ARTICLE | PASSING THE INTERVIEW | by Orjan Pettersen
Updated: Mar 15
A predatory criminal - either after a financial benefit or a power-related physical experience such as sexual assault or murder - will mostly have to closely engage with you first become any crime is committed.
This is because to commit the crime they need to exert a physical control, real or perceived, over your body. This control can only be, unless a firearm is involved, implemented by being in very close proximity to you. This control can be through a real threat of a weapon, an implied threat to your person or control over your psyche to make you compliant.
This process of selecting and getting close to you is called an ‘interview’. It’s aptly referred to this because the process is akin to any work place interview; you’re being assessed to see if you’re little risk to the ‘employer’ and your willingness to follow the rules as an obedient employee’ is evaluated.
The criminal is ‘interviewing’ you to find out information about you. This formation will determine if you’ll become the victim or not.
Let’s look at this process - and the simple things you can do in response.
The first thing a criminal will detect is your state of mind through your body language and posture. Are you upright, walking confident and looking aware? Or are you shrinking down, hunched, walking a bit lost, maybe looking vulnerable and a bit small, head down to the ground, not paying attention?
The former is a different prospect to the latter. Add that you scan around your environment, with hands free and available, looking athletic and aware, and you’re a no-go-to person for any sensible criminal looking for low risk. Criminals look for easy pickings. If you appear as one, don’t be surprised to be picked.
The second thing a predatory criminal will do is to control your space - by encroaching into your social sphere. This is where you permit people you trust such as family, friends or work colleagues. Varying by culture, you will instinctively know what it is as you execute it daily. The reason you’d not be comfortable with strangers in it is subconscious to all of us; our brains know that inside this distance we’re susceptible to attacks to our person.
The reason a predatory criminal wants to be inside the space is two-fold and not just related to the opportunity to control you. The very act of you permitting him (or her) into it sends a message of your compliance to threats, your awareness of danger and your willingness to later act physically back. It’s a message that says: ‘I’m not a challenge, I’m meek and wreak and I will do as I’m told’.
You need to acknowledge the person(s) entering or about to enter the space around you. An effective way is to - with a poker-face (as no welcoming features should be extended at this point) - scan them up and down before you - by moving eyes sideways and not down (submissive signal) - look around to detect any accomplices. Check hands and concealed weapons. Get your footing and balance ready for action. Make sure your hands are free and ready. Have you got any improvised weapons ready, a pen, cutlery if sat at a table or maybe just a cup of hot coffee? Ready the ‘weapon’. Speak back: ‘Hi’ or ‘Excuse me?’, but do not smile.
This has a purpose and it’s not primarily to fight. It’s a signal that says; ‘If you think this will be easy, think again. I see you and I’m ready to be physical’. Done subtly, an untrained eye won’t even see it. An experienced predatory criminal, however, will. You’ve set out your stall.
Thirdly, your first reaction to becoming aware of being interviewed and approached is the final defence. There are some key behaviours you need to adopt here. The predator may try to distract you. ‘Have you got the time?’. ‘I’m lost, can you help me?’. ‘Do you have a cigarette?’.
Your primary defence in this third part is actually not to stop moving, if you can. Just keep on creating distance, especially towards other people, making you a harder and more difficult target to pursue. Do not stop. ‘Sorry, not got the time’ or ‘My watch is broken, ask him/her over there’ (pointing). ‘Not smoking. Sorry’. ‘Not familiar with this city’. You are not obliged to stop and help. Don’t if you’re not comfortable. Don’t play the social role the predator needs.
Some predatory criminals, if they get close enough, use more direct tactics.
Bullying can be used. ‘Get in my car or I’ll stab you’. Herding is another. One or more criminals are making you move to a location or direction where they want you. Cajoling is another technique. ‘Let’s go over there, it’s a really nice place to be. The view is spectacular’. Ordering can be done. A simple ‘Leave with me now’ is effective on meek individuals who are used to obey authority.
All these have a common objective; to get you to a place where there are no witnesses. This is the last place you need to be and you must act now. Call out ‘Get away from me!’ or ‘Don’t touch me! Let me go!’ aimed at other people in the vicinity, even if out if eyesight, is a message that not only says ‘I’m a difficult and high risk victim’ but also rises the opportunity of the last thing the predator wants, witnesses or public intervention being brought into the equation.
‘Interviewing’ takes place all the time by criminals. Mostly, if your first defence (body language, posture and awareness) is good enough, you won’t even notice it - and the second and third levels of protection will not even come into play.
Like the advert says; all of these are priceless - and for the rest there’s always Krav Maga or other hardcore martial arts techniques. But great self defence skills starts here, before any punch or kicks are made. Now, go out and practice.