In a recent self-defense class, Covington Police Department Capt. Ken Malcom shows student Mandy Womack a technique for escaping an attack. - Special photo
COVINGTON -- The recent attempted daylight kidnapping of a Covington woman and her grandchild in a Conyers store parking lot has made many women think, "That could have been me."
"She's a hero," said Covington Police Capt. Ken Malcom. "Her actions saved her and the baby and probably somebody else. She probably was not his first victim and probably wouldn't have been the last."
Malcom teaches a class designed to make "heroes" of every woman who is attacked and equip her with the best tools for survival.
Screaming loud and long and refusing to cooperate with her attacker worked for this recent victim, but Malcom says every woman should have a series of ideas for self-preservation in case of sudden attack.
"You can't have just one basic idea that you haven't thought out," he said. "You need to have a series of ideas and think, 'What would I do if he did this or that?' Sometimes it can be something as simple as yelling at the person. That can work, but you need to have more than that to your plan. You have to be prepared that if you do scream, the person may attempt to silence you ... are they going to try to put their hand over your mouth or hurt you immediately? But screaming lets the person know that you're not going to be a victim. If they focused on you because they think you are weak, they know now that you're not. You're willing to fight."
He said self-defense begins with mental preparation.
"You've got to visualize it being successful and have confidence that what you are about to do is going to work," he said. "That's 90 percent of the battle. Sometimes people are afraid they're not going to have the ability to fight, but you are going to be able to do what you need to do to survive. Once it gets to that point, there will be instinctual actions that take over. You will be able to do more than you think you can do."
Malcom said predators often look for people who seem to be unaware of their surroundings and he suggests that every person make it a habit to use the "10-Second Rule."
"Say you're walking out of a store, take a few seconds before you actually walk out to scan and see what you're walking into," he said. "You could be walking out into a crime in progress. Look around and see if you see suspicious individuals hanging around. Look to your left and right and see who's out there. Then as you leave the store and head for your car, see if there's any activity around your vehicle."
If as you approach your vehicle, the hair stands up on the back of your neck and your stomach muscles tighten, back off, he says.
"We're the only animal on the face of the earth that suppresses fear," Malcom noted. "Every other animal, will either run from it or fight, but we suppress it or dismiss it. Don't be paranoid, but use that God-given ability we all have."
In the event fighting becomes necessary, Malcom said the objective should be to fight so you can flee.
"If they're striking you and attempting to harm you, it's important to try to protect yourself from strikes to the head or throat where they can disable you very quickly," he said. "Also, in an effort to defend yourself, realize there are certain parts of a person's body that are vulnerable and you want to strike them in those areas. You want to create enough pain so that the predator refocuses on self-preservation and no longer on you."
Malcom suggested using a chopping motion with the side of the hand to the person's throat or poking them in the eyes.
"It doesn't take a lot of force to hurt somebody severely, especially in the throat," he said. "The throat is an easier target than the eyes, which comprise a very small area where you've got to make a sudden rush and if the person moves at all, you could very easily miss. The throat is a different story and it doesn't take a lot of force to make it difficult for that person to breathe to where they can't continue the attack."
He said if a person is grabbed from behind, they should try stomping on the toes or instep, or turning their foot to the side and raking it down the attacker's shin.
"That can cause enough pain for them to release the grip they have on you," he said. "Once they do that, you're going to have to do another maneuver to create more distance by either striking their eyes, throat, or kneeing them in the groin. You don't want to kick because you could get off balance. Just a simple knee lift will do it and it doesn't take a lot of pressure to cause enough pain to divert the attacker into self-preservation mode."
Malcom said it is his opinion that the best weapon a woman can carry is pepper spray.
"The first issue with firearms is accessibility. If you've got a gun, but are not able to get to the gun, it can create a false sense of security. Remember, most shootouts last fewer than three seconds, so if you can't reach your gun in that amount of time, you're not going to be able to use it," he said.
Also, he said Tasers are an iffy proposition.
"When we deploy our Tasers, we're a little over 70 percent effective and we have received a tremendous amount of training," he pointed out, adding that in certain situations a law enforcement officer is aware that he may be called upon to use his Taser. "The average person is never prepared for a situation where they might use a Taser. You're going to be nervous. Your going to panic. Really, with a Taser, a lot has to go right, but with pepper spray it does not."
Malcom recommends buying a canister of pepper spray that has a cone on the nozzle that will emit the spray like a shotgun, rather than a single stream.
"You create a wall that that person has to come through in order to attack you and they're going to react," he said, adding that residual amounts may even get on the victim and they, too, will react, but much less seriously than the attacker.
And, he says to buy pepper spray that can be attached to a key chain and always have it in your hand as you go to your vehicle. Also, he suggests that those out walking carry pepper spray with them, as it's very effective on aggressive animals and snakes.
"The folks at the DNR (Department of Natural Resources) recommend pepper spray over a gun if you're confronted with a bear," he pointed out. "If pepper spray is more effective than a gun on a bear, you can reasonably say it could put you in a position to get away from a predator."
He said the question frequently arises, "What if they've got a gun and they tell you to get in the car?"
"If they want you to leave the area you are in, that's telling you they are not comfortable committing a crime against you there. They want to take you somewhere else. Don't give them that advantage. The chances of your surviving go down tremendously if you leave with them," he said.
Malcom said if you're able to run, do it, even if a predator has a gun and threatens to shoot you. That's not necessarily the end of the road.
"What's the worst thing that can happen if you've got a gun pointed at you and you run? He's either going to pull the trigger or not pull the trigger. One of two things will happen if he pulls the trigger -- either it will go off or it will not go off. Every year there are a number of armed robberies around the country where people go in and commit a crime with a non-functioning weapon. There's a chance there," he said. "If he fires the shot, what's the worst thing that can happen? The bullet is either going to strike you or not strike you. If it strikes you, one or two things are going to happen. It's either going to hit you in a vital organ or not. If it does not hit you in a vital organ or an artery that creates a tremendous amount of bleeding, you will still be able to function and get away. Realize that most people who are shot, survive. You've still got a fighting chance."
Malcom emphasized that the techniques he's discussed here are not to be used offensively nor should they be used to hang onto valuables.
"Release any property they are asking for," he said. "You fight only to protect yourself and another innocent life. You don't put up a fight for property. You let it go, call 911 and let the police do their job."
Malcom said any individual or group in the Covington area that is interested in learning more about self-defense, can contact him at 770-385-2126. Those living outside the area should contact their local law enforcement agency.