Being endangered is frightening. Being endangered when you have no idea of how to come against a predator is even more terrifying.
Sandi Bird Aldridge recently gave a one-hour seminar titled “Damsel in Defense,” what she calls her “Empower Hour,” where she demonstrated to women how to be prepared and respond to predators. It was held at Town Hall and sponsored by The Emporium General Store.
She quickly shared that she was there to help women adjust their mindset from being a victim to becoming a warrior. The purpose of the gathering was to equip, empower and educate women.
Aldridge quoted the “Warrior Creed – This is my life. My life is valuable, and worth the fight. Those who are with me deserve to be protected as well. Denial doesn’t make me safe, in fact it has negative side effects and will cause me to be unprepared and inefficient. Personal safety is my responsibility. I will make this investment in my life because my life is worth the fight.”
She continued, “Because of the culture we live in and are programmed to have our cellphones in our hands constantly, unable to wait five minutes to cross the parking lot to get to our car to check our newest messages or Facebook posts, our noses are in our phone and it shuts down our senses.”
Aldridge began with a personal story of how she was 19-years-old with three kids under the age of four and had just gotten off of work. Her co-worker dropped her off behind a parking lot. “It was broad daylight,” Aldridge explained. “Someone stepped up from behind my car in a threatening position and told me to give her my purse. I had just cashed my check, had three hungry children and my husband was home recovering from an accident. I was not going to give up my purse.”
Though a major scuffling took place, Aldridge kept her purse, but her glasses got broken and she was punched in the face, but fought the assailant off.
Her co-worker happened to see what had started to transpire when she drove off and immediately went to get the police and the assailant was caught. This happened before cell phones.
“I wish I would have had something on me at that time as I wouldn’t have gotten my glasses broken,” Aldridge continued.
Though she had many items for purchase for women to help keep them safe or fight off predators, her main goal was abundantly clear. “If I get one person who will grab one nugget of what I say and take it home with them and they are safer because of it, that is the most important thing.”
She continued to have the undivided attention of every woman in the room as she told her own story.
“I am a statistic,” she said before adding, “One out of every five women are survivors of rape, one out of three women will suffer some type of domestic violence, a child is abducted or goes missing every 40 seconds and a violent crime occurs every 26 seconds in the United States.”
Aldridge shared she had suffered sex trafficking amongst other things.
“I want to tell you how to not be a statistic, with a quick overview of Damsel in Defense,” she said. “It is an organization, founded by someone with a heart and a mission to help women. They currently support two safe houses for survivors of sex trafficking and have a vision to open nine more. Therefore, a portion of products sold goes to that project.”
Here are some additional statistics: there’s a sex offender every square mile in the U.S., one in four girls are victims of sexual abuse, 70 percent are under the age of 17 and 95 percent know their abuser.
Aldridge continued, “I want to teach you about situational awareness. It’s not being paranoid in thinking there is a bad person behind every bush or car. It is being alert to what is going on around you and then being able to make good decisions. It’s all about paying attention.”
She explained the importance of continually using one’s peripheral vision.
Aldridge noted that people who are not aware of their situations aren’t attentive to their surroundings, like looking at their phones. “That is a soft target,” Aldridge explained. “To a predator, you are ‘easy’ prey, whereas a hard target is somebody who makes themselves aware of their situation, carrying themselves in good stature, making eye contact with people and looking around.”
She clarified, “When you make eye contact with people, you are letting them know they are there. You allow yourself to notice behaviors of people around you or things that may be out of place. It then allows you to make a decision of what you need to do to make yourself safe.”
Aldridge explained the OODA loop – Observing, Orienting, Deciding and Acting. “It will keep you out of trouble. Many times our body will have instinct. Some call a gut feeling while others call the unction of the Holy Spirit within them. Don’t ever ignore your instinct.”
She gave suggestions of how to have situational awareness in public places, at home and in the car:
- When you walk out of a place, keep your phone in your pocket, your keys in your hands and be aware of what is around you
- If you have children, don’t let them walk behind you. Somebody can drive by and easily snatch them up
- If you are out at night, carry a flashlight because it’s an automatic increase of situational awareness and predators do not like to be seen. (Aldridge reminded everyone of the previous incidents at Valley View Mall where predators were hiding under cars, slashing people’s ankles and then abducting them.)
- Shine your light under the cars and be aware of people in vehicles beside you
- Do not walk close to cars so someone can reach out and grab you
- Park closer to a building or under a light if you know it will be dark when you come out
- Check your back seat
- Keep your doors locked at all times; as soon as you get into your vehicle or even when you are sitting there looking for a shopping list or talking on your phone
- Another very safe measure is to always back into the parking lot so you can exit quickly.
“Remember, you are not being paranoid, you are being aware,” Aldridge said. “Aware people can make decisions immediately rather than being taken by surprise.”
She proceeded to share the advantages of always carrying some type of protection such as a stun gun, pepper spray or sharp object which can keep a predator at a distance.
“If someone tries to approach you, you want to keep them out of your personal space,” she explained. “One of the first things you want to do if somebody steps out in front of you and threaten you is to get loud.”
It was a consensus that “southern women” have a tendency to be sweet and quiet, not wanting to make a scene.
“Women, we have an outside voice and we need to use it,” Aldridge said in the affirmative.
She then took a step forward and shouted very strongly, “STOP” as she raised her hand in defense. Everyone in the room jumped a little, if not in their body, they did in their spirit.
“Make it known that you see them and make eye contact immediately,” she stated before saying, “Again, use…your…loud…voice.”
She displayed a keyring that can easily be worn around the wrist and shared objects that women could attach to it, for immediate use.
“I carry three layers of protection to be ready for different scenarios,” Aldridge noted. “If it’s pouring down rain, pepper spray isn’t going to work as well and if the wind is blowing the wrong way, it will blow in your face. If someone grabs you from behind, and you have a striking tool in your hand, you can respond automatically and using the stun gun will cause their muscles to freeze up and pain, but will not knock them down or pass out.”
Aldridge also shared that it is always good to practice scenarios in your head, so your mind is ‘trained’ in how to respond immediately.
“Do not turn your back on the attacker while you are getting away because you cannot see what they are doing,” she added. “Also, as soon as you strike the attacker, move. Even if they cannot see, they may try to reach out for you in the last place they seen you.”
One attendee shared her story of being at Walmart with her four children, of which two were two and an infant. She had two buggies with her older two children helping. She noticed two men talking in the parking lot near her car and as she approached her car, one came and asked if he could help load the groceries. She stated no, but he kept persisting. Then the other man came over acting like he would help if that man was bothering her. She did not want to panic as she was trying to get all four kids into her vehicle, without making a scene. Though, she states, “I remember feeling so helpless with four kids and two buggies full.”
However, for some reason (that instinct) allowed her to notice another man coming out of Walmart and waved to him, telling the two men around her that was her husband and she didn’t need help. They quickly left. She had no idea who the strange man was that she waved to, but was grateful he waved back.
Aldridge noted that her having four children and two buggies automatically made her a soft target.
The lady then shared that she had a stun gun and pepper spray in her car that her husband had bought for her, but she didn’t carry it.
Aldridge added, “That is when you say in your loud voice, ‘Sir, I said no, and I need you to step back away from me right now.’”
“You need to make sure they know that you do not want their help. If you have to go into Mama Bear mode, yell, ‘Look, I said, Get out of my face.’”
Aldridge explained, “ I know that sounds pretty rude, right? But it works many times. If that person had bad intent and you respond in the parking lot, everyone around is going to be looking.”
She covered many other scenarios in the Empower Hour, sharing things women can use to be safer and less of a soft target for predators.
“So, if you get nothing else out of this today, I want you to understand that you are someone of value. There are people that love you and care about you and if you don’t care about yourself enough, use them as your why,” she stressed. “If we’re ever in a fight for our lives, we have to have a ‘why’ that keeps us going, that makes us believe that ‘I will survive this situation.’”
Anyone wishing to have Aldridge as a speaker can contact her at [email protected].