It’s no secret that there are predatory people in our society. Whether they are driven by poverty, or are sociopathic in nature, it’s a simple mathematical probability that you will eventually run into these people in your life. They choose their victims in a way that is not unlike predators in the animal kingdom. They are often ruthlessly efficient at sniffing out weaknesses, and sensing when you’re off your guard.
While many of the strategies below were originally tailored for urban areas, rural scenes have their fair share of sketchy trailer parks, rest stops, and dive bars. As the sun sets on America’s affluent lifestyle, it will become more likely that you’ll find yourself in the company of desperate and dangerous people, no matter where you live. Learning to spot predatory individuals and make yourself an undesirable target, is easily transferred from one scenario to another with the proper adjustments. There’s only one rule that is universal in avoiding any violent situation. Check your pride at the door.
Anyone in the Prepper community who has gone through the forums and comments of any survival website, knows what I’m talking about. Some people are eager to fight and prove themselves for all the wrong reasons (many of them will become a problem for you if the system breaks down). They often lose sight of the term “survival” and focus on “glory”. It doesn’t matter how skilled you are, it rarely takes one punch to win, and it seldom takes one shot to put someone down. Most fights turn into a kind of, blow by blow attrition until one person submits. No one, no matter how good of a fighter they are, gets out of a confrontation without getting hurt. It’s up to you to chose your battles carefully, and the best strategy is to not get into a fight in the first place. If of course, it can be avoided.
Now that that’s out of the way, lets discuss some strategies you can easily recognize. Body language in particular. It’s often said, that when you’re in a bad neighborhood you need to act confident. You need to walk straight and keep your eyes on your surroundings. Don’t ever stop to twiddle with your cell phone. Nobody gets mugged more often these days, then someone who has all of their awareness siphoned into a portable, expensive gadget. Another red flag for criminals, is if you appear to be lost (especially if you’re a tourist). To a predator, being lost means you’re awareness is no longer in your immediate vicinity, but inside your mind as you struggle to recall the directions. They may also wait for you to pull out your cell phone and lose even more awareness.
Another aspect of body language is eye contact. It’s the surest way to prove to people in your vicinity, that you are in fact aware. The eye contact shouldn’t be too strained though. Depending on cultural context, extended eye contact is often a sign of aggression (if you’re traveling to another country, always research the body language of the locals). The best thing to do is to make brief eye contact and continue to scan your surroundings, and occasionally look over your shoulder as well to show you have awareness in all directions.
One of the more underrated aspects of body language, is in your walking gait. In a study conducted back in 1981, researchers with a hidden camera filmed pedestrians walking through a bad neighborhood over the course of several days. They then visited a prison and showed the footage to various inmates who had been convicted of assault or murder (wouldn’t you just be thrilled to find out you were filmed and shown to convicts?). They were asked to rate on a scale of 1-10, how easy they felt it would be to attack each person they saw in the film. While the elderly were chosen more often than not, certain body language markers stood out across gender and age boundaries. They found that:
“The typical victim as perceived by the criminal respondents in this study would have either a long or a short stride, but not a medium stride…This typical victim would probably move his or her body so that body weight would shift laterally, diagonally, or with an up/down movement… In terms of whole body movement, the typical victim would move unilaterally, one side at a time, rather than contralaterally, moving left arm and right leg and then right arm and left leg. (Even those victims who did move contralaterally combined this movement with upper and lower body parts moving against each other rather than moving together.) Finally, the victim would tend to lift his or her feet while walking rather than using a more fluid swing movement.”
If you have a hard time imagining yourself walking in the way that’s described above, you probably walk like a normal person, and that’s exactly what you want to go for. A level, medium stride with symmetrical movements of the arms and legs, swinging your feet rather than plodding them up and down. Again, it’s very similar to how a predator chooses a victim in the wild. They scan for any signs of weakness, illness, or injury amongst the herd. The easiest way to spot that from a safe distance, is to observe how their victims move.
Outside of how aware you are and how you carry yourself, there is the matter of how you dress. You want to look similar to the local color, but you must take care with your choices. Choose drab colors, nothing flashy. This will help you avoid the mistake of choosing gang colors, which by their nature, tend to be flashy and noticeable. It goes without saying you shouldn’t wear anything that indicates wealth or status, but you wouldn’t want to go in the other direction either. Wearing something incredibly shabby and worn out, might give you the appearance of being homeless, who are often targeted for reasons other than wealth.
All in all, when you find yourself in unfamiliar surroundings, don’t stand out. Dress down, walk normally (if you don’t know how to do that, then I don’t know what to tell you), be aware, let the people around you know you’re aware, and of course, check your pride at home. If there is a way out of a fight, like fleeing or given out a decoy wallet, do it. I said it once and I’ll say it again. Nobody wins a fight without getting hurt. If you plan to defend your belongings, it’d better be worth the possibility of serious injury or the unfortunate legal ramifications of defending yourself.