ARTICLE | THE STRANGER TALKS | by Orjan Pettersen
Updated: Apr 5
You’re alone, no one is around. Check.
You’re a good fit. Check.
You’re not paying attention. Check.
That’s all the stranger who’s now approaching you need to know. Predatory criminals don’t really care much about you, your feelings or the impact on your life.
Robbers, serial killers or rapists care about themselves. About not being caught. They want what you have.
And they want it low-risk, easy, without resistance. It’s their ‘job’. Weirdly, even they apply a level of health and safety to themselves, if not to you.
The initial few seconds of a meeting with a predatory criminal can be the decisive factor that can determine the future quality of your life - or indeed your life itself.
Anyone who commits these kinds of criminal acts will probably have a history. With history comes experience. With experience comes a skill to evaluate if you’re the easy target you initially appeared to be.
They will evaluate you. A final decision will be made.
‘Hey, you got a match?’, the stranger in the late-night abandoned parking garage says, walking towards you. What you do next is all important.
Your body language and verbal come-back can now determine the outcome. Your signals will communicate if you’ll be a ‘compliant’ victim or a bloody difficult one to overcome.
Let’s look at what you need to do.
Here are some of the instant signals you will send. Let’s assess non-verbal body language first. Be aware of this. It’s your main communication - and in cases like these, a decisive one.
If you look away, you appear to be easily dominated. Maybe a bit shy. Certainly not too confident.
If you stop and turn towards the stranger, exposing your vulnerable torso and belly region, you’re sending a signal of being used to being dominated. Even better for the predatory criminal. Catch of the day.
Moving slowly away, quietly without looking, will say you’re possibly easily dominated too - but possibly a chase would have to be initiated.
Turning upper body towards the stranger in an angle, keeping a stare at him at all time, but still moving away, will state ‘Probably not worth the trouble to engage with’.
Finally, doing the same - but also scanning the area around first, then checking the stranger, maintaining eye contact... ‘Don’t mess with me. I’m trained - or at least, I’m not easily bullied or dominated’.
The body language should also be complemented with non-compliance with the request.
Don’t move your hands towards your pockets (or phone, or wallet or whatever the request is about) as it’s another signal of being easily dominated.
You’re saying that you’re out to please and you’re not aware. Maybe the next question will move from the match to the money. Even a small amount would be a benefit, maybe willingly donated by the compliant you. It’s now not a mugging, it’s a donation. You were dominated into avoiding the crime by the predator. The look of your wallet will decide if it moves from begging to robbery, if it’s worth it.
Keep your hands free and ready to act, not engaged in any compliant action. If you carry a tactical pen or torch, this is the time to move towards acquiring it or visibly get it ready. In countries where covert carry is permitted, a move indicating you’re ready to draw a weapon would have a very strong message to the potential criminal.
Verbal communication is also critical in this situation. You will reveal enormous amounts about your personality and potential as a victim in your first sentence only.
Firstly, silence is an optional answer. It means ‘No’. This isn’t a monkey-dance. Monkey dancers never start with requests for a ‘favour’. The stranger wants to engage with you, to get closer, to be in the proximity to conduct his or her plan. A conversation is the means to that end. Don’t give them the route to succeed. Staying quiet and moving on is a viable - indeed often recommended - approach. Ignore further talking from the stranger. Just leave.
The verbal ‘No’ is a complete answer, too. So is saying ‘Stay back’. Keep any responses very short, authoritative and harsh. This is not a nice conversation over a cup of tea or coffee with your friend. It’s a stranger in an dangerous setting. Have no emotional or moral difficulty in being dismissive, even appearing rude. It’s a defence you need.
The key verbal response to avoid is to talk too much. It indicates compliance and opportunity to be dominated. Don’t treat someone as a person if there’s a likelihood they will treat us as a victim. No explanations are needed. No debate. No polite conversation. You are setting a boundary to protect yourself. That’s your primary goal.
As self defence practitioners will know, once a boundary is set, with a ‘Stay back’ or ‘Don’t get closer’, if the person ignores the boundaries and you can’t safely extract yourself from the situation, you will need to defend your boundary with reasonable and appropriate force.
Closing the distance towards you, changing direction to move towards you or touching you are breaching the boundaries. You’re now in real danger. You need to take action.
If you don’t, you simply show that a ‘No’ means ‘Yes’ and the opportunity for the perpetrator has risen dramatically. An innocent person would have listened and complied with your stated request. You can act legally to defend yourself - with reasonable force. Do it.
Stealing, raping and killing for predatory criminals is like an occupation. They evaluate their prospects, plan and change their goals based on what’s happening in their ‘job’, just like you and I do every day in ours.
Your job is to present yourself as the highest risk possible and a really hard day’s work for the predator. Too much to bother about. Better to move on to easier pickings.
Self defence makes you a better you. Sometimes, with the wrong people, or in the wrong place and time, the better you have to put on a theatre of a being a nasty badass.
It’s all a part of your self defence repertoire.