Debunking Myths For Self Defense

The other night while cooking dinner M told me about an article she had read and wondered if the information in it was valid.

As a side note, I found this conversation extremely heartwarming because not only did M read the article, something she never would have done a few months back, she came to discuss it with me. While we have a very good relationship and excellent communication, she rarely if ever brings up the subject of self defense. It is discussed only when I initiate it

Back to the article. It was a somewhat flippant post on a blog that was linked through Pintrest. Most of the article I knew was bunk. Things like the way a woman looks or the types of clothes she wears have long since been proven to be false. Women of all shapes, sizes, hair colors, styles, ages, etc have been mugged, raped and murdered. However, the part of the article I was unsure about was where the crimes most often occur.

The article states that grocery store parking lots are most often the scene of the attacks. Clearly(if you have been reading me a while), you can see why that would be of particular interest to me.

I did some research on the internet and found a few older, out dated sites that seem to generically support that idea. They said things like “on the streets outside of commercial buildings”. However, I did not have a lot of confidence in the sources, so I emailed Greg Ellifritz and asked if he could shed any light or point me to some credible resources. I wanted to be able to give M the best possible information.

He sent a very detailed response.

I am going to copy and paste his entire email here. I realize many of you are aware of what is truth and what is myth about women being attacked, but many, many people do not. I think it is important to let women know that this article is full of false, misleading and potentially dangerous information. I also wanted to supply some more credible facts.

From Greg…

It’s almost completely untrue!  This started out as an email that made its rounds rapidly around the year 2003.  I’ve had students ask me a bout it almost every month since then.
1] The first thing men look for in a potential victim is hairstyle.
They are most likely to go after a woman with a ponytail, bun! , braid, or other hairstyle that can easily be grabbed. They are also likely to go after a woman with long hair. Women with short hair are not common targets.
No evidence of this in any piece of literature.  The only time I’ve seen hair pulls is in girl fights and domestic violence incidents.  I’ve never heard of a stranger attack that was initiated by a hair grab or pull.
 2] The second thing men look for is clothing. They will look for women who’s clothing is easy to remove quickly. Many of them carry scissors around to cut clothing
Not true.  Clothing may be a factor in some rapists’ justification (“she was dressed like a slut.  she wanted it”), but ease of removal is not a concern.  If so, hospital patients wearing gowns would be the most raped population in the world.  So would any medical professional wearing scrubs as a uniform.  They aren’t.

3] They also look for women using their cell phone, searching through their purse or doing other activities while walking because they are off guard and can be easily overpowered.

4] The number one place women are abducted from / attacked at is grocery store parking lots.
False.  Number one location is in or around the woman’s home.
6] Number three is public restrooms.
Really?  Wouldn’t a guy garner a little attention if he entered a woman’s restroom?
7] The thing about these men is that they are looking to grab a woman and quickly move her to a second location where they don’t have to worry about getting caught.
Possible, but only in a “stranger rape”.  Most rapists are people who are familiar to the victim and the rapes occur at the victim’s home.
 8] If you put up any kind of a fight at all, they get discouraged because it only takes a minute or two for them to realize that going after you isn’t worth it because it will be time-consuming.
Partially True
9] These men said they would not pick on women who have umbrellas,or other similar objects that can be used from a distance, in their hands.
No research supporting this.
 10] Keys are not a deterrent because you have to get really close to the attacker to use them as a weapon. So, the idea is to convince these guys you’re not worth it.
True.  Punching with keys doesn’t cause much damage and usually hurts the puncher as well.


1] If someone is following behind you on a street or in a garage or with you in an elevator or stairwell, look them in the face and ask them a question, like what time is it, or make general small talk: can’t believe it is so cold out here, we’re in for a bad winter. Now that you’ve seen their faces and could identify them in a line- up, you lose appeal as a target.

Maybe, but no guarantee.  A better option is to be more forceful and direct in ordering him to get away.
 2] If someone is coming toward you, hold out your hands in front of you and yell Stop or Stay back! Most of the rapists this man talked to said they’d leave a woman alone if she yelled or showed that she would not be afraid to fight back. Again, they are looking for an EASY target.
Good advice…but most effective against strangers.
3] If you carry pepper spray (this instructor was a huge advocate of it and carries it with him wherever he goes,) yelling I HAVE PEPPER SPRAY and holding it out will be a deterrent.
No.  Keep it hidden until you use it.  If you pull it out and threaten me with it, I’ll cover my eyes, move in and take it from you.
 4] If someone grabs you, you can’t beat them with strength but you can do it by outsmarting them. If you are grabbed around the waist from behind, pinch the attacker either under the arm between the elbow and armpit or in the upper inner thigh – HARD. One woman in a class  this guy taught told him she used the underarm pinch on a guy who was trying to date rape her and was so upset she broke through the skin and tore out muscle strands the guy needed stitches. Try pinching yourself in those places as hard as you can stand it; it really hurts.
Doesn’t work if the rapist has a diminished pain response, is high, mentally ill, or drunk.
 5] After the initial hit, always go for the groin. I know from a particularly unfortunate experience that if you slap a guy’s parts it is extremely painful. You might think that you’ll anger the guy and make him want to hurt you more, but the thing these rapists told our
instructor is that they want a woman who will not cause him a lot of trouble. Start causing trouble, and he’s out of there.
Not a terrible target, but not the best either.  Go for eyes or throat.
6] When the guy puts his hands up to you, grab his first two fingers and bend them back as far as possible with as much pressure pushing down on them as possible. The instructor did it to me without using much pressure, and I ended up on my knees and both knuckles cracked audibly.
May work, but it depends on the situation
3. If you are ever thrown into the trunk of a car: Kick out the back tail lights and stick your arm out the hole and start waving like crazy. The driver won’t see you but everybody else will. This has saved lives.
 Most current cars have an interior latch to open the trunk lid.  I’d use this first.
 b. If you! u are parked next to a big van, enter your car from the passenger door. Most serial killers attack their victims by pulling them into their vans while the women are attempting to get into their cars.
Completely false.
c. Look at the car parked on the driver’s side of your vehicle, and the passenger side. If a male is sitting alone in the seat nearest your car, you may want to walk back into the mall, or work, and get a guard/policeman to walk you back out. IT IS ALWAYS BETTER TO BE SAFE THAN SORRY. (And better paranoid than dead.)
6. ALWAYS take the elevator instead of the stairs. (Stairwells are horrible places to be alone and the perfect crime spot).
Generally good, but not always.  What if there is a creepy guy in the elevator?  I had a student who was raped in the elevator of her own office building.
7. If the predator has a gun and you are not under his control, ALWAYS RUN! The predator will only hit you (a running target) 4 in 100 times; And even then, it most likely WILL NOT be a vital organ. RUN!
 Good advice.  The stat isn’t perfect, but probably pretty close.

26 thoughts on “Debunking Myths For Self Defense

  1. Great post, especially having Greg shed light or point to some credible resources.

    As a woman, I always find myself alert and aware of my surroundings. My eyes are always alert, I never keep my head down, never carry a purse, and watch everything. One must always show confidence.

  2. Most “mugging’s” involving women are actually strong arm robberies, defined by the use of physical assaultive and injurious force coupled with intentional theft or attempt thereof of the victim’s property.
    I completely agree with the comments regarding clothing and hairstyle having nothing to do with the victims, unless the offender has previously observed them and identifies them through this visual reference.
    One of the surest causes of injury to female victims is being thrown to the ground or pavement by means of leverage, i.e. slung to the ground while holding onto a purse strap or being shoved off balance and falling.
    Keeping a heads up constant scan of your surroundings, avoiding problem areas and staying clear of poorly lite parking lots or business, resident entry ways is a safe approach to personal safety.
    You do not have to carry a firearm to “be safe” or prevent yourself from being a victim, an unaware armed individual is also a potential assault victim. Look at the FBI LEOKA yearly references on LEA.
    With proper training, tactical mindset and desire to win a firearm can terminate an assault upon you or another victim, either through deterrence or action.
    Reactions is always behind the power curve of an action so mentally preplan and rehearse your responses for as many assaultive acts upon you or others as you can envision.
    Being seriously or even critically injured by gunshot, edged or impact weapon, fists or fall does not mean you will die or lose the fight to survive. Get mad, live to win and return home to family and loved ones. Recovery after the fact is achievable, resurrection from grave or ashes is by divine act.

  3. Excellent set of dos/dont’s… Now if people would just PAY ATTENTION to their surroundings… Get off the cell phones, get the earbuds out and PAY ATTENTION, but I repeat myself… sigh

    • Yes, exactly! My kids have to put cell phones, games, music away when we walk out of out car. I tell they have to be looking for danger. That doesn’t simply mean a bad guy. It could be a car pulling out of a spot or something on the ground they might trip over.

      • Excellent post. If only people would be aware that they are responsible for their own safety. Getting to understand that situational awareness is their responsibility is important. And yes, I recently had a conversation with somebody who thinks I’m nuts for taking my family’s safety into my own hands.

  4. IIRC, in Miller’s and Kane’s “Scaling Force” they point out that a large number of assaults on women DO start with a hair grab, that is used to pull her off balance and allow her to be moved backwards to somewhere ‘more convenient’. There are counters to that, but it’s best not to let people with hostile intent to get that close. However you also don’t need very long hair for someone to do this to you if they get that close and want to do it.

    • Kevin, I am sure that bad guys use whatever they can to their advantage. When I meet with Arete(the guy that is nice enough to do hand to hand and knife training with me) he certainly has grabbed my ponytail, but the thing about the advice in that article is that I don’t want women to think not wearing their hair up makes them less likely to be a victim.

  5. Excellent post. I hate seeing all those “good advice” emails floating around. Heck, even the “home remedies/alternate uses for common household items” and “lost photos of Pearl Harbor attack found on Brownie camera in forgotten footlocker” emails are 99% BS (I’ve got a Brownie camera. It uses 127mm film. There are NO developers ANYWHERE that will develop 127mm, so unless someone has a darkroom…so unlikely that your odds of successfully navigating an asteroid belt are better….). The problem for most folks, like me, who have extremely limited access to physical flesh-n-bone friends who can answer questions on survival, shooting, prepping, etc, is that we have to rely on what we find online or in books….and not knowing much of anything going in, its extremely hard to sift the nuggets from the BS. But I will agree that ANYONE’S first line of defense is to be AWARE. If you can see a potential threat, you can make moves to counter/minimize your exposure to said threat.

    • Of the many mistakes I made, not reacting when I was first aware of the danger was the biggest! Being aware is so, so important, but acting on it is equally as important.

  6. And if you’re running away from a perp with a handgun, run at an angle to him if you can. Even harder to hit a target that is moving in both axes. Probably if you can get 25 yards away, you’ll be safe from all but the “golden BB”, as the chances are good that the would=be rapist hasn’t been practicing at a range.

    MDA= Movement, Distance, Angle.

  7. That was good info! I caught the verbal engagement with a suspected perp you wrote about. I used to say to call them out with much as you reported old school. I came to realize that if you do feel uneasy and call them out with a “can I help you?” you just invited them into your space. Bad deal.

  8. Pingback: Blogs Roundup « DaddyBear's Den

  9. Excellent post,as usual.What impresses me most,was that your daughter came to you to talk about the subject,and trusts your judgement enough to ask questions.You have a rare relationship with your family,and deservedly so,because you didn’t let it rest,you became more informed on the subject so that you could teach her.
    Also “situational awareness!!”, I second that suggestion.That info works for everybody,not just women,everyone needs to pay more attention.

  10. Excellent advice as always. Be aware of the closure rate as someone moves towards you. Try a scenario with a friend and have him start at 30 feet away, then 20, then 10, and try and rush you. You will be amased how quickly that ground is covered. If you wait until they are 10 feet away you likely will not have time to get your weapon if you just stand there, saying nothing, doing nothing.

  11. Have not had time to read it myself yet (I have the Kindle file to read) but have it on good authority that de Becker’s “The Gift of Fear” is an excellent read concerning awareness.

  12. I completely agree with all but the very last statement. Significant damage can be done with a set of keys between your fingers. The idea is to “slash” more than punch, though. I know this because I nearly lost an ear and the back of my head was cut to the bone in several places during an in-home attack. Before I was armed I always carried my keys this way. If it’s all you have, make good use of it.

Comments are closed.