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Crime and violence are processes that take time to develop. Although being accosted is the most devastating element of an attack, it is definitely not the first step. I hope the following sheds light on how an attack takes place, and by being in a position to read the signs, you buy yourself precious seconds and maybe it saves your life.

There are five distinct stages of an attack, namely: The intent of the attacker, the interview, positioning, the attack itself and finally, his reaction to the realization of his actions.

The intent of the attacker is described as his conscious decision to commit an offence. It may not show outwardly until the actual commission of the offence and thus we need to be aware of the second and third signs in order to see if he is going to attack.

Our second step, the interview, is the attacker’s way of double checking to see if you are actually a safe target for him to attack. Thus, if your ability to ward off an attack is greater than his, he would need to tip the scales in his favor by using a weapon or get help. If these conditions are not met, he would most likely not attack.

Selecting a “safe” victim is a matter of life or death for the criminal. If he picks the wrong target, he's the one who is going to die. Therefore, he's going to make sure he can successfully overpower you (interview and positioning) before he commits himself to act.

Once he is sure of his ability to succeed, and you are in a position where he can quickly overwhelm you, he will commence with his attack.

Let’s have a look at the five stages I detail:


This is where the attacker crosses the mental boundary between legal and illegal behaviour. From this point, the attacker is mentally and physically prepared to commit violence in order to get what he wants.

Being able to recognize an attacker’s intent is one of the key components of your personal safety. This, however, is not as easy as it looks on paper as many criminally minded people have learned how to mask their intent with normal everyday conversation and feigned innocence.


With all acts of violence, the assailant's safety is a critical factor in deciding whether or not to attack. Anger, strong emotional influence or even pride may lead to an attacker committing interpersonal violence without thinking or interviewing, however, in the case of planned violent attack, the decision to attack would be more of a though-out, conscious decision. He will thus interview his victim in order to be assured of the victim’s vulnerability and suitability.


Positioning is where the attacker places himself in the ideal position to successfully attack you. Please remember, an attacker does not want a fair fight, he wants to, in as little time as possible, overwhelm you. In order to achieve this, he has to put himself in a position where he can overwhelm you quickly and effectively.

An observed attempt to position himself, should be the final proof needed by the potential victim of the attacker’s ill intent, thus removing all doubt that the situation is innocent.


The attack is the when the attacker commits himself to the use of force and/or violence to achieve his desired goal, whether it be to assault, kill, sexually assault or commit robbery. Obviously, at this stage, the chances of a victim turning the tables on an attacker are very slim.


Immediately after his commission of the attack, certain reactions could ensue. If you react with verbal abuse or violence towards him, you may end up causing a fresh violent reaction and instead of robbing you and leaving you bleeding and alive; he may end up killing you or injuring you further. Another feared, yet common, reaction is that he fears being identified and thus, ends up committing murder.

For these reasons, I want to implore my readers, if you are not fully trained in self defence, then please do not act in any way as to threaten your attacker. Your reaction to his behavior should appeal to his human side and hopefully he will not follow through with extended gratuitous violence.

Here are a few things to remember… should someone attack you, raise your hands. Please, not suddenly and not outstretched above your head. Your thumbs should be touching your ears and your elbows in front of your chest. This prevents him from landing successful blows to your face and chest, with his hands or his weapon, to some extent.

Secondly, look downwards and not at your attacker directly as this will mean that you could identify him and he may prevent that possibility by killing you. Thirdly, do not try and control the situation by exercising authority and talking to him, be totally quiet; you do not want to rekindle his anger towards you.

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