I am a survival enthusiast. I fall in love with anything that teaches me how to survive in any given life-threatening situation. This passion can be traced back to when I was little. As a young girl, I took a particular interest in survival stories. I read most of them from the Reader’s Digest. My heroes did not wear capes or have superhuman powers. My heroes were ordinary people who were in the disadvantage when pitted against extraordinary circumstances yet emerged as victors because of the indomitable will to survive. Their stories helped me survive my own personal near-rape encounter. The following tips are based on my personal experience and the experiences of others before me who also came out survivors.
1. Be attentive to your instincts.
Sometimes you find yourself in a situation where you previously had no reason to feel threatened or alarmed but suddenly things feel…different. The safe rule is, pay attention because chances are, some imminent threat that is still imperceptible to the five physical senses has tripped your instincts. In my case, I found myself alone with my Karate instructor. This was somebody I trusted and looked up to because he was a rescuer and I have always held rescuers in high esteem for their benevolence, self-sacrifice, and courage. The moment my gut told me something was wrong, I paid attention. But sometimes we rationalize with our instincts because there have been times the perceived threat turned out to be purely imagined. I didn’t leave right away because I couldn’t seem to find an excuse to leave so abruptly and in case my instincts were wrong, I did not want to offend my instructor. But I did not completely ignore my instincts. I texted my two friends who were nearby and told them to hurry back. I also texted a friend I was certain would call me back to give me a ring right away. My instincts were right on the mark. Right after sending these two distress texts, my Karate instructor made his first move.
2. Fight the panic before you fight the assailant.
The first and most natural reaction to any bodily threat is fear. Fear prepares our body for the fight or flight response but if you do not master that fear, you will panic and that greatly reduces your chances of survival. When I realized what the instructor was trying to do, I prayed in my mind: “Oh, God, help me! Help me survive this!” Then I commanded myself to stay calm. When he gripped my arms with his hands, I did not fight back. Of course I went rigid with fear, but I did not push him or try to hit him. This was afterall a Karate instructor. He could render me helpless in a matter of seconds then I would fall completely under his mercy. By not fighting back, I avoided provoking him to aggression.
3. Assess your situation: To Fight, Take Flight or…Play Dead.
There are usually two physical responses to a threat. Fight or Flight. There are some situations where we neither fight nor take flight. We play dead. The old myth that if one ever finds himself face to face with a bear, he should play dead because the bear would walk on by. Although it’s only a myth, playing dead could buy you time in a real-life situation. My decision not to fight back was simply the application of a lesson I learned from a rape survival article on Reader’s Digest. If your assailant attempts to abduct you near a public place, raise hell, scream for help and do what you can to draw attention to yourself before the assailant overpowers you completely and takes you to another location where you are beyond help. The article also said that if you find yourself in a situation where intervention seems unlikely, do not provoke your assailant to aggression by resisting. Playing dead buys you time by letting him think you are cooperating with him and your unexpected cooperation might confuse him or even cause him to hesitate. Playing dead also lets you save your energy while you wait for the perfect opportunity of escape.
4. Use your head. If you can’t beat them, outsmart them.
The instructor tried to kiss me. I stepped back and said: “Wait, they’ll be back anytime. They might see us.” I wanted him to think that I was going to cooperate. He looked surprised by what I said and he loosened his grip on me and instinctively glanced over his shoulder to make sure there were no observers. While he glanced back, I took a step back and pulled my phone out of my pocket and pretended to be reading a text. “They’re already here.” I said and looked to the exit as if I was expecting them to walk in that second. He looked at me with wide eyes and took a step back. I thought he would cease his attempts after that because he was also expecting them to be back anytime soon. My other friend was also his student. I began to walk away but I couldn’t move fast enough. My legs felt so heavy. Then he must have realized I was lying because he suddenly jumped onto my path to the exit and gripped my arms again.
The point has come, to my everlasting shame, when I have to admit that I have very poor reflexes when it comes to situations like these. That was the very reason why I took the Karate lessons in the first place so that I could learn self-defense and match my physical skills with the knowledge I’d acquired. I was paralyzed with fear. My mind was working, calculating, counter-thinking his every move. But my body would not obey. He had me pinned on the floor before I knew it and I felt myself begin to succumb to the panic.
This time, I tried to scream but I could not find my voice. All I could think of to do was raise my hands over my head to keep them from being pinned to my side. That was the last piece of useful information I recalled from an episode of Fight Science on National Geographic right before the panic started to overcome me. He kissed me and I shut my eyes and ordered myself to fight. I had forgotten that the rationale for raising my arms above my head was also so that he could try to pin them there which would bring his head closer to mine so that I could reach for his eyes or head butt him. My mind pleaded with my body. Fight. Fight. Fight…God, help me. Just help me.
Suddenly my phone rang and startled the instructor. He jumped and lost his grip on me. That ring dispelled the cloud of panic that had enshrouded my mind and suddenly I could think–and move–again. I sprang to my feet and pulled my phone out of my pocket in the same instant and answered the call. It was that friend of mine I had texted whom I knew would call me back. God bless my friend because he didn’t fail me.
“Hello, Uncle Charlie. I’m here at [stated the complete address of where we were at].”
Meanwhile, on the other end of the line, “Uncle Charlie” who was not really Uncle Charlie, and who was also a fellow survival enthusiast, knew something was wrong right away. He said: “Something’s wrong, isn’t there? Don’t panic. Keep doing what you’re doing. Say his name out loud.”
I continued my end of the made-up conversation. “I just had my karate lessons with [stated the instructor’s full name]. Hey, you might know him. He’s a rescuer who works at [stated work place of instructor]. I watched the color drain from my instructor’s face and he began to back away. I wasted no time. I grabbed my bags and continued in my conversation with “Uncle Charlie”.
“I’m coming to meet you, Uncle. Imo man kaha ko’ng i-libre? If I’m not there in 3 minutes, come pick me up here [restated address of where we were at].” I made my exit and once I was out the door, I burst into a run until I was outside the gate where I saw my friends. I ran to them and I just collapsed into my friend’s arms. “Oh my, God! What happened!” she asked. I had started to cry and I tried to explain between sobs what had happened. Just then the instructor, left the compound on his bike, shooting icy glares at me as he drove away.
5. Read How-To-Survive-Rape articles or stories.
I’m no expert on the matter but these are things I learned from the experiences of other women who have survived, and the fact that I also survived only testifies to how effective these five unpopular ways can be. Self-defense or martial arts instruction is not readily accessible to all of us, but we can prepare ourselves for these situations by reading about them in advance. All the reading I did as a child served me well when I found myself in the situation. No, I didn’t handle it like a pro because I eventually panicked but in the end, the lessons I’d learned from the stories of other women proved valuable to me.
I entitled my article Five Unpopular Ways To Survive A Rape because the five ways are not emphasized anymore. Most self-defense instructions prepare us physically for the encounter. Little mention is usually made about listening to instinct, fighting the panic before fighting the assailant, playing dead and the value of mental warfare when physical resistance is ineffective. If you find these tips valuable, share them and become part of the global advocacy to empower women against abuse.