As a follow up to our photo of the week, we present this article by Kiado-Ryu Grandmaster Richard Andrew King, originally written in 2007.
Being aware of your surroundings is one of the first lines of self-defense. Yet, many women go through their days not really paying attention to who’s watching them. Remember, this is a predatory world, and although most people are decent there are those who are not, who have nefarious agendas of molestation, kidnapping, rape and more. Being responsible for one’s safety means surveying your environment to assess any potential threats.
Who’s watching you?
For example, when you go to the market, do you notice if anyone is watching you or following you up and down the isles? When was the last time you took notice of such things? Interestingly, a few weeks after one of our Ladies Self Defense Workshops, a women who had taken the class noticed a man following her in the market. After she checked out, he followed her out into the parking lot. She quickly got into her car and drove to the nearest police station to dissuade the man from following her. It worked. Her awareness most probably saved her life. But she said that until she took the course, she was oblivious as to who was watching her when she went grocery shopping. Not any more!
Another true story. In the 1980s in Orange County, California, a college coed approached her car in the parking lot after leaving class late one night. Unfortunately, she wasn’t paying attention to her environment. A man was waiting for her under her car. As she put her keys in the door, he cut her ankles with a razor blade, then raped and murdered her. Did this young lady feel that because she lived in a relatively crime-free community that she was safe from attack? We’ll never know, but it’s obvious that she didn’t look under her car as she approached it. Sadly, her lack of awareness was a fatal mistake.
Another true story. This was aired on NBC on 29 April 2007. In Saratoga Springs, New York, a high school Senior female track star named Lindsey Ferguson was going to her car in the school parking lot. Adjacent to her car on the driver side was a van. She saw it and thought it was a parent’s vehicle. As she opened her car door, the van door slid open and a man exited. He grabbed her around the waist with one arm and attempted to cover her mouth with the other.
Miraculously, a teacher named Ray, who just happened to be in the parking lot, saw everything, screamed out to the assailant who jumped back in his van and drove away. Ray, using his cell phone (thank God for cell phones) called the cops as he ran after the van, giving the police the license number. He then jumped in his car and followed the van. When cops stopped the van, the assailant claimed he was only making phone calls and all he did was startle the girl, nothing more.
Upon inspection, the suspect’s van was filled with a tarp, a saw, pre-tied slip knots on a rope, a syringe pre-filled with anti-histamine to knock out the girl and a camera. His name was John “Rocky” Regan. He had a history of stalking and abduction. He was, in fact, a predator. Interestingly, neighbors said this ‘family man’ was a great guy! In other words, predators don’t walk around the neighborhood wearing a red suit with pointed ears, a long tail, carrying a pitch fork and announcing their bad, even deadly, intentions. They can be perceived as nice guys. John Regan was convicted and sentenced to fifteen years in prison.
How lucky, though, was Lindsey Ferguson? The hand of God was certainly on her head that day. Had it not been for Ray, she might not be alive today. What could she have done? First, not make the assumption that a vehicle, any vehicle, belongs to a parent. Second, and this is key, she should never have approached her car seeing that a van was parked next to her car, a van whose sliding door was just a couple feet from her drivers-side door – a common kidnapping strategy. The best choice would have been to return to a safe place, call school security or the police.
Yet another true story; this even more scary. At a family amusement park, a mother of twins parked her stroller next to a bench to change one of the baby’s diapers. When she turned around to put the baby back in the stroller, her other baby was gone! A parent’s worst nightmare. She did the right thing by running to security. They closed the entire park down and made everyone in the park exit through one turnstile. About twenty minutes later, a lady carrying a baby came through the exit. The mother didn’t recognize the child but the shoes were the same model her baby was wearing. For precautionary sake, security made the woman step aside so they could investigate the matter. Upon further study, the mother realized it was her baby! The female predator who stole the child had dyed its hair, re-pigmented the skin, changed the baby’s clothes – all in twenty minutes! The only thing she didn’t do was leave the shoes off! Had she done so, the mother would have lost her child forever. How scary is that?
Obviously, the mother wasn’t watching who was watching her and her babies when she was in the park. The female thief may well have been stalking her, waiting for an opportunity to steal the child. After all, she did have hair dye, skin pigment and a set of infant clothes with her – all signs of premeditated kidnapping. Most likely, this is not the first theft of its kind. Common sense tells us that child predators like to frequent places where children are present: amusement parks, playgrounds, school yards, toy stores. Therefore, it is wise to be ever-vigilant and take note of who’s watching you … or your kids … wherever you are.
The highway is another place to watch out for who’s watching you. For example, when you’re driving, do you ever check your rear view mirror to see if a vehicle is following you, especially if you’re driving alone … and at night? If you become suspicious, drive to a crowded place if possible, watch to see if, in fact, you’re being followed and don’t be afraid to ask for help. This is another good reason to have a cell phone with you at all times. Emergency 911 calls are a click away. By the way, did you know that all cell phones have GPS tracking devices in them? As long as the phone is turned on, you can be tracked. This is a good thing if you’re being stalked; not so good from a Big Brother standpoint, however.
To repeat in closing: being aware of your surroundings is one of the first lines of self-defense; perhaps the most important line. By watching out for who’s watching you, you claim power over your environment and maintain peace in your life. By being oblivious to your environment, you invite disaster. Therefore, next time you’re out and about no matter where you are, for your safety and well-being, and even that of your children, make sure you know who’s watching you.
Yours in the Arts,
Richard Andrew King, Grandmaster, Kiado-Ryu Karate & the Karate Institute of America