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Escaping the Monster’s Clutch

Take it from one who knows: It pays to be paranoid.
DANNY ROLLING (The Gainesville Ripper)

People should learn to see and so avoid all danger. Just as a wise man keeps away from mad dogs, one should not make friends with evil men.

Profiling still remains very much a human activity, because while a computer might process information faster than a human, the depth and flexibility of human thinking power exceeds that of the computer—including the mind of the offender. The criminal imagination is creative in ways that often can escape the strictly defined rules of a computer’s artificial intelligence—only the human mind can keep up. Profiling is as much an intuitive art, unapproachable by a computer, as it is a precise science. The information in this chapter is based on FBI interviews with serial offenders and their victims who survived. This not a “how-to” guide to survival—as much as there might be similarities between serial killers and their behaviors, in the end, each one is an individual capable of exhibiting entirely new and unknown characteristics. The information here is presented with the purpose of identifying some of the options available and the risks involved with each. They are not foolproof measures and if you choose any of them, you do so at your own risk.

Avoiding the Serial Killer

You might already be a survivor of a serial killer, without even knowing it. You may have sat near one in a movie theater or in a restaurant; you might have passed one in the street or parked your car next to one. One might have approached you—do you remember any odd requests from a stranger to help him carry a package to his car or look for a lost puppy? Some man whose attentions you turned away in a bar? A nice couple who offered you a ride in their car—they looked fine but somehow there was something not quite right, and you turned them down? Maybe you are alive simply because you chatted with a friend a minute longer instead of walking off alone, or because somebody else, whom you do not even recall, arrived in the parking lot as you were getting into your car. Maybe you are a heterosexual male who was invited home by a homosexual, and you turned him down; maybe you are gay, and turned down an invitation from a guy you just didn’t quite like for some inexplicable reason. The serial killer begins setting you up for death when he engages you in some kind of innocent contact—whether he gets to finish the job is often up to you.

Serial killers are frequently mobile, and the chances of passing one in the street or having casual contact with one might be not all that astronomical. I bumped into two that I know of. Your own deeds and actions, however, can dramatically increase those chances. The FBI categorizes serial killer victims as “high risk” or “low risk,” and often that category can depend on your behavior and simple choices you make.

From the descriptions of how serial killers select their victims, we see that various factors stack up together to determine risk. Some factors are not under the control of a victim, such as age or race, while others are.

Thus, based on the FBI survey of serial killers and their victims, we can say that being white in the United States immediately increases your risk: Ninety-two percent of victims were white (although recently there has been an increase in black serial killers and black victims). Being female (82 percent), unmarried (80 percent), and between ages fifteen and twenty-eight (73 percent) all put you at higher risk.

Beyond that, “victim facilitation” can then propel you into an even higher risk category. Factors such as residence in a bad neighborhood; activity as a prostitute; sex-industry employment; hitchhiking or a habit of picking up hitchhikers; employment at night; and employment serving casual customers, such as a convenience store clerk or waitress, all increase the statistical probability that you could come to the attention of a serial killer. (Checking into a cheap hotel in a bad neighborhood . . . ) These “high facilitators” are evident in 11 to 13 percent of victims of serial killers. That means, however, that the remaining balance of serial killer victims were simply victims of chance—they were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

It should be noted that not being alone has at best a marginal effect on your safety: Thirty-seven percent of victims, or more than a third, had a companion with them when they were killed. The presence of a companion could have even increased a false sense of security, contributing to their death. A child or a teen accompanied by one other is only marginally safer. Big groups—five and up, unmanageable by even a team of two serial killers—are safer, unless the offender can separate a victim from the group.

Trust Your Intuition

One very important lesson that comes forth from reviewing accounts of people who were approached by serial killers but disengaged from them is never underestimate your instincts or your intuition. Numerous accounts are given by women who for no explicable reason, other than an intuitive “bad feeling” or “women’s intuition,” refused to walk into a serial killer’s trap. In reality, female intuition or male “gut feeling” is not a sixth sense. You have probably perceived something concrete that spells out danger, but your brain has not caught up with your perception—you do not know yet what it is you have seen to have analyzed it logically. That is intuition.

Remember the woman whom Ted Bundy approached on campus wearing a cast and asking to help carry his books to his car? She reported that as she approached his Volkswagen, she noticed that the front passenger seat was missing. For some reason that she could not explain, she suddenly felt afraid and she placed the books on the hood of the car and hurried off, feeling embarrassed by her “irrational” anxiety. It probably saved her life because Bundy had precisely removed the passenger seat to more easily transport his victims, but she had not logically figured that out.

If something does not feel right, then it probably is not. Never ignore such feelings; do not be embarrassed to act “irrationally” in front of a stranger or be afraid of appearing to be rude. Better rude than dead.

Never Get into the Car

The bottom line is, once they get into the car, few victims return alive. Nineteen-year-old Carol DaRonch was in a shopping mall when a neatly dressed Ted Bundy politely approached her, told her he was a police detective, and asked her for her car’s license number. He then informed her that he and his partner, who presumably was somewhere nearby, were investigating a number of break-ins into cars that had just occurred in the parking lot—would she mind accompanying him back to her car to see if anything had been stolen?

After “inspecting” her car, Bundy managed to persuade her to get into his Volkswagen to drive to the police station and “file a report.” She was annoyed, because nothing had been stolen and moreover she became suspicious about a policeman driving a Volkswagen. Brought up in a Mormon community to be polite and respectful of authority, DaRonch had the boldness to ask Bundy to show her some identification, but not enough to demand a good look at it when he merely flashed a wallet with a small gold badge in it. Despite her misgivings, the aura of authority that Bundy projected overcame her good sense. She got into the Volkswagen and they began to drive. Bundy told her to fasten her seat belt, but at this point she smelled alcohol on his breath and refused. Along the way Bundy suddenly brought the car to a stop at a deserted spot and attempted to handcuff her. She struggled and Bundy accidentally snapped both cuffs on the same hand. She managed to roll out of the car while Bundy attempted to hit her on the head with a crowbar or tire iron. Kicking, screaming, and blocking the blows of the weapon from striking her head, she luckily managed to escape from Bundy. Years later, she testified at his murder trial as the only survivor of an attack by Bundy.

A study of serial homicides indicated that in 78 percent of the cases, the killer used a vehicle directly or indirectly in the murder, and that 50 percent of the serial killers who did use a vehicle used it to offer their victims a ride.In Canada, fourteen-year-old Leslie Mahaffy, locked out of her house by her parents as punishment for coming home late, encountered handsome and charming Paul Bernardo passing by her home in the middle of the night. After chatting for a few minutes, she asked him for a cigarette and he told her he had some in his car parked down the street. She was doomed the moment she sat down in the passenger seat to smoke it and continue talking with him, even while cautiously leaving the car door open and her legs dangling out on the curb. At one point Leslie turned toward the open door to blow some smoke out. At that instant Bernardo snapped the trap shut: He placed a knife against her throat and told her to lift her legs into the car. Bernardo pushed her into the rear seat, blindfolded her, and threw a blanket over her. He then calmly drove forty miles back to his house, where he and his wife, Karla Homolka, raped and murdered her. I repeat: Do not get into the car! (And don’t lock your children out of the house no matter how late they come home.)

Also do not be fooled by the presence of a baby seat or children’s toys in the vehicle—or even the children themselves. Gary Ridgway, the Green River Killer, once returned to a body dump site to have sex with the corpse of one of his victims while his son slept in the vehicle.

Dealing with Strangers and Recognizing Warning Signs of Duplicity

According to Gavin de Becker, a threat prediction expert who quotes the saying of Buddha with which this chapter opens, there are behavioral indicators of potential violence in some people. When a stranger approaches you with ulterior motives, there can be underlying warning signs of duplicity. Learn to recognize the signs that there might be more to the contact than what appears on the surface. These signs include the following:

So many victims later say, “But he was so nice.” Niceness is not the same as being nice. Niceness can be a deadly manipulative tool. A charming smile can mask the most evil intentions.


Thus, one’s first line of defense is not risking attracting or exposing oneself to a predator in the first place. The second line of defense is “brushing off” or ignoring unanticipated, suspicious, or unwanted attention. It might make you appear unfriendly, but it may also save your life. If something does not quite feel right, do not think about it: Politely, quickly, and calmly extract yourself from the situation. Be firm but polite if you can—you do not want to unnecessarily spark anger or a sense of discourteous rejection in a potential serial killer. But in the final analysis, if the stranger does not accept a firm and polite “no” for an answer, tell him loudly to leave you alone. If the man is decent in the first place, while your rudeness might offend him, it will not turn him into a violent offender. If on the other hand he meant you harm, he might understand that you will not be an easy target—he might move on. Do not be embarrassed about appearing capricious or unfriendly if pressed—better that, than police sampling seminal fluids from your cold rectum the next morning.

Desperate Measures

If, however, you are unfortunate enough to find yourself among the 75 percent of victims who simply had the bad luck of being targeted by a serial killer at random and were not able to evade or disengage from him, there are still things you can do. The point we are describing now is where the serial killer refuses to be brushed off by you, and moves beyond the stage of casual contact. By words, demeanor, showing a weapon, or actions, he confronts you and indicates that he is ready to use force if you do not comply with his demands—getting into his car, taking your clothes off, closing your eyes, being quiet, turning around, putting your hands behind your back, engaging in sex with him—whatever the demand might be. If you are unable to run away to safety, what can you do?

Of the serial killers studied by the FBI, 7.5 percent of their victims survived—not encouraging, but nonetheless a sliver of good news. The FBI then tried to pursue what it was in the victim’s behavior that resulted in their survival. The question is whether to resist the attacker. The FBI asked the serial killers, how did they perceive the behavior of their victims? In the opinion of the serial killers, 28 percent of all of their victims acquiesced or offered no resistance, 31 percent attempted to negotiate verbally, 7 percent verbally refused to obey the killer, 10 percent screamed, 5 percent attempted to escape, and 19 percent tried to fight back.

The serial killers reported that in the face of resistance from their victims, 34 percent had no reaction, 15 percent threatened the victim verbally, 25 percent escalated the level of their aggression, and 25 percent became outright violent. Thus in more than two-thirds of the cases, the killer countered resistance from the victim, and in half of the cases they countered it with increased force. In summary, resistance sparks force or increased levels of force.

It should be pointed out, however, that of the victims in the survey who, in their killers’ opinions acquiesced to demands, all were murdered without exception. Of the twenty-eight victims who offered physical resistance in the form of screaming, running, or fighting, three survived. Thus except for a slight marginal advantage in resistance, the bad news is that both resistance and acquiescence often equally result in death.

Of course, you do not know you are facing a serial killer who is intent on killing you (unless he tells you). Sometimes the serial killer himself is unsure whether his intention is to kill you. The primary threat is rape or physical confinement—one hopes that by evading that, one will consequently escape being murdered later.

The FBI study on sexual and serial homicides refers to a study of 108 convicted serial rapists and their 389 victims. The data collected from this study is very valuable, as serial homicide is mostly a sexual crime and often begins or ends with a rape. Rape had occurred in 98 percent of the serial homicides studied by the FBI: 56 percent before the victim’s death and 42 percent after death. The study identified four types of rapists; some experts are now urging that these types be applied to serial killer classification systems:

  1. Power-reassurance (or compensatory rapist): This type of rapist often has a rape fantasy that his victim actually likes it and will fall in love with him as the result of the rape. He may attempt foreplay and to make a date with his victim afterward. Rape results from sexual arousal and loss of self-control. The rapist is called compensatory because of his terminal sense of inadequacy, which leads him to believe that no “normal” woman would want to have sex with him, unless he compensates it with rape. The rape is a highly sexual act and the offender often has a history of sexual behavior such as voyeurism, excessive masturbation, and exhibitionism. He will do what the victim allows him to do.
  2. Power-assertive (or exploitative rapist): The sexual component is less important here, and the rape is more of an expression of aggression in which the rapist needs to build his own fragile ego and sense of inadequacy by humiliating his victims, dominating them, and having them submit to him.
  3. Anger-retaliatory (or displaced rapist): The sexual attack is an expression of anger and rage. The victim often serves as a stand-in for the rapist’s real object of hate. The behavior can vary from simple rape to highly elaborate acts of murder and mutilation. Edmund Kemper might be described as a displaced rapist, because he killed eight victims before finally killing the person he actually wanted to—his mother. Most displaced personalities, however, do not get an opportunity to kill the subject of their deep hate, and thus continue killing “innocent” victims.
  4. Anger-excitation (or sadistic rapist): The sexual act is an expression of aggression fused with sexual desire. In a cycle, sexual arousal gives rise to aggressive desire, which in turn further arouses the rapist. Sometimes the attack begins as a consensual seduction, but then escalates in intense and violent sexual aggression. The rapist often focuses his attack on parts of the victim’s body such as the breasts, anus, buttocks, mouth, and genitals. Paul Bernardo was an example of the sadistic personality.

The rape study determined that different types of rapists will respond in different ways to victim behavior—a particular mode of behavior will be more effective in escaping harm from one type of personality than with another and vice versa—with some rapists a behavior can escalate an attack. The following are some of the options that the FBI recommends.


Escape remains the best and safest of all measures, but we are presuming in this chapter that it is now too late for this option. Nevertheless, if escape does look possible further down the line, you should take into consideration several things. First, to where are you escaping? If you are in a remote area and there is no place or people to run to, escape could be futile. Second, are you unencumbered? If your legs are tied or tangled in clothing, you will not get very far. What is the age and athletic shape of your attacker, in comparison to yourself—can you outrun your assailant?

What type of weapon are you being threatened with? You can outrun a knife or a club, but the situation is different with firearms. There are several things to take into consideration if you are threatened by a firearm. Unlike what we see on television shows, in reality a target becomes rapidly and progressively difficult to hit with a handgun after a distance of about fifteen to twenty feet, especially if the target is moving quickly and weaving. In Marine: A Guided Tour of a Marine Expeditionary Unit, Tom Clancy writes about the newly issued state-of-the-art Beretta M9/M92F handgun: “Even with trained shooters like policemen, pistol shooting is, in a word, hideous. Forget what you see on television or in the movies. Accurate pistol fire from beyond about five yards is almost unheard of. For example, in the last twenty years there are painfully few recorded instances of New York City policemen hitting anything beyond twenty-five feet/eight meters with a pistol.”

If the assailant has a revolver, a type of handgun that has a revolving drum in the center, the chances are that he will be able to fire only six shots before having to reload—something that often takes at least five seconds at minimum to do. Although it is a little much to ask, perhaps, having the presence of mind to count shots while escaping can help give you that extra burst of straight running power once six shots have been fired. The risk, however, is that some .38-caliber revolvers have only five shots, while some .22-caliber revolvers have eight and nine shots. Furthermore, a device called a speedloader can shorten the reload time. It is, however, a favorably calculated risk that a revolver will be a six-shot weapon. Also, the shorter the barrel, the shorter the weapon’s effective range.

The difficulty of hitting distant targets applies to automatic (semiautomatic) handguns as well—it is not as easy as shown on TV. Automatics are squarelike weapons with no revolving drum in the center. As these weapons come in great varieties of capacities from seven to seventeen shots, counting shots will be of little help, unless you are intimately familiar with the specifications of the particular weapon you are threatened with, and even so, the rapid rate of fire that a pistol can unleash may make counting accurately impossible. (Nor can you be sure that the weapon was loaded to maximum capacity in the first place.)

Outrunning an assailant armed with a rifle is virtually impossible, unless the assailant is truly a bad shot—something that the victim is unlikely to know until it is too late. On the other hand, an attacker is often as nervous as you are, and possibly under the influence of drugs or alcohol. This could significantly reduce his shooting skills.

To attempt to outrun an assailant armed with a firearm is a very dangerous and highly risky proposition, but not entirely impossible. It is a calculated risk that one may need to attempt under certain circumstances, bearing in mind the various factors described previously.

Finally, one word of caution about escape: In the case of sadistic personalities, running may actually arouse the assailant and lead to an escalation of violence. However, the chances of surviving an attack by a sadistic personality are minimal anyway, so escape is always an option that you should constantly be alert to.

In any case, you should always be ready for escape, while pursuing any one of the following strategies when escape is not immediately an option:


Verbal resistance should be the first action that you take when confronted by an assailant where there are no immediate means to escape. Immediately, yell and shout at the assailant: “Leave me alone! Go away! Help! Police!”

Do not scream. Screaming from the throat can be mistaken for play and also projects fear to the assailant. Instead shout and yell from your diaphragm, which can also prepare you for taking a blow without having the wind knocked out of you and projects a forceful stance to the assailant.

You want to convey to the attacker a clear and succinct message that you are not going to be an easy target. The serial killer sometimes begins his approach without having yet decided whether to use physical force. The decision to use force will be inevitable at some point in his attack, but by forcing the assailant to consider the decision earlier than he is ready to commit to it, you may defuse the attack. Sometimes an attack is preceded by a cat-and-mouse-like dynamic between the assailant and victim—the assailant may need reassurance that he will overcome and capture his victim or that his victim will behave in a submissive and fearful manner. Bold, verbal indications that the capture may not be easy may shake the confidence of some assailants.


Physical resistance encompasses both moderate responses, such as struggling, punching, kicking, and pushing away, and violent responses, such as blows to the face, eyes, groin, and throat, intended to seriously injure or kill the assailant. The use of such defenses depends on the size and strength of the victim, the presence of weapons, location, and so on. Such measures should be undertaken quickly, powerfully, and decisively and should be immediately followed by escape. Do not hold back. Do not hesitate. Surprise is a key element. Do not wait around and see what effect, if any, your attack had on the assailant. Run. Run. Run. You are not trying to win. Escape is your objective.

The downside, however, is that the victim should anticipate that physical resistance will be met with increased force by the assailant. Studies are conflicted on the precise effect of resistance on the injury of victims. One study found that of seriously injured rape victims, only 41 percent were injured after they resisted. The other 59 percent received their injuries without resisting.238 Other studies show that certain types of rapists (power-reassurance, anger-retaliatory, anger-excitation) tended to injure victims who resisted more severely, while victim injury was unaffected by resistance to power-assertive rapists.239

Another study noted that serial offenders tended to be of two types: increasers, those who had a tendency to increase their level of violence as their career progressed, and non-increasers, those who did not. The two types showed different response patterns. Response patterns also varied whether rapists were in the early, middle, or late stages of their careers and by their types. This study found that victim resistance was related not to the amount of force used, but to the amount of time the offender spent with the victim. Assaults on resisting victims lasted two to three times longer than on passive victims. This was not only because of the time necessary to overcome resistance, but also because of the additional pleasure derived by certain types of offenders from the victim’s resistance.240


In many cases, serial killers “depersonalize” their victims—they are substitutes for other people or props in their fantasies. Ted Bundy stated that he avoided getting into any extended conversations with his victims because that might remind him of their personal characteristics. The FBI suggests that talking is probably the most effective and promising way to defuse a violent situation.

Tell the rapist that perhaps you and he could go for a beer first, suggests the FBI. This is not as stupid as it sounds. Any kind of unanticipated reaction can stall the rapist and give the victim time to set the stage for an escape. Focus on personalizing yourself in the assailant’s perception: “I am a total stranger. Why do you want to hurt me? I have never done anything to hurt you. What if I were somebody you cared about? How would you feel about that?” Keep the dialogue in the present tense, the FBI suggests—serial killers rarely think too far into the future. Do not use lines like, “You will end up in jail if you do this,” for you might only remind the assailant of the necessity of killing you as a potential witness—even if he has come to like you. Above all, do not use the popular feminist appeal, “What if I were your mother, sister, or daughter?” The assailant might be precisely fantasizing that he is raping and killing his mother, sister, or daughter when he is attacking you. Such statements as “I have VD” or “I am pregnant” should also be avoided, as they may reinforce the assailant’s fantasy that you are somehow “bad” and deserving of rape and death.

There are numerous accounts of serial killers who somehow sympathized with their victims upon learning something about them. Monte Rissell, who killed five women, upon learning that one of his victims had a father dying from cancer, let her go free because his own father had died from cancer. Bobby Joe Long, who killed at least ten women, felt sorry for a young woman he had kidnapped when she confided that she had been abused as a child, and let her go free. Christopher Wilder sent one of his kidnapped victims home on an airplane. It should be noted, however, that in all of these cases, the surviving victims were raped nonetheless.

Arthur Shawcross killed eleven prostitutes in the Rochester area, but he recalls sparing the life of one:

You know, I had her by the throat and you know I mean she was fighting me and she was telling me, “Please, I’m on medication.” She says, “I know you’re on medication.” And when she said that, I came out of what I was doing . . . and I sat down in the driver’s seat and I just hold my hands like this, trembling, and started crying. “What the hell am I doing?” . . . It just shocked me. I just pulled away and said, “What the fuck am I doing?” You know? Then we talked for a while. Then she asked me could I take her home. I said all right.241

Making some kind of personal connection with the serial killer is similar to a tactic used by serial killers themselves to lure victims (teaming); transforming “you and him” into “us” can work with some types.

Unfortunately, there are far more accounts of serial killers feeling sympathy for their victims after they have killed them. Sympathy is often expressed by the assailant’s killing his victim quickly and painlessly or, as in the case of Edmund Kemper, visiting the site where the body is dumped with remorse in his heart. Albert DeSalvo chose not to pose one of his victims to whom he took a liking, but only after raping and strangling her first.

When the assailant is in the heat of his attack, dissuasive dialogue, however, will generally not work. The more intelligent assailant is unlikely to leave you alive, even if he likes you, because he knows that you are a witness.


You can push away, twist, wrestle, evade, kick, and use various means of moderate force to keep the attacker at bay. This of course, depends on your own strength and stamina, but you may eventually wear the attacker down or convince him that you are not going to be an easy submissive victim. The downside to this tactic is that your resistance will actually excite a certain type of offender into escalating his attack.

Another type of physical dissuasion could be faked fainting, choking, seizures, or mental illness or other sickness, or actual physical responses such as crying, vomiting, or loss of bowel and bladder control. All of these reactions could turn off a potential rapist—but on the other hand, in the cases of a sadistic or displaced-anger rapist, they may actually escalate the attack. The FBI suggests that these are too idiosyncratic in their results and not reliable.


The acquiescent victim tells the assailant, “Don’t hurt me and I’ll do what you want.” This may defuse the violence in the short term and buy the victim time to stage an escape. It is recommended by the FBI as the last resort, because in the end it does little to guarantee your survival. Moreover, acquiescence can also trigger increased violence in some types of offenders. Monte Rissell proceeded to rape at gunpoint a prostitute, who was not particularly afraid of sex with strangers. In her attempt to defuse the violent aspect of the rape, she attempted to be as co-operative as possible. In response, Rissell killed her. He later explained, “She asked which way I wanted it. It’s like this bitch is trying to control things.” Richard Cottingham’s last victim assured him that he did not need to handcuff her to have sex—but sex was not what his attack was about. He proceeded to rape and torture her for several hours.

One mission-type serial killer profiled by Ronald Holmes felt it was his mission to rid the world of prostitutes. He confessed that at least on a dozen occasions he confronted women with a pistol and demanded that they “permit” him to rape them. He said that he released unharmed those women who responded that he would have to kill her before she would allow him to rape her. Three victims, however, had acquiesced to the rape in fear of being killed; he raped and murdered them because they “proved” to him by their acquiescence that they were prostitutes.242

Negotiated acquiescence can be worse. Remember the rehabilitation counseling student Beverly Samans, whom Albert DeSalvo attacked. (See Chapter 2.) She acquiesced to being fondled as long as he promised not to rape her. Instead, her attempts to set the terms of the encounter reminded DeSalvo of his wife, and he became particularly enraged at Samans’s attempts to “control him.” He stabbed her twenty-two times, the only victim the Boston Strangler killed with such rage.

On the other hand, one of the victims of Chris Wilder, held prisoner in a motel room, acquiesced until she had a chance to dash into the bathroom and begin screaming desperately for her life. (Wilder raped and murdered twelve women in 1984, and embarked on a cross-country killing spree when his first killings were uncovered.) The bottom line is that acquiescence alone is rarely going to save your life; acquiescence as a prelude to escape, however, is worth considering.


We see that the prognosis is not good—survival in the hands of a serial killer is at best a marginal and highly idiosyncratic process. What may save your life with one type of personality may condemn you to death with another. Obviously, it is not a viable proposal for a victim, at the moment of attack, to attempt to sort out which of the four personality profiles applies to the assailant. Thus the FBI has defined a sort of flow chart of recommended approaches, based on what logically and statistically gives the victim a marginal increase in the chances for survival.

The FBI operates on the presumption that violence begets increased aggression from the assailant, and therefore recommends that the first response is not to be violent. For this reason, the FBI recommends that victims first assert themselves through verbal resistance.

If verbal resistance has no effect, than the victim has a choice of two strategies. If the offender is armed, then verbal dissuasion is recommended. Attempt to engage the offender in conversation and steer him away from attacking.

If the offender has no weapon but persists in his aggressive actions toward the victim, then moderate physical resistance is recommended immediately. This, the FBI suggests, could be effective with compensatory rapists, and sometimes with exploitative rapists. If however, this response brings on increased anger and aggression from the attacker, the victim should immediately cease resisting. If the assailant ceases his aggression at this point and is willing to enter into conversation, it is likely that he is an exploitative personality, and the victim should attempt to verbally manipulate him in that case.

If the strategy fails, and the attacker continues to escalate his aggression, then the victim needs to make a difficult decision between acquiescence and violent resistance. Physical dissuasion, such as pretending to faint or crying and vomiting, is not recommended, as it is unlikely that the attacker cares particularly about the physical well-being of his victim, and may actually become excited by visible physical reactions to his attack.

Summing It Up

In summary, the first response should always be to escape. The second response should be verbal confrontational resistance. If the attacker persists, there is no weapon present, and he is not excessively violent, then the victim should offer physical dissuasion. If the attacker is a compensatory personality, he will likely flee at this point. If however, the attacker continues with the same level of aggression, the victim should begin talking in an attempt to engage the assailant in a conversation. The conversation should be in the present and focused on talking the assailant down from his state of rage. The intent is to redirect the assailant’s fantasy by personalizing oneself to the attacker. However, if the assailant pays no attention to the victim’s attempts to engage him in conversation and continues his aggression without escalating the level of violence, then he is most likely an exploitative personality. The victim should then continue attempts to engage him in conversation if there is no means to escape or opportunity to critically injure the attacker.

If, however, there is a clear escalation in aggression, the victim will need to attempt to distinguish between personalities. If the primary objective of the attacker appears to be to humiliate or demean the victim either verbally or physically, then the assailant is likely a displaced-anger personality. In that case, the victim should continue trying to verbally communicate to the attacker that she has not abused him and make a show of care and concern for the assailant—“It sounds to me like somebody really did something bad to you. But it can’t be me, because we’ve never met.” Challenging the fantasy is essential: “How do you know that I’m a bitch? You’ve never met me before. We’re strangers. I could be a really nice person.”

If, however, instead of a demeaning and humiliating approach, the rapist is making eroticized and bizarre demands, then he is likely a sadistic personality. This is the most dangerous personality, and no amount of verbal engagement will shake him from his goal. In this case, the victim should attempt anything possible to escape, including the use of lethal force if possible.

Obviously, the victim will not always have an opportunity to think about what is happening and respond with a schedule of strategies. However, there are sufficient case examples of victims and assailants engaging in drawn-out dialogues and escalating dynamics of violence to warrant some thought to the possibility that an informed victim might favorably increase her chances of survival with a well-thought-out response.

The following actions are suggested to enhance your survival:

  1. Never get into the car!
  2. Flee.


    If unable to flee:

  3. Use firm verbal confrontational resistance—firmly tell the attacker to leave you alone.


    If that does not work:

  4. Use moderate physical dissuasion—twist, kick, push, and punch to attempt to wear the attacker down.


    If that fails:

  5. Use verbal dissuasion—attempt to engage the attacker in conversation, talk him down from his rage, challenge his fantasy. Attempt to set a stage for an escape—invite him for a drink in a more populated area.


    If that fails:

  6. Use violent resistance—attack your assailant’s eyes, throat, genitals, and face. Strike him with any convenient object nearby, such as a rock or club. Punch him, kick him, stick your fingers in his eyes, bite his nose off. Fight for your life, because at this point you have nothing left to lose.

Currently many college campuses in North America host Rape Aggression Defense (R.A.D.) Systems training sessions. These two-day courses offer some elementary practical advice and training practice in techniques to defend yourself if confronted by a rapist. (See: http://www.rad-systems.com to locate a session near you.)

Finally, here are some words of advice from someone who ought to know: Danny Rolling, the Gainesville Ripper, who in 1990 descended on the Florida college town and, invading the homes of students, raped, killed, and horribly mutilated six victims. (The seventh Gainesville victim was a victim’s boyfriend who was stabbed to death as he fought Rolling.) These are a serial killer’s security tips:

  1. Park your car in the light.
  2. Buy yourself a .38-caliber revolver. Get a permit to carry it on your person, and put it in your handbag where it’s easy to get to.
  3. Buy some Mace on a keychain and have it ready when you get out of your car.
  4. If your bedroom window doesn’t have a screen, get one and nail it to the windowsill.
  5. Place a bunch of empty bottles in the windows.
  6. Get some curtains.
  7. Buy a deadbolt and put it on your bedroom door so you can lock yourself in.
  8. Sleep with your .38-caliber revolver under your pillow. It won’t go off by accident.*
  9. If someone bothers you, don’t ever let an attacker get control. Fight for your life. Scream as loud as you can! Spray Mace in his face. Kick him in the balls. Scratch at his eyes.
  10. Pull your .38-caliber and blow him away!

    Take it from one who knows: It pays to be paranoid.