Warning: Some readers may find this topic upsetting. This is not the intent. If you are a sensitive individual or believe this may apply to you, please enjoy one of our other blog posts, instead. Thank you.
“It started with a kind of creepy feeling,” said Nan, who asked that her real name not be used. “We were living in a condo at the time. I’d take out the garbage at night, or go out to get in my car to go somewhere, and I’d get the distinct feeling that I was being watched. This went on for months. Even at home, when Gerry [her husband] was at work, I’d have the feeling that someone was peeking through a crack in the curtains in our bedroom. It got to the point where I’d get ready for bed in the bathroom and sleep with a baseball bat.”
This went on for months. Finally, Nan and her husband bought a house in the north Phoenix area. But, the feeling persisted. Within a few days, Nan found herself peering out into the darkness of their backyard, which had a wrought iron fence instead of a privacy fence so homeowners could enjoy the mountain view behind their home. “I’d check and recheck the doors to make sure they were locked, and the alarm to make sure it was set. I thought I was going nuts,” she confessed.
She became distracted and forgetful. She came home several times to discover the garage door open. “I wanted to blame Gerry, but of course he wasn’t home. I felt so stupid!” she said.
Finally, she told her doctor about her fears and lack of concentration when he mentioned she’d lost weight: he referred her to a therapist.
The tip-off she wasn’t imagining things came one day when she was at the grocery store. “A man walked by me in the market. He was staring at me as he passed, and I realized I’d seen him before--at the condo we’d been renting, which was at least ten miles away. He didn’t say anything, but that stare… I’ll never forget it.”
Yet, there was nothing she could do. When she got in her car to leave, she noticed a white car following behind hers, although it lagged behind and passed when she turned into her driveway.
“I’d have sworn on my mother it was him in that car. I was shaking so badly, I could hardly dial the phone. I called Gerry and made him come home in the middle of the day.”
There was a time when Phoenix was called, “The kidnapping capital of the U.S.” Reports claimed that Phoenix police handled roughly 370 kidnappings per year. While this figure has been disproved, kidnappings still occur at the rate of about one per week in the Phoenix area. This means that, while it may not ever happen to you, preparations can be a valuable learning tool when one goes through the motions of what to do in the event of a crime such as a home invasion, an attempted kidnapping, gunpoint robbery, or other event in which one is personally targeted for an attack.
First of all, the people who are targeted for home invasion or kidnapping are almost always chosen. This means that a home invasion, which usually includes a robbery and violence, is not a random event.
Experts say that the one thing these would-be targeters have to do is pre-event surveillance. During that process, they have to behave in a manner which really makes them appear to blend in. The biggest problem with that is that most would-be attackers are really bad at blending in. Most of the time, they are quite noticeable to anyone who is even remotely looking.
So why don’t they get caught?
One of the things that we almost always have prior to an act of personal violence is several warnings, says Gavin de Becker, author of The Gift of Fear. "There is a process as observable, and often as predictable, as water coming to a boil." His assertion is that if we learn to trust our gut, without being dismissive, we will be able to discern when we are in someone’s radar. This, coupled with a highly visible criminal, will tip off the victim long before any violence is perpetrated on them.
The process of home invasions and kidnappings are similar. After a period of time during which information is collected about the individuals, the criminals, who tend to work in teams, swoop down on the household and subdue it, often with a display of force or violence. Ideally (for the criminal) this would be at night or on a weekend.
At this point, stealing, violence, torture, or whatever else the attackers feel might compel the victims to cooperate begins. This is also the time when an escape is the most possible and the RUN - HIDE - FIGHT actions have the best chance of succeeding. Unfortunately, our natural instinct as human beings is to freeze when we are confronted with violence. We have been so conditioned not to respond with violence that it seems repugnant to us even when we may be fighting for our very lives. At the same time, it’s necessary to point out that if the victim or victims don’t escape, they will probably be killed, because a home invasion attacker is not going to let anyone go. Therefore, if someone is prepared to do you violence, you have to be prepared to defend yourself and your family to avoid getting killed.
Experts say that if you can get away, run or hide. If not, do whatever you need to do. If it’s them against you, don’t fight to lose. Go all in.
Nan, as it turned out, didn’t have to go all in. Her stalker was caught by a neighbor who called the police when he saw him peeping in one of her windows. The man admitted to the police that he’d been watching Nan for almost a year. They found dozens of pictures of her on his cellphone and a closet in his home which had been carefully reinforced and sound-proofed. There was no doubt in anyone’s mind he had plans to abduct her. The worst part, for Nan, was when the man admitted he’d slipped into her garage during the times when it was left open and hid behind the small boat they had stored there. She hadn’t forgotten to close the garage door at all: he’d left it open when he was trying to get out.
Since that time, Nan and her husband have purchased motion sensor cameras for the house and garage. Their locksmith rekeyed the locks on their home and added a metal door to their garage (the one the garage had was hollow). They purchased a Smart hub for its security features and Nan wears a personal alarm device. She is doing ‘better on some days than others’, as she puts it, but still realizes the previous lapses in their security measures were due to the fact that she didn't trust her gut.
As she said, “If I’d have known it wasn’t all in my head, I’d have done more.”