Thursday, April 4, 2013

A Close Call and the Five Stages of Violent Crime

Happy Thursday to everyone.

I debated whether or not to write this blog post, but ultimately, I decided to because although it's weird and uncomfortable to write about, I think this information is so important for all of us to think about, especially women.  So here we go...

Last night, I was at the YMCA with my family for our kids' swimming lessons.  We use the family locker room, which is a large cinderblock room with several small shower rooms. 

After getting my kids showered and dressed after the class, my husband herded them out and I stayed at the large mirror doing my hair and makeup for my bartending shift. 

All of the other families had left, and I was putting on some eyeliner when a guy walked in.  He was in his mid-thirties, shirtless and tattooed and wearing swim trunks.  He strolled over to me and said, "Are there showers in here?"  I pointed to the various shower rooms, and he said, "Pretty weird they have men and women showering together, huh?"

Somewhere in my mind, little alarm bells were going off. 

I said, "Yeah, well, it's the family locker room."

He walked behind me, watching me in the mirror and opened up a couple of the shower doors to my left.  He made a little small talk while keeping his eyes on me: "I really need to relax.  I've been looking for a job all day, and I think I found one at McDonald's.  A job's a job, right?"

At this point, I started thinking, "What's this guy going to do to me? I'll scream and fight back".  And then I realized that he was a lot bigger than me, and I was alone in a cinderblock room with a heavy metal door. 

He crossed behind me, slowly, and headed to the other bank of showers and peeked his head into one of the rooms.

He turned around, took a step directly towards me, and I ran.  I grabbed my stuff and literally ran for the door. 

He didn't follow me.

I reported him to the front desk, and got the hell out of there. 

Long story short.  Nothing happened. 

A while back, I stumbled on a website that listed the Five Stages of Violent Crime.

I reread it this morning, and was shocked at how typical this guy's pattern of behavior was for a predator, and I want to make we all know how to spot these signs, and most importantly, to trust your instincts.

The Five Stages of Violent Crime
The Five Stages of Violent Crime is an internationally recognized system to identify if -- and determine when and if -- you are being set up for a crime or violence.
1.  Intent
This is where the person crosses a normal mental boundary. From this point, the person is mentally prepared to commit violence in order to get what he wants – whatever that may be. Often a person who has decided to commit a physical assault is either looking for an excuse to attack or is trying to hide his intentions until he is in position.In other words, he's ready, willing and able to become violent. If you are willing to spend the time to learn the body's cues such a person is incredibly easy to spot. They will literally stand out like lighthouse on a dark night -- and once identified, you don't want to stay around.
 The way this guy was prowling around behind me, making extended eye contact, and generally acting suspicious were all signs of his possible intent.

2.  Interview
This is where the criminal decides if you are safe to attack.
There are five types of interviews, but the guy's behavior last night definitely fell under the "Regular" interview:
 The criminal will approach you under the guise of normalcy, i.e., needing information or small item (e.g. matches). This is a distraction. While he is talking, he is not only getting in position to attack, but a) checking your awareness about what he is doing and b) your commitment to defending yourself.
3.  Positioning
This is the criminal putting himself in a place where he can successfully attack you. A criminal (or even a violent person) doesn't want to fight you; he wants to overwhelm you. To do this, he has to put himself in a position where he can do it quickly and effectively. Positioning is the final proof. Someone trying to position himself to attack removes all doubt that the situation is innocent.
I was in a great place for a potential attack - a low-traffic, sound-proof room with plenty of further insulated spaces for privacy.  Looking back, it was his casually looking around the corners and into the shower rooms that told me he was further checking out the safety of the room - for him. 

When he turned to move towards me - it tipped the balance in my mind between an awkward situation and a direct threat. 

The next two stages are what didn't happen:

4.  Attack
The attack is the criminal/violent person using force, or the threat of force, to get what he wants. The 'triangle' (first three steps) has been complete and the assault -- or the threat of assault -- occurs.
5.  Reaction
 Reaction is how the criminal feels about what he has done. In the aftermath of robbing someone, the criminal decides, on a whim, to shoot the person -- despite the fact that the person has cooperated utterly and offered no resistance. This also can be where a robber suddenly decides to rape his victim. Of all the reactions, one of the most consistently dangerous occurs among rapists.  f the rapist feels that the rape did not empower him as he thought it would, he often turns violent. Nearly 80 percent of women seriously harmed by rapists are hurt after the actual sexual assault.
I don't know for sure if this guy would have attacked me.  Based on the fact that he was in a family locker room as a single guy, that he kept his eyes on me, that he was walking suspiciously around, all points to that conclusion, but luckily I'll never know for sure.

A final note:  TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS.  We may feel the hair standing up on the back of our necks, the tightening in our stomachs, the sudden influx of adrenaline, and still ignore these things because we have been so conditioned to be NICE.  We don't want to make someone feel bad by acknowledging that we feel threatened by them.  We want to give someone the benefit of the doubt. 

Ten years ago, I probably would have stayed in that locker room because I didn't want to make the guy feel bad.  That's stupid, and dangerous. 

Please take some time to read the articles I've linked here, and share with your friends and family. 

***All italicized text is taken directly from No Nonsense Self-Defense.  Please peruse this website and challenge yourself to honestly assess yourself as a potential victim, and take steps to NOT be an easy target.***


  1. I am glad you wrote about this. I'm sure it was a little cathartic for you to get it out.

    I was upset after you called me last night telling me about what happened. It sucks that we can feel safe even at places like the YMCA. Good job going with your gut. I am so glad you are safe!

  2. and that should say "it sucks that we CAN'T feel safe"

    Proofreading is worth the 3 seconds, Rachel.

  3. Defintely sounds like a creeper, glad you got out of there and followed your gut! Being a people watcher is not always a bad thing.

  4. It is a billion times better to trust your gut and flee what might have been a harmless situation and potentially look "foolish" than it is to stick around and see what might happen.

  5. I hope the Y did something about this guy :( I'm not sure if you saw on Facebook, but they just released a sex offender and he's living in Neenah. He was convicted of first degree sexual assault to a child. He took a 7 year old girl, whom he did not know, into a store bathroom and assaulted her. The YMCA does no background checks as far as I know before they allow someone to be a member. I'm actually really concerned about this because this is where I go with my girls :(

    1. That is terrifying. I did not hear about that guy... ugh.

  6. Yikes, I'm glad you decided to share. Your words may make another woman trust their gut when they normally might not.

  7. Glad you listened to your gut - it is probably good advice more times than not!

  8. OH my gosh, that's so scary! I'm so glad you trusted your gut and ran out of there.

  9. Wow - I would ever have put these things together - especially him looking around to make sure someone else wasn't there to stop him. I am totally a person who doesn't want to make someone feel badly and will pretend to be at ease. I'm always ashamed that I am a 'fraidy cat when instead I should be proud of my instincts! Much appreciate this post! And so glad you ran out of there!

  10. OMG, so GLAD you got out of there!!

  11. Always best to trust your gut when it comes to having a bad feeling about someone. Thank goodness nothing happened to you!


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