The Predator Optic and The Attack Cycle

Ladies Only Self Defense Classes | Lethal Ladies, Part 2

Authors Note: This article deals with real world violence, not the sanitized violence of TV shows. I have been involved in the investigation of over 100 homicides and countless assaults and rapes. When violent assaults occur on the street, they are immediate, ferocious and bloody. I have described this difference between what we think violence will look like and what it actually does look like as comparing a drawing to a photograph. This article deals with the reality, not the drawing.

Forewarned is Forearmed.

Unlike the animal kingdom where predators will attack primarily for food, territory or self-defense, human predators can have several different motivations. In this article we will discuss humans that attack for resources or for the process itself. Resources can include money or belongings (robbery). The Process can be control/assault (sexual assault), or the warped enjoyment of causing pain and sometimes death to another person (unmitigated evil). These types of predators will operate differently in many ways from attackers that engage in other forms of violence, such as group violence (gangs), terrorism, or dominance-based violence. Despite these differences, human predators share several characteristics with those found in the animal kingdom. The vast majority want prey, not a fair fight. Their actions are designed to nullify, or at least limit, resistance when they attack. The objective is to take something, not to fight. The longer the attack lasts, the greater chance of something going wrong for the predator.

Across species, predators become very skilled at target selection and verification. They can read posture, body language and geography to stack the deck to increase their odds of success. Predators hunt in areas where they know their prey will have to travel, congregate or rest. Just as the lion lurks near the watering hole, the human predator will surveil the landscape for choke points, bottlenecks, and meeting places. He will select areas that typically have limited access and egress and escape routes are few. If the area is isolated, better yet so the prey’s screams cannot be heard and the predator will have more time to carry out his attack. Predators will surveil areas that offer the best opportunity to isolate intended prey. The rapist will know all the alley ways, shortcuts, and deserted paths that lead to the local bars. The robber will know the isolated and dimly lit parking spots at the local mall.  They will know patrol routes of local police, where they eat, where they get coffee. Once geography is established, the predator will begin to focus on possible prey. In the natural kingdom, the lion will focus on the old, young, or weak prey. Easier to chase down and overcome. The rapist, robber or pedophile will focus on the isolated, infirm or unaware potential victim. I call this phenomenon of human target selection the Limping Zebra Concept. Predators do not want a fair fight. They want to select, close with, and overcome prey with as little struggle as possible. Resistance equals time in the fight, and time in the fight increases risk of injury, failure, or possible apprehension for the human predator.

Which leads us to the attack cycle. Predators will often follow a distinct sequence leading up to, and during the attack. The sequence is: Scan-Choose- Stalk-Close With-Attack. As previously described, the predator will choose appropriate ambush areas for potential victims. Next the predator will surveil possible prey for characteristics that advertise “attractiveness” as victims – i.e. the limping zebras (weak, isolated, unaware). As a rule, females, the very young, and the very old have less muscle mass than fighting age males. Not in all cases, but in most. This makes females, the very young and the very old good targets for predators. Again, not in all cases, but in general terms. It is true that young men are attacked also, but the bulk of these attacks are either dominance related or gang/drug related (not the subject of this article). If your eyes are glued to your cell phone, or you are rushing around “task fixated” focused on shopping, running errands, etc., and oblivious to your surroundings (shopping on Christmas Eve?), you are a more attractive target. You are sending the signal that you can probably be approached without much notice. Predators like this. Once a potential target is selected, the predator will usually do additional surveillance to verify that his target is a good choice. During this phase, the predator may make modifications to his attack plan based upon unanticipated conditions. Once the final decision is made to attack, the predator will close in and attack his victim, often in a blitz fashion to overwhelm any resistance the prey may offer. The predator will get close to the target by stealth, charm or any other means to strike decisively and put the victim in to panic/injured/submissive mode. A punch in the face when you are not ready can overwhelm even trained fighters. Once submitted, the victim can be robbed, abducted or sexually assaulted. The actual physical attack comprises only about 10% of the full attack cycle, but it is usually the first instant that the unaware prey realizes what is occurring. By this time Evil has done most of its dirty work. If you compound this with an aggressive assault that causes immediate, significant injury, you can see how the predator optimizes his chances of success. The only things that will save the victim at this point are luck and superior fighting skills. The time for situational awareness is long past.

To see this described in detail in this article can be frightening, or it can be a call to action. You can put your head in the sand and live a “it will never happen to me” life, or you can come to the realization that, given the opportunity, there are evil people in our world that will hurt you just because they can. A lifetime spent in law enforcement taught me that. As world- renowned author, lecturer and expert on interpersonal violence, Col. Dave Grossman (U.S. Army Ranger retired) told me over lunch during a training session: “Denial and hope are not strategies”.

But it is not all gloom and doom. There are things you can do. All of the steps of the attack cycle that I described are quantifiable and observable and can be interdicted anywhere along the continuum. Our highly developed awareness skills (you did read my last article didn’t you?) can help us avoid and/or detect these predatory behaviors before the actual attack occurs. Distance is our friend. Our lifelong self defense strategy of Avoid/Deter/Engage/Escape is called in to play. How do we avoid? First, we avoid by NOT putting ourselves in risky situations. A good percentage of violence occurs in lonely places, at night. It occurs where people bend their minds with drugs and alcohol. If we are not there, we are not victims. When in public: it is better to be in groups than alone (safety in the pack girlfriend); it is better to be aware of our surroundings than to be task fixated; it is better to dress for movement than for style; it is better to keep our valuables hidden from sight than to flash them in public. When driving, at stop lights keep space between your vehicle and the vehicle in front of you (can you see his tires?) for quick evac if the need arises. Park in well-lit areas, close to mall or store entrances. As you approach your parked car have your keys at the ready and a small tactical light in your non- dominant hand if it is dark out. If something doesn’t look right, go back in the mall and ask security to escort you to your car. Get in your vehicle quickly and immediately lock the doors. When walking, make eye contact with people as they approach. Not a glare, but eye contact that lets them know you know they are there. Eye contact also sends subtle cues that you are “tuned in” and does not suggest “victim”. Scan hands. It is the hands that kill. They hold weapons, they strike, they strangle. Stand tall as you walk. Your posture should suggest fit and alert. If you do these things you are taking steps to make yourself less attractive as a potential victim. An experienced predator may take note of this and may adjust his assessment of you as a potential target. This may be enough to cause him to move on in search of another victim, a limping zebra. Don’t be the limping zebra. Remember, predators want to get what they want with as little resistance as possible. They do not want a fair fight (or a good witness).

The Avoid/Deter part will work against 90% of the attack cycle. The Engage/Escape part is what we use to deal with the actual attack (the other 10%).

Stay tuned ladies, the other 10% is the focus of my next article: “The Switch”

About The Author: Ed Raso is a retired Major from the New York State Police with 32 years of law enforcement experience. He is also the Chief Instructor for Krav Maga New York’s Orange County location and the Leader of Krav Maga New York’s Force Training

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