Beware the Bad Self-Defense Advice, Pt. 2

There has been a stream of self-defense advice circulating online for the last twenty years or so. It relates particularly to rape, claiming that the originator of the information interviewed rapists in prison and collected valid anti-rape information from them. I’ve seen the ‘tips’ in my timeline at least half a dozen times this weekend. Apparently, a lot of people believe the information in the post below will help save women’s lives.

In this case, I have my doubts.

From what I can tell, the original post (numbers 1-10 in the first section) has been enhanced and expanded into the glut of bad advice seen below. It seems that the new post is a compendium of no fewer than three different streams of information. Apparently, more is better in the eyes of the person who put this post together.

The biggest point of contention for me where these types of posts are concerned is that women (or anyone else) will read them and believe that the information will help save them from rape. The danger is the false sense of security that such information might give. Violence is an extremely dynamic event that doesn’t conform to a neatly predictable series of actions.

The self-defense tips below imply that self-defense is a matter of, “If ‘X’ happens, do ‘Y’.” Note how many times the author of the advice includes near-absolutes (with terms such as most, most likely, and always, among others). These directives can be downright dangerous to the defender if the conditions of the response don’t meet the intent of the attack.

Thus, I have decided to copy the post in its entirety below (in the highlighted boxes and in bold font) with my commentary interspersed. Feel free to comment below or on the FB post to express agreement or to challenge my point of view. I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t know everything about the topic of self-protection, but I know as much as I can.

Let’s have a look:

De’Marie Mulattieri February 13, 2013

According to Snopes, the post is much older than 2013 (dating back to 2000). I looked up Ms. Mulattieri and found that she has little or nothing to do with the authorship of this post. She was apparently doing her part to help keep women safe. Admirable if not slightly misled.

Through a rapist’s eyes. A group of rapists and date rapists in prison were interviewed on what they look for in a potential victim and here are some interesting facts:

I wanted to get a research source on this information. The link at the bottom of the message leads to a dead site, so it’s no help. Snopes states that much of the post originated, “as an enthusiastic e-mail penned by an employee at the St. Louis office of the public relations firm Weber Shandwick.” Said employee had participated in a self-defense class held by David Portnoy, who has a questionable history where self-defense is concerned.

Thus, I was unable to locate the original email except in what Snopes posted. I did find a Denver Post article that also references the Snopes article and poo-poos the tips the post provides.

On that note…

1] The first thing men look for in a potential victim is hairstyle. They are most likely to go after a woman with a ponytail, bun! , braid, or other hairstyle that can easily be grabbed. They are also likely to go after a woman with long hair. Women with short hair are not common targets.

I have no idea where this piece of information came from. I’ve read a ton of books and articles on the topic of self-defense, and hair length was not among the typical characteristics sought by rapists.

The number one trait of rape victims is vulnerability. Either the woman is distracted (on her phone, running with headphones, etc.), encumbered (carrying too many items, managing multiple tasks at once), or impaired (drunk, passed out, etc.), which makes her a much more appealing target to would-be predators. The idea that all women should shorten their hair to avoid being more appealing to a would-be rapist is absurd.

2] The second thing men look for is clothing. They will look for women who’s clothing is easy to remove quickly. Many of them carry scissors around to cut clothing.

Doubtful. Rape victims span the spectrum from lightly dressed to abundantly clothed. Further, 80% of rapes are committed by people who are known to the victim. The idea that these people are carrying around scissors for the purpose of effectuating rape on their victim is, again, absurd.

3] They also look for women using their cell phone, searching through their purse or doing other activities while walking because they are off guard and can be easily overpowered.

No argument here, as this is probably the best piece of information in the entire thread.

4] The number one place women are abducted from / attacked at is grocery store parking lots.

Not necessarily. Women are abducted from areas of vulnerability. Grocery store parking lots are highly active, generally well-lit, and otherwise difficult to navigate for the purpose of kidnapping a woman. That’s not to say that it can’t happen; just that a smart predator will choose a more isolated location to approach his target.

5] Number two is office parking lots/garages.

This information is far too vague to be valuable. The only purpose for this type of statement is to instill fear and thus create more customers for a self-defense seminar. I refer to my earlier statement that women are abducted (however rarely it happens) from places where they are perceived as vulnerable.

6] Number three is public restrooms.

Are we still talking abductions, here? Because it seems rather ludicrous that a women would be targeted for abduction from such a public place as a restroom. Sure there are a few exceptions (malls, for example, where bathrooms can be in pretty remote areas), but the idea that women should avoid public restrooms for fear of abduction doesn’t hold water. Again, this information is more fear-mongering than actual self-defense information.

7] The thing about these men is that they are looking to grab a woman and quickly move her to a second location where they don’t have to worry about getting caught.

True, but such non-acquaintance abductions happen entirely differently than is being presented here. Gavin DeBecker wrote The Gift of Fear* in which he describes the MO of men who target women for rape. By and large, the aggressor is charming and helpful before turning into her worst nightmare.

8] If you put up any kind of a fight at all, they get discouraged because it only takes a minute or two for them to realize that going after you isn’t worth it because it will be time-consuming.

There is no guarantee anywhere that a would-be rapist is willing to abandon his victim after a bit of fighting. In some cases, the resistance of his victim is a bigger thrill for the threat. Further, if it takes “a minute or two” for him to realize that the victim is more than he wants to work for, that’s about 45-115 seconds too long. At the first hint of trouble, the targeted woman should be targeting vital areas that put the threat on the ground. At two minutes, the woman may be far enough down the path of victimization as to be beyond help.

9] These men said they would not pick on women who have umbrellas, or other similar objects that can be used from a distance, in their hands.

This tip sounds like it’s referring to middle school bullying. A rapist isn’t ‘picking on’ women; he is targeting her for the worst sort of non-fatal violence he can perpetuate upon her. Sure an umbrella or 2X4 might be a deterrent, but I wouldn’t bet my wife’s life or safety on that possibility.

10] Keys are not a deterrent because you have to get really close to the attacker to use them as a weapon. So, the idea is to convince these guys you’re not worth it.

This is silly. If a sexual predator means to target a woman for that purpose, her keys aren’t going to be a deterrent? Correct me if I’m wrong, but a sexual predator has to get pretty damned close to a woman to perpetuate that act of violence. Properly used, keys can be quite a convincing deterrent.


1] If someone is following behind you on a street or in a garage or with you in an elevator or stairwell, look them in the face and ask them a question, like what time is it, or make general small talk: can’t believe it is so cold out here, we’re in for a bad winter. Now that you’ve seen their faces and could identify them in a line- up, you lose appeal as a target.

I disagree. The less you engage a possible predator the better. Bearing in mind that true sexual predators often earn a degree of trust from their victims through carefully crafted charm, the more he is able to talk with his potential victim, the more likely he is to accomplish his goal.

Further, being followed would imply movement. Stopping to ask the time or chat about the weather implies allowing the threat to close distance. That’s NEVER a good idea unless there is a high degree of confidence in one’s abilities to manage a possible CQC situation. Instead, pick up the pace – run if necessary – until a place of relative safety (one with more witnesses) is reached.

Finally, a woman’s capacity to identify her would-be attacker is only useful if she gets away. It doesn’t prevent rape and it certainly increases the likelihood that her attacker will torture, rape, and kill her.

2] If someone is coming toward you, hold out your hands in front of you and yell Stop or Stay back! Most of the rapists this man talked to said they’d leave a woman alone if she yelled or showed that she would not be afraid to fight back. Again, they are looking for an EASY target.

This will work in a populated area. Again, stopping to allow the threat to approach without a plan for retaliation should things go poorly is a dangerous approach to self-preservation. Movement is an important part of self-defense. If a woman is going to put up her hands and yell to convey the message to stay back, getting off the ‘X’ (lateral movement, preferably) is immensely important in these matters.

3] If you carry pepper spray (this instructor was a huge advocate of it and carries it with him wherever he goes,) yelling I HAVE PEPPER SPRAY and holding it out will be a deterrent.

Screw. That.

The would-be victim should get the ‘stay back’ message to him – repeatedly. If he disregards her commands to stay back, nail him. Don’t TELL him your plan, and CERTAINLY don’t hold it out for him to slap away or snatch. How heinous would it be for the defender to be incapacitated by her own OC.

4] If someone grabs you, you can’t beat them with strength but you can do it by outsmarting them. If you are grabbed around the waist from behind, pinch the attacker either under the arm between the elbow and armpit or in the upper inner thigh – HARD. One woman in a class this guy taught told him she used the underarm pinch on a guy who was trying to date rape her and was so upset she broke through the skin and tore out muscle strands the guy needed stitches. Try pinching yourself in those places as hard as you can stand it; it really hurts.

So I tested this approach with my wife (3rd dan, Isshinryu karate) with her arms free from the hold and with her arms bound. In neither scenario was she able to gain a meaningful hold on my triceps area. This self-defense tip is useless – unless you’re grabbed from the front, at which point the triceps grab works as described (just make sure to have a follow-up technique ready to go).

Better idea: she should reach back and grab the soft flesh on his flanks (the ‘love handles’ area). A good pinch there is extremely painful. If that area isn’t within reach, the insides of the thighs are super-tender and elicit an immediate reaction when grabbed.

Of course, flailing, slamming the back of her head into his face, and several other bear-hug defensive approaches can be taught by a competent instructor.

5] After the initial hit, always go for the groin. I know from a particularly unfortunate experience that if you slap a guy’s parts it is extremely painful. You might think that you’ll anger the guy and make him want to hurt you more, but the thing these rapists told our instructor is that they want a woman who will not cause him a lot of trouble. Start causing trouble, and he’s out of there.

Guys make it a habit of protecting their groins from direct strikes. Indirect attacks might work, but there’s no guarantee that it will. As a matter of training, I’ve taken more than my fair share of groin strikes. They hurt, but they weren’t incapacitating. The idea that the groin shot is the end-all of attacks on an aggressive male is an exaggeration. I’ve completed lengthy sparring sessions after getting kicked in the stuff. A person motivated to avoid prison time will probably react with equal indifference.

6] When the guy puts his hands up to you, grab his first two fingers and bend them back as far as possible with as much pressure pushing down on them as possible. The instructor did it to me without using much pressure, and I ended up on my knees and both knuckles cracked audibly.

First, why is the threat putting his hands up to you. I’m trying to imagine this scenario and it’s not working for me. Maybe he’s reaching toward the woman he’s targeting. That I can see. Nevertheless, expecting a woman (or man, for that matter) to grab fingers on a moving appendage is a bit much. Fine motor skills (such as those required to grab moving fingers) deteriorate rapidly under duress. Highly trained martial artists might be able to pull it off, but a woman who took a three-hour seminar on defensive tactics is probably going to miss those fingers.

As I stated earlier, get off the ‘X’ with a deflection of the hands and resort to a different defensive technique that involves gross motor skills.

7] Of course the things we always hear still apply. Always be aware of your surroundings, take someone with you if you can and if you see any odd behavior, don’t dismiss it, go with your instincts. You may feel little silly at the time, but you’d feel much worse if the guy really was trouble.

Yes. Some decent advice. Number 7 is a winner!


1. Tip from Tae Kwon Do: The elbow is the strongest point on your body. If you are close enough to use it, do it.

Again, I approve of this message. Just make sure it’s a trained response and not just flailing.

2. Learned this from a tourist guide to New Orleans : if a robber asks for your wallet and/or purse, DO NOT HAND IT TO HIM. Toss it away from you…. chances are that he is more interested in your wallet and/or purse than you and he will go for the wallet/purse. RUN LIKE MAD IN THE OTHER DIRECTION!

So we’ve left the discussion about rape and moved to robbery. Under the stated circumstances, this is probably good advice.

3. If you are ever thrown into the trunk of a car: Kick out the back tail lights and stick your arm out the hole and start waving like crazy. The driver won’t see you but everybody else will. This has saved lives.

Perhaps it saved lives in 1973 when those big holes were cut into the rear quarter panel of a sedan. In modern vehicles, there are no lights to kick out from the trunk. However, many newer vehicles are equipped with interior trunk release handles. It’s not quite as sneaky, but it’s certainly an attention getter.

Still, the best option is to never end up in the trunk in the first place.

4. Women have a tendency to get into their cars after shopping,eating, working, etc., and just sit (doing their checkbook, or making a list, etc. DON’T DO THIS! The predator will be watching you, and this is the perfect opportunity for him to get in on the passenger side,put a gun to your head, and tell you where to go. AS SOON AS YOU CLOSE the DOORS , LEAVE.

I don’t mind this advice so much. Locking the doors and getting out of the area is better than just sitting around. I’ve made it a habit to lock the doors immediately upon closing my door. I recommend to all of my students that they do the same.

5. A few notes about getting into your car in a parking lot, or parking garage:

a. Be aware: look around your car as someone may be hiding at the passenger side , peek into your car, inside the passenger side floor, and in the back seat. ( DO THIS TOO BEFORE RIDING A TAXI CAB) .

It’s never a bad idea to make sure your car doesn’t have unexpected occupants. I do this myself.

b. If you are parked next to a big van, enter your car from the passenger door. Most serial killers attack their victims by pulling them into their vans while the women are attempting to get into their cars.

As previously stated, serial predators (rapists and murderers) are far more nuanced in their approach to taking women – charm and help. Vehicles, especially big vans, are easy to track and locate, making them less likely to be used in predatory attacks on women.

Helping a woman carry stuff from her car to her front door is a lot easier to pull off without notice – and she does the courtesy of unlocking the door and letting her eventual murderer into her home.

c. Look at the car parked on the driver’s side of your vehicle, and the passenger side. If a male is sitting alone in the seat nearest your car, you may want to walk back into the mall, or work, and get a guard/policeman to walk you back out. IT IS ALWAYS BETTER TO BE SAFE THAN SORRY. (And better paranoid than dead.)

I agree with the ultimate message of this tip – better to be seen as rude, paranoid, or a bitch than dead at the hands of a predator.

6. ALWAYS take the elevator instead of the stairs. (Stairwells are horrible places to be alone and the perfect crime spot).

This is a classic case of ‘it depends’. Is the elevator empty when she gets in? Is there a guy already in the car when the elevator arrives? Is she the only one getting on the elevator or will she be one of several people boarding? Such differences change the behavior of the woman.

Location matters, also. A stairwell in a college classroom building is different from the stairwell at the parking garage on the same campus. I would avoid the stairs at the parking tower, but not necessarily at the classroom building. There are a thousand variables at play in this situation, and only a decent grasp of defensive theory will accentuate the decision-making process.

7. If the predator has a gun and you are not under his control, ALWAYS RUN! The predator will only hit you (a running target) 4 in 100 times; And even then, it most likely WILL NOT be a vital organ. RUN!

I like the idea of running. Nothing says ‘look at me’ quite like pulling the trigger on a fleeing woman in a public area. I would add that it is essential that the would-be victim run toward cover or concealment to make herself a harder target to hit. Ducking behind cars, trees, or shrubs while running is much safer than just running across open space.

She should be hard to hit – and she must find multiple ways to assure that she is hard to hit.

8. As women, we are always trying to be sympathetic: STOP IT! It may get you raped, or killed. Ted Bundy, the serial killer, was a good-looking, well educated man, who ALWAYS played on the sympathies of unsuspecting women. He walked with a cane, or a limp, and often asked “for help” into his vehicle or with his vehicle, which is when he abducted his next victim.

Again, it’s better to be rude, paranoid, or thought a bitch than be victimized. Men seldom ask for help with their vehicles (or most other issues) from women with whom they are not closely familiar. Women should be willing to call for help (from a safe distance), but they needn’t get so close to a situation that they lose the tactical advantage that distance provides.

Send this to any woman you know that may need to be reminded that the world we live in has a lot of crazies in it and it’s better safe than sorry.

If u have compassion reblog this post.
‘Helping hands are better than Praying Lips’ – give us your helping hand.

I would recommend sending this blog entry to women. It’s far more likely to keep them safe.

So please reblog this….Your one reblog can Help to spread this information.
I hope you all will Reblog. Lets See how many of you really care for this.


The information in the original post (without my additions) is more likely to harm a woman’s chances of safe escape from a threat. Don’t forward it to anyone without a healthy amount of explanation (as found above).


It’s a dead link. Don’t bother clicking it.

Recommended: Beware the Bad Self-Defense Advice

*The link to the book leads to our affiliate site, thus a percentage of any purchase helps keep the lights on here at DefCon. For that, we thank you.

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