Hmm, not one word, not even a hint of a woman defending herself by legallyusing a weapon... I wonder if it could simply have slipped Watrous' mind...

Mon, Jun. 18, 2007

During an attack, fight for your life
By Monica Watrous

McClatchy Newspapers

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Women used to think they should be submissive during an attack. Those who resist, they thought, are more likely to get injured.

"The old school of thought to comply is wrong," said Capt. Chelly Pfeifer of the Kansas City (Mo.) Police Department. "Most of these crimes are crimes of control, where the assailant is trying to control the victim. The victim needs to take the control back."

In recent years police, self-defense experts and even Oprah Winfrey have preached that women should fight their attackers instead of taking no action and hoping their assailants would let them go unharmed.

The issue surfaced again after Overland Park, Kan., teen Kelsey Smith was kidnapped in a Target parking lot and murdered. Surveillance video shows her attacker apparently forcing her into her car.

Police have not made public details about her death, such as whether her abductor was armed.

But even if the attacker threatens to use a weapon, women should never get into a vehicle with him, said Tom Gentry, public information officer for the Independence Police Department.

"If an assailant has a gun and approaches a person in the parking lot, he knows that he doesn't want to have to use it because it's going to make a lot of noise and there are probably surveillance cameras," he said. "He is less likely to use it in a place like that, and a person would have a better chance of turning around and fleeing the other way."

It's difficult to shoot a moving target, Pfeifer said, but she doesn't instruct women to resist an armed attacker.

"If there's a weapon, I cannot tell them to go for it, to fight back," she said. "That's up to them. I would fight. I'd grab DNA, hair, skin samples, scratch them, bite them. But that's me. That's my personality."

In her self-defense class, Pfeifer educates women on how to become empowered during an attack, using stilettos, keys or an umbrella to defend themselves.

"Rapists hate women who fight back," she said. "We know most criminals are lazy by virtue of their job choice. If you put any roadblock in their way, they're going to move on to someone who isn't going to provide those roadblocks."

Creating noise is key, because attackers don't want attention drawn to themselves, Gentry said. He also recommends creating a defense strategy in advance.

"Someone who thinks they could become a victim needs to plan for an event like that, and they have to have it in their mind so they'd be willing to do it and not hesitate," Gentry said. "The idiom `failing to plan is planning to fail' is true."

Pfeifer said women should practice their plan with friends and family.

"It becomes muscle memory," she said. "Then when you're in a traumatic situation, you go right into those defensive moves."

Pfeifer also said that people acting in self-defense are safe from legal action as long as they fight back as a way to flee the attacker.

"You just want to break the hold or get away so the attacker stops," she said. "It becomes a different story if they're not fighting back and you're whaling on them."

Taking preventative measures is critical, Gentry said, but knowing how to react during an attack can be a matter of life and death.