It takes a criminal just seven seconds to select their next victim.
So how do you avoid being a target? Enter: Steve Kardian, a self-defense expert with 30 years experience in law enforcement as a police officer, detective, chief investigator and FBI defensive tactics instructor. Through his organization, Defend University, he has taught over 200,000 women practical self-defense techniques and strategies to help decrease the chances of being seen as an easy target.
For those of us who can't make it to his classes in person, his new book, The New Superpower for Women, outlines much of what he teaches and more: explaining how to create an actionable blueprint of what to do and reality-based self-defense techniques to react quickly to any scenario, from active shooters, to dangerous parking lots, to running alone in the park.
It can take a seasoned criminal less than seven seconds to size you up. To decide whether you would be easy to rob, assault, kidnap, or whatever else is on his mind.
Count to seven now: One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Six. Seven.
In the time from when you started counting to when you finished, a predator would have given you the once-over and decided whether he was moving forward to attack or whether he would be looking at the person walking behind you as his potential target. Yup, that’s how quick it is.
His two biggest fears are getting hurt and getting caught. This knowledge empowers you in case you are picked. Fight back and cause a scene. The predator wants to commit the perfect crime and, in those few seconds, he assesses whether he runs an increased risk of getting hurt or caught by choosing you.
In 1981, sociologists Betty Grayson and Morris I. Stein conducted a now-famous study that cast new light on how assailants picked would-be targets. The researchers set up a video camera on a busy New York sidewalk and taped people walking by for three days, between 10 a.m. and noon.
The tape was later shown to inmates in a large East Coast prison who were incarcerated for violent offenses (such as armed robbery, rape and murder) against people unknown to them. The inmates were instructed to rate the pedestrians on a scale of one to ten, from “a very easy rip-off” to “would avoid it, too big a situation. Too heavy.” This is the basis for the Seven-Second Rule.
Two striking facts stood out.
First, there was a consensus about who would be easy to overpower and control. Every inmate chose exactly the same person. Second, and unexpectedly, the choices were not solely based on gender, race or age, as you would expect. Older, petite females were not automatically singled out. What came as a surprise was that there were other criteria that influenced the decisions. The inmates read the pedestrians’ nonverbal signals and used those to make their choices. Basic movements made by the pedestrians, such as the length of their stride, how they moved their feet, the way they shifted their body weight, and whether their arms swung while walking, came into play and were interpreted for signs of vulnerability.
Since we know what movements and actions signal unease and uncertainty, you can take steps to protect yourself by changing your behavior, including modifying your walking patterns to project yourself as someone who would be difficult to subdue and who would likely cause a scene: in other words, a hard target.
TAKE THE RIGHT STEPS TO BE A HARD TARGET
The following illustrations show different styles of walking and I go over some of the key body language signals that are markers of strength or weakness. While you may not be able to consistently control the nonverbal signals you give off, the knowledge of what the criminal is looking for gives you an enormous advantage. You can try to incorporate that knowledge into your daily movements and influence how you are perceived.
WALK THIS WAY
DON'T WALK THIS WAY
DON'T WALK THIS WAY
THE SPLIT-SECOND GLANCE
As you go about your day, you want to be casually looking around, seeing what types of people are in your vicinity and registering your surrounding environment. This gives your intuition a chance to chime in and takes away any opportunities for a surprise assault.
I suggest giving people a split-second glance so that you have put them on notice that you know they are there. You are talking with your body and telling them, “I see you. If you’re up to no good I know it, and I am not an easy target.” When a predator knows that you have seen him, he may look for another target because the element of surprise is lost.
REMEMBER TO BE A STAAR
As you go about your day, remember to:
It may not be all that difficult to stand up straight, walk with determination and be alert to your surroundings. The challenge is to keep it up for extended periods of time. When your phone pings, signaling that you have a new text, it is very easy to get distracted and forget to monitor the environment. The moment your chin drops and your awareness focuses on your screen, you turn into an easy target.