Recently, a woman was attacked and robbed while walking alone around midnight on the Esplanade in Boston. The Esplanade, for those not familiar, is a pedestrian area running along the Charles river which is accessible by a number of footbridges. This is not the first such attack - I remember  numerous attacks going back to the early nineties when I first moved to Boston.

The Esplanade is, in my opinion, a mugger’s dream. Lots of places to hide, route to escape by, and spots to lie in wait and make sure no police are around when you attack. It’s a known sleeping place for the homeless who sometimes gather under the bridges.

Many people feel safe there because, during the day, there are large crowds of people. The Esplanade also abuts an affluent neighborhood.

On local blogs the debate ranges from “what the heck was this woman thinking?” to “you shouldn’t blame the victim.” Both sides have great points.

We should never blame the victim of any crime, it is wrong to re-victimize them. The truth is that we rarely know all the details of a criminal event. Nobody is ever “asking for it.”

One of the main arguments I read is: “she had every right to walk anywhere she wanted.” Absolutely. She has that right. I have the right to leave my car and home doors unlocked too. I have the right to walk into unsafe neighborhoods fanning a stack of cash. I have the right to publish my social security number on this blog.

Rights are great, but rights and the laws designed to protect them are not a good first line of self-protection. The police cannot be everywhere, and 911 response time is measured in minutes - when attacks happen in seconds.

I advocate a three-tier personal-protection strategy (which i will cover in more detail in another post). I call it Avoid, Evade, Invade.

Avoid: Your best bet is always to stay out of trouble in the first place. Use common safety measures: lock your doors, use the buddy system when walking or jogging, avoid being isolated alone, don’t drink to excess or use illicit drugs… etc.

In this tier, awareness is key. Here is an awesome article on awareness by a close friend of mine.

Evade: Self defense strategy should always be about getting to safety - whatever that means in the particular situation. At this stage, you perceive the threat of trouble (awareness) and you have the ability to get safely away, or you have stopped an attack and made an opening for escape.

I am a big advocate of what I refer to as “run-fu”. Life isn’t the movies, running away from physical violence if you safely can is the best option.

Invade: If the attack is imminent or taking place and can’t be avoided or evaded, it is time to become aggressive. When the time comes to use violence, you must do so with conviction. You must make yourself “not worthwhile” as a target. Except for rare pathological cases, most criminals do not want to get hurt or caught.

You goal at this stage is to turn the attacker from an aggressor into a defender, ultimately causing an opening for escape.

Category : news / self defense

One Response to “Attacks Against Women in Boston - the Debate”

Patrick Murphy July 29, 2009

I am not familiar with the location but I am certain all cities have similar areas where one has to wonder why people are walking through them at night.

There are many studies about offender behavior and how they select victims. It is more that they select the setting rather than the victim. It may sound odd, but the bad guys have to learn their “trade” too. They learn from previous situations that fail or are successful and ultimately develop into somewhat of a specialist. The victim just happens to be in their particular preferred set of circumstances.

Clearly, walking in an area that provides stealth is problematic but even the local WalMart parking lot does that. Victims usually are simply not “tuned in” to their surroundings. That is always a major discussion within self defense classes.

Victims and offenders do not come together by chance they virtually compliment each other by their behavior. The victim’s ultimate safety is about reaction. It is unfortunate that most people have never even given thought to how that may be done.

Pat Murphy
LPT Security Consulting
Houston, Texas