distinctive characteristics
  3. Notify the Front Desk Security Officer at any of the LIM College buildings and notify a College Official such as the Dean of Student Affairs, the Director of HR or a professor.
  4. If not near an LIM College facility, go to a safe place and notify the police by calling 911. Then report the incident to an LIM College Official.
  5. Let friends know that this has happened and how you handled the situation.

Approached by a Stranger in a Car – “You need a lift?”

Another common scenario is for men to approach women and offer them a ride or ask for directions. They may pull up slowly from behind and then make the offer. Here are some appropriate tactics:

  1. Turn and walk the other way.
  2. Get a description of the person and the vehicle (color, make, model, year and license plate).
  3. Notify the Front Desk Security Officer at any of the LIM College buildings and notify a College Official such as the Dean of Student Affairs, the Director of HR or a professor.
  4. If not near an LIM College facility, go to a safe place and notify the police by calling 911. Then report the incident to an LIM College Official.
  5. Let friends know that this has happened and how you handled the situation.

Attempt to Force a Victim into a Car or Van – “Get in or I will shoot you!”

A far less common and much more aggressive tactic is to try to physically force a potential victim into a vehicle. This may be in the form of a surprise attack where the attacker waits for the victim to get near the vehicle in a parking lot or on the street and then grabs the victim attempting to physically force him or her into the vehicle.  Here are some appropriate tactics.

  1. Yell as loud as possible saying “STOP” and “Help.”
  2. Try to get away – fight as hard as possible.
  3. If escape is not possible, get to the ground and resist getting into the vehicle
  4. Keep fighting even if the attacker says he has a knife or a gun.  The attacker doesn’t want to seriously hurt the victim right away. The goal is to get the victim into the car alive and uninjured.
  5. Get to a safe place and call 911.
  6. Notify a LIM College Official.

These scenarios are scary to think about but it is best to have a plan prior to potential attacks. Knowledge and preparation is powerful and your immediate actions in the face of danger can prevent possible attacks. It is also important to notify the police and LIM College Officials when incidents such as these occur. The College is working hard to keep all students, faculty and staff safe and coming forward with information helps identify trends and prevent future crime. An important part of being safe is to be alert and to listen to your instincts – if someone is causing you to feel unsafe or threatened, it is appropriate to be rude and actively remove yourself from the situation.