A commentary by EXIT Realty Corp. International’s CEO, Tami Bonnell, with assistance from the Massachusetts State Police.
A female REALTOR® was assaulted during a showing at a vacant property. It was revealed later that her assailant targeted her based on the “glamour shot” appearance of her photo. He knew the property was vacant, he wasn’t asked for identification, nor was he prequalified. During the showing, he took her to the back of the property and raped her at knife point.
I want to share this information with the real estate community at large and be proactive considering this tragic event. I have been a martial artist for 30 years, I am the past-president of a battered women’s shelter, I have taught at-risk youth for the Attorney General and I have taught self-defense for several REALTOR® boards and for CRS nationally. A few minutes of reading and a few seconds of thought may help you to save someone’s life; maybe your own.
Recognizing an attacker
Your best chance of surviving an attack is to avoid it before it happens. Trust your instincts! If you think that something is wrong, do not ignore those feelings; take precautions. Here are some ways to tell if someone approaching you may be a threat.
- Proximity: Is he/she “invading your space?” There is a comfortable boundary we set around ourselves. When someone crosses that line they might be hostile.
- Eyes: Constant staring could be a sign of danger. Do you turn around and always find someone staring at you? Can you feel someone staring at you, even when your back is turned? Constant staring is a sign that a person has an intense and not necessarily healthy interest in you. Also, overt staring at your chest or groin is another obvious giveaway.
- Inappropriate friendliness: A clue to watch is if someone is acting overly friendly for the situation, especially someone you don’t know.
- Touching: An potential attacker will often “test” your responses by touching your arm or shoulder at inappropriate times to see how you will react. Make it clear that he is not to touch you!
- Neediness: Some potential attackers will test their victims by escalating favors into demands, such as, “I’m lost, do you know where this street is? Can you write that down for me? Show me where that is?” Acting lame or impaired are schemes also used to lure victims into a trap. If someone is at the door asking to use your telephone for an emergency, have them wait outside and call 911 for them.
- Physically aggressive: When someone you know moves beyond a level of physical affection with which you are comfortable, it could be a sign that he will not stop when you say NO! However, this sign may come too late.
- Body language: Watching a person’s eyes and being aware of their scent may help signal you.
- Gut feeling: Most women who are attacked say they knew something was wrong but that they dismissed it as just a feeling. You can sense when something is wrong, especially with someone you know. DO NOT ignore your feelings.
4 aids to boost self-defense
There are four parts to learning or using a self-defense technique effectively. When used together they could maximize your technique’s effectiveness.
- Surprise: Never let your attacker know what you are going to do. The chance of them blocking a strike or countering and escape attempt is reduced when it happens suddenly and without warning.
- Distraction: Add to your attacker’s surprise by making him think of something else. Stomping on a foot, poking him in the eye or biting him are all ways to take his mind off the attack.
- Escape: Twisting and turning are the easiest ways to release an attacker’s hold on you. If you use surprise and distract an attacker effectively it will make escaping his grasp easier.
- Strike Back: Striking an attacker should not be done in revenge; it should be done to help you escape. If you run from a healthy attacker he is fully capable of following you. If you incapacitate or injure him you will have a better chance of escape.
Areas to attack
When attacking a larger opponent, you need to maximize your striking power. Striking to an opponent’s chest or stomach will have little effect. There are certain areas that you can strike that are far more effective. When striking at an opponent, attacks to the nose, throat, eyes, chin and groin are the most effective. Knees and feet can also be effective targets to keep an attacker from chasing you. Combination attacks will provide you a better chance of connecting. It is harder to defend multiple targets.
What to say
No means NO! If ever you are being attacked continually repeat the word NO! An attacker cannot later say that you consented if you continually told him NO! and STOP!
These days, yelling HELP or RAPE has proven to draw less response from bystanders than yelling FIRE. People are more likely to investigate to see why you are shouting or if their property might be in danger. Fires don’t come back to get you so people aren’t afraid to get involved. A violent attacker can frighten otherwise helpful people from doing anything. Also fires draw people out to watch. These would-be spectators can unknowingly frighten an attacker away.
The National Association of REALTORS® is hosting free webinars on September 20th and 27th to help real estate professionals learn how to mitigate their risks. Click here to register.