Memo to women: How not to make yourself a victim

By Steve Rose

History repeats itself over and over. Some things are sure to cycle back around a second and third time. Here’s hoping disco is not among them.

Things within things will also cycle. Crime is constant. Patterns, series and trends all cycle around within it, around it or whatever — you know what I’m saying … I think.

Lately there have been several high-profile cases where women were targeted. Kristi Cornwell, a former probation officer has been missing since the early part of August. She was believed to have been taking a walk near Blairsville. Meredith Emerson was abducted and later murdered in the Dawson Forest area of north Georgia. Although women have always been the target of that especially creepy kind of stalker, it is only periodic that several are abducted or victimized in what seems like a short time.

Right now, self-defense classes are big. Sandy Springs Police offers a monthly course in self-defense. I did an interview this morning with a radio station sponsoring self-defense courses. It all the rage! Right now you can find them all over the place.

Here’s the problem. When you hear “This just in: breaking news!” remember that breaking news is old after an hour or so. We’re so saturated with crime-dominated news that a murder here and there barely gets a mention. There’s so much information out there that our attention spans are growing shorter and shorter.

We are our own worst enemies when it comes to preventing the most important thing in the world: your safety and, potentially, your life.

Women are specific targets. They are unique targets. They’re victims of sexual assault and, in many cases, also murder. We teach the same things over and over.

How many of you have been to a self-defense class like this? “Okay, you can use your keys as a weapon, your pen as a weapon, and this and that as a weapon … “ And it goes on and on.

What they don’t drill into your heads are the fundamentals, the absolutes of being the victim and why you’re the victim instead of the woman or girl down the street and the “why me?” of being the one targeted.

Ninety percent of keeping out of trouble is the 89 percent of what you don’t do because you don’t relate to how important it is. Prevention doesn’t have any overt reward. You probably won’t know when you prevented yourself from being a victim because the bad guy had the opportunity to change his mind before committing himself to the crime.

What this means is that unless you develop some discipline, some consistent good habits that don’t really offer a specific reward, you’ll fall back into the habit of doing whatever it was you were doing. Why? Nothing bad ever happened to you before, so why should it happen now? Our attention spans can sometimes be 5 seconds long and then our brains can be off to something else.

It’s not easy being that woman who puts prevention into play every day. It’s not like you need to dedicate your life to crime-fighting or even alter your life. You just need to realize that this can happen to you. In case you missed that last remark, IT CAN HAPPEN TO YOU.

Believe it ladies. When you realize it can, many times it’s too late. It might be a purse theft or burglary or stalking or it may be something much worse. There are bad people out there. You are one of many potential targets. Your goal is to be that small percentage of very unappealing targets.

Read on, sisters, this gets heavy!

I’m going to lay out a simple group of absolutes that will point you toward that small percentile of women who are not considered attractive as victims. Relax, it doesn’t involve steroids or large wigs:

“Casing the joint” is a head-trip. Perception is reality! We all know that most rapists are after the power trip and not the sexual trip. They have criteria that serve as sort of a checklist. That list includes a victim who appears subdued, submissive and naïve.

So what do you do? Use your eyes. Look folks down. After a while you’ll like it. Here’s a good drill next time you’re at the mall or on the sidewalk at lunch or wherever there are crowds walking. Walk down the street or sidewalk and look at the people who are walking toward you. Who looks down first? If you’re pretty like me, they’ll look at you, But when you look back, it’s awkward. Eye-to-eye! People hate that awkward second or so that they go eye-to-eye.

Embrace it! Who the heck cares if some stranger, who initially looked to check you out, gets that “uh-oh” look when he looks up and you’re staring right at him. I’ll tell you something. It’s intimidating. That’s what you want. Be subtle. You don’t have to go all “Fatal Attraction” on people with weird looks and perhaps some grunting and scratching. The fact is you just accomplished something very important. You asserted yourself to someone you never saw before.

There was no mistake that there was nothing submissive about you. You are your bad self — in a good way. It’s the little things and it’s consistency that will keep you in that small percentage.

Don’t live in denial. Accept the circumstance and work with it. If you live in Mayberry, North Carolina, the chances of you being assaulted are minimal compared with Atlanta or Chicago. In Ball Ground, we had two assaults last year. Both involved cow-tipping.

Most police departments have mapping or crime analysis officers and websites that will tell you what happens where. Utilize it. Find out where these assaults happen. Unless in groups or involve a high-profile case, you won’t see them on TV. That doesn’t mean they aren’t happening. Educate yourself.

Have a plan. Are you the person who can carry a weapon and are comfortable that you can use it or get to it if that situation presents itself to you? Guns, OC spray (pepper spray) or even Tasers are available to the public. They will deter crime and save your life if you’re committed to that level.

I carry a gun just about everywhere. I am afraid that if I walk into a convenience store without one, Murphy’s Law will engage me. I’m very discreet — not like rookies who want everyone to see: “Hey! I’ve got a gun and I’m bad!” No, I’m the guy who looks like your older brother or your father, wearing a coat or vest on so that nobody knows I’m armed.

If you are at that level and know the laws on concealment and are confident that you can keep that gun from being used against you, go for it.

Know when you’re vulnerable. Don’t go to the ATM at night. Try to stay out of isolated areas such as large parking lots or remote areas, not only at night but during the day.

Don’t open doors to people. Be comfortable with being overtly skeptical. Embrace the awkwardness! Don’t look down. Be the one who looks straight on and see how they look away. Don’t be the prey, be the predator — mentally, at least.

There are all sorts of good solid fundamentals that you can have for absolutely free, so e-mail me and I’ll get you pointed in the right direction. If you’re looking for a self-defense class, Sandy Springs Police offers a monthly class. They’re popular, so e-mail me and I’ll give you some info on it. If that doesn’t work for you, we’ll help you find a class near you.

I’m always open to questions so write me at and don’t be afraid to ask the “dumb” questions. Remember, the only dumb question is the one you don’t ask.

Be safe, folks.

41 comments Add your comment


September 17th, 2009
3:46 pm

Great information! Thank you!!!!!

Van Jones

September 17th, 2009
3:52 pm

Great column, Steve.

Chris Broe

September 17th, 2009
4:11 pm

The only crime victims here are the poor sots who tried to wade through the sheer volume of words that you just wrote, man.

Also, as an overly-produced and over-worded journalistic piece, you totally lose your reader before you get to the advice that might save their life. This should have been presented this way: Ladies: You could already be a victim of crime 1): Dont go to ATMs after dark. 2) Don’t go commando in dark alleys during ovulation days ETC

I wont finish this. I get so angry reading the “work” of tasteless blog-simples at the AJC that I can’t even think straight. You clowns can’t write at all. Steve, Look at your open. History repeats itself….over and over? (Redundant). Then the second paragraph says the same thing while you try to be clever and add personality to a topic that hasn’t been established? Steve, at that early point in the piece I’m already asleep, and I’m moving on.

Can I do better? Maybe: “History repeats itself. The same type of woman gets raped by the same type of man every night in the South. What type? The type of woman who frequents the same ATM after dark, night after night. She’ll be spotted by that type of man. She’ll become a victim of that same type of man. ”

Or something like that. But reading the generic mush (creepy? Who are you? “The Beaver”?) you lay upon brand name crimes makes for a near-prison experience that makes me want to go out and commit knock-off crimes.

Open letter to AJC blog hosts: You can’t write.

(or edit)

Thank you,

chris broe
editor in chief (gesundheit)


September 17th, 2009
4:13 pm

Good column and advice. I always carry my TASER and depending on where I’m going sometimes my gun. I don’t want to use either but will if I have to.


September 17th, 2009
4:15 pm

Now we have someone complaining about the length of the article and his post is almost just as long, just sayin’.

Dixie Darling

September 17th, 2009
4:30 pm

Great information — some I have heard before and some new — all good to know. Evidently Chris is a guy and as such, why is he reading this anyway? Thanks so much for the tips and the long details!
Now I have to email this to some gal friends!

Stacey Day

September 17th, 2009
4:42 pm

Great & timely article!
Midtown Neighbors’ Association is sponsoring a 3 hour safety workshop that covers exactly the kinds of things your article addressed.

Refuse to Be A Victim(r)
This Saturday, Sept 19, 9 AM to Noon.
Volunteer instructor from Safe Atlanta for Everyone (SAFE), so there’s only a $5 fee for participant materials.
Held at Spring4th Center, 728 Spring Street NW
More info:


September 17th, 2009
5:16 pm

Why are you asking women to not “make themselves victims.” Why are you not addressing the men who continue to commit these crimes. Would that take too much work? Instead of writing an article about how women need to adjust their lives to avoid male violence, get out in the community and be source of accountability for the perpetrators. This is just unconscionable!!


September 17th, 2009
5:23 pm

And never, ever allow yourself to be coerced or forced into a car. Nothing good will ever happen to you after a “creep” removes you from one location and takes you to another. If he wants to rob you, he’ll do it immediately and then leave the scene. If he wants to take you somewhere else, then he’s got more than robbing on his agenda.

Oh and Chris, if you’re such a great writer, where can we read your blog?


September 17th, 2009
6:31 pm

jbgotcha, offering self defense advice to women is unconscionable? I think most people would agree that both aspects of crime prevention are important: working to take predators off the street and raising awareness of how to protect oneself. The fact is that there are people like this out there, men who will take advantage of or harm women if they believe they have the opportunity, and it’s impossible to completely eradicate them from the population. So why not advocate making it hard for them? Unfortunately for us, women are targeted more for these types of crime than men are ( think of how many times you’ve heard of a man being abducted and raped versus all of the stories you hear about women). Making oneself appear more dominant physically and mentally is a good way to get a potential attacker to rethink his plan (and backing this up with self defense skills or weapons is always good too). I agree that this article had a lot of good information in it. I’m a 120 lb young lady who lives alone and I refuse to be the easy target that those characteristics may suggest. I hope other women feel the same way.


September 17th, 2009
6:40 pm

Here’s another one — always lock your doors when you get in the car. I’ve had female friends mention that they’ve sometimes been at a red light and realized that somebody hanging on that intersection is making them uncomfortable. But being a lady, she doesn’t want to lock the car door and have him hear it and think “she thinks I’m a creep.” Seriously, who cares what a stranger thinks? And if you don’t want to be worried, lock the car WHEN YOU GET IN. Then you don’t have to worry about it when you find yourself at a light in a sketchy area.


September 17th, 2009
8:42 pm

jbgotcha, Let’s give your view a whirl. “Okay all you thugs out there, stop being thugs.” There, feel better? Let us know if that works for you.


September 18th, 2009
1:04 am

Here’s a tip for women: Femicide is one of the top killers of Black women in America. Watch out who you meet in a club/ bar. Especially with black men in the city! Did you know that over 70 women a DAY get AIDS in the US from sleeping with a black man that didn’t know he had the disease? Do your research.
One of the best tips i can give is be aware of your surroundings, and avoid using your overhead light in your car… pple can see you, but you cant see out.
And when u get in your car…. GO … dont worry about your makeup, or cell phone, get started driving so your not such a easy target!
My credentials: Working the streets of New Orleans before Katrina.


September 18th, 2009
8:53 am

Attitude accounts for so much in personal safety. Even the running thought, “I am harmless — unless you try to harm me” projects something that people pick up on. I lived in NYC for several years, went to night school, walked to the subway in some scary neighborhoods and nobody ever bothered me. Even the panhandlers said “Thank you ma’am” and walked away when I looked them straight in the eye and said “No, sorry.” Remember, your taser can lose its charge, but not your attitude unless you let it.


September 18th, 2009
9:18 am

Basically the gist of the article is “in order to avoid being the victim, don’t play the part.” Crooks look for people who would be easy targets based on their appearance, and in a more subtle sense, their body language. If someone is looking at you dead-on, look back. Smile. Try to stare them down. Make them feel uncomfortable.

ATLGal…I agree about locking the doors when you get in the car. I had a situation that could have escalated into something more serious had I not locked my doors, had the windows rolled up, and looked straight ahead at the light. I was driving down some road in the bad part of Downtown, when I came to a red light at an intersection. Suddenly I heard a man saying “Sir! Hey, sir! Mister!” I took a quick look, and although he was maybe 100 feet away, he looked like trouble. I rolled up the windows (Thank God for power windows!), locked the doors, and just stared straight ahead at the red light, wishing it would turn green so I could get the heck out of there. A few seconds later it turned green, and I peeled out of that area like the Devil was after me.

Why was I in that part of town? I was trying to find an alternate to I-20 after there was a nasty wreck on I-85 near Grady. Got off at the GA Tech exit. Never again.

Basically, women (and even some men) need to learn how to be more aggressive and assertive in their attitude and body language. Quite possibly the best people who could do this are dog owners, who have asserted themselves as Alpha.

Van Jones

September 18th, 2009
10:07 am

I have to ask again:
Question: If Chris Broe speaks and nobody is around to hear it, does it sound just as ignorant?


September 18th, 2009
11:14 am

This sounds a lot like blaming the victim for being raped or assaulted. It’s like the police officer that comes to a rape victim and says, “that’s why I tell women not to walk by themselves.” Because, yeah, of course, it’s her fault she got raped because she had the audacity to do something without a man present.

What about the college campus that has a string of rapes, so they impose a curfew on all women on campus. Why not impose that curfew on men, since they are the rapists? Heavens, no. Why would we forbid perpetrators to walk around at night when we could keep their victims indoors instead?

Granted, there is a need for self defense and ALL people should be vigilant of potential dangerous situations. But singling women out like this, blaming them for being victims, and writing to them in such a condescending manner makes me feel that maybe you are the one with the problem, not them.


September 18th, 2009
11:26 am

You are never too young to learn. That is why I have taught my six year old three things:


Go for the crotch


Go for the eyes

I have boxing gear so she can go full speed (except the eyes). It is too bad I have to teach her self defense but if it keeps her from ending up on Nancy Grace I’m fine with that.

Old School

September 18th, 2009
11:46 am

On a recent cop show, keeping a can of wasp or hornet spray in your car was recommended as the spray shoots out in a long stream keeping the bad guy far away while temporarily blinding him and not affecting you as much as the pepper spray might. Is this an okay “weapon” to have with you? I’d much rather keep hornet spray nearby than pepper spray.

James C

September 18th, 2009
11:47 am

A lot of it falls back to an old Army saying “Stay alert, stay alive”. No society has managed to eliminate those who would prey on their fellow people, although some hide it better than others, so you need to stay alert to potential problems. Most people walk around without really noticing their surroundings, they’re absorbed in what they’re thinking about, who they’re talking to on their cellphones, or texting someone. You should take a quick glance at everyone you encounter, and also keep a basic eye on your surroundings – where are the exits, where might someone be concealed, where can I get help? Is that person approaching acting normally, does he look like he belongs, can I see both of his hands?

If you ARE attacked, you do not CARE if you hurt the assailant, he certainly isn’t worried about hurting you. Learn how to strike properly and effectively, drop anything you absolutely don’t need to survive, demonstrating that you’re ready and willing to defend yourself can also deter an attacker (ex-wife had such an encounter in a MARTA station coming back from the airport, dropping her suitcase and angling her body into a fighting stance was enough that the guy decided to leave her alone). Self-defense has two basic components – skills and attitude.

James C

September 18th, 2009
11:52 am

Oh, and the reason a lot of the commentary focuses on women is that women are generally smaller and weaker than men, biology isn’t fair. And there are predators who specialize in attacking in women, which is why this article was targeted at women. Another factor is that for whatever reason, whether cultural norms, psychology, personal quirks, etc, women tend to be less likely to look men in the eyes, which is EXACTLY what they need to do to lower their risks of being attacked.


September 18th, 2009
12:31 pm

Enter your comments here
Thanks Steve, a good article. Why do people like Chris Broe think they know more than an experienced law man? And to pick holes in your article loses sight of the fact that some people are a lttle slow and need more detail. I would not have left a word out and please understand CB has to be a few bricks short of a load if that’s all he has to bitch about. Keep em coming, Steve.


September 18th, 2009
12:44 pm

“God made man (and women), but Samuel Colt made them equal,”

Chip Jones

September 18th, 2009
1:40 pm

Enter your comments here screw you Chris


September 18th, 2009
3:07 pm

you guys already burned Chris pretty well so I’m beating a dead horse here, but I really don’t get the example “correct” version Chris so kindly provided for us. Isn’t it a general rule that when you correct someone, your version should be BETTER?

Also, is he calling himself the editor-in-chief of the AJC?

And also, Patrick that same thing happened to me one night after a Braves game…I was lost and in a bad part of town. I stopped for one red light, learned my lesson and ran the rest. Apparently that’s the rule to safety down there. Don’t stop for red lights, ever.

jackie baines

September 18th, 2009
7:08 pm

chris broe is an idiot and his comments should be deleted. Steve Rose is not a trained writer but a cop with good information and i have enjoyed his columns for years. Keep up the good work,Steve.


September 18th, 2009
11:35 pm

I’m not saying prevention isn’t important. I just feel like it’s men’s responsibility to hold each other accountable for violence against women.

It is very tempting to take the side of the perpetrator. All the perpetrator asks is that the bystander do nothing. He/she appeals to the universal desire to see, hear, and speak no evil. The victim, on the contrary, asks the bystander to share the burden of pain. The victim demands action, engagement, and remembering


September 19th, 2009
9:28 am

Good article, and very good advice.

I grew up in Lower Manhattan and one learns the basics of avoiding trouble very quickly. I can’t quite go along with Mr. Rose’s suggestion that women look men in the eye as they pass. In NYC, that could well be interpreted as a challenge, and not one anyone wants a baddie to take up. Instead, I cultivated a long stare, not meeting anyone’s eyes necessarily but focusing down the street, head up, alert. And that’s important, too – scan the street ahead of you, cross or backtrack if you sense trouble, and be aware of what is behind you as well. Believe your instincts – if something feels wrong, it probably is, so act on it. And always, always look as though you know where you are going and why. Predators look for weak prey, and being unsure makes you the equivalent of the lame caribou.


September 19th, 2009
4:04 pm

Kristi was skilled in self defense and still may have been a victim.


September 19th, 2009
8:22 pm

Good points made. For the record though my TASER isn’t charged so it doesn’t lose it. Attitude is great but sometimes that doesn’t do a thing but my TASER will knock them on their behinds, no doubt about it.


September 20th, 2009
11:10 am

Enter your comments here I call it defensive walking. Like defensive driving be aware of all that is around you.Keep space around you for escape or avoidence. Don’t be afraid of running a red light if danger is percepted.Would you rather explain to a cop or fill out a police complaint? Do what you have to to stay out of danger. If the bad guy is afraid you noticed or could reconize him/her chances are you will be left alone.

Hornet Spray: Great Idea!

September 21st, 2009
1:34 pm

Mace or pepper spray: they get weak and stale over time and you MUST test it to make sure it works. I had one big ‘Police Grade’ pepper spray can I kept in my car; when I tested it, it put out a pathetic dribble of some slimy liquid. I suppose maybe the bad guy would fall over laughing so you could get away?? So you MUST replace pepper spray at least once a year AND you gotta test it to make sure it works. Note that some of the el-cheapo pepper sprays are ground-up pepper in an oily base….these will typically clog if you test them and sometimes don’t even work at all. **Now Wasp or Hornet spray is great stuff!** (Is it flammable ? :) ) It’s cheap, has great range, and you can test it without fear it’s gonna clog. One caution for any defensive weapon is to keep within your reach yet out of the reach of children.

Wonder Woman

September 21st, 2009
7:42 pm

Chris Broe you and some of the other idiotic comments are so stupid. Give us a break. This was an excellent story, excellent advice, by an excellent authority on the subject. So, what are you gonna do, rag on me for using excellent more than once – you fu**in idiot. And the guy who talks about women being careful of black men, this is not the forum in which to vent your frustrations with your small dick!


September 22nd, 2009
7:03 am

Thank you for the fine article, and excellent advise from most fellow posters. I have a great interest in not appearing to be victim material. Twice, I have escaped from potentially dangerous situations, in and near Atlanta. Your advise is right on target. Pay attention, and act immediately.


September 22nd, 2009
7:10 am

Please remove s, and insert c, in advice. Sorry about that.


September 22nd, 2009
9:51 am

Soome of you folks are just too stupid to live. Steve’s column is excellent, so excellent I sent it to my wife. It’s applicable to men too. If you’re walking around not paying attention to where you go, or when, or what’s around you then you’re begging to be a victim. As Steve points out, situational awareness and being in control of your surroundings can make all the difference and that’s good advice for women AND men. He focuses on women because a lot of women don’t think this way. I was talking with my friend and his wife and she said that until her husband pointed them out she hadn’t noticed all the shady people in the world. That says a lot.


September 22nd, 2009
11:54 am

If the AJC deleted Chris Broe statements wouldn’t this send the wrong message about the freedom of expression offered by the press in this country. Please America, let’s not become Russia or China. Beside Chris Broe – you need to be tasered. ” Don’t Tase me Bro!” Oh by the way, Wonder Woman – I am afraid of you !


September 23rd, 2009
2:04 pm

ATTITUDE!!!! That’s the key….my attitude is out there for all to see…I know who I am and where I am going at all times (even when I have made a wrong turn and am totally lost, the only person that knows it is me….my attitude projects my inner confidence…and my outself is protected by my good buddies Mr. Smith and …well, you get the picture


October 8th, 2009
6:56 pm

Enter your comments here


October 12th, 2009
3:15 pm

I am going to the store today and get a can of wasp spray to keep in my car. Thanks for the information.

King of Roswell

October 24th, 2009
8:48 am

Best advice yet; go to I’ll train you to be tougher than a bangkok tie fighter on steroids!