Instant Decision

Draw attention to yourself. Sabotage your kidnapper’s vehicle if you can safely do so. Everything I’ve read about abduction, every video I’ve shown my children about kidnapping teaches this. One afternoon while stopped at a red light I was quite surprised to see a car’s passenger-side front door open. A pair of adult legs popped out but no person followed. The legs kicked a little. Something was wrong. I pulled my car over to the shoulder of the road beside the vehicle.

As I opened my car door I could hear yelling. My husband and I got out of my car. I cautiously turned towards the open door of the other vehicle. No weapons were evident – I’d have run away if there had been a gun. The driver had the passenger in a choke hold. Fortunately the driver didn’t have much strength, and the thickness of the passenger’s neck was a blessing. The passenger’s color was good, breathing was unimpaired.

I drew a deep breath and stared the two people down with my best “Mommy look.” With all the authority I could muster, I asked, “Can I help you?”

The driver yelled out their interpretation of what was going down. The passenger, still in a choke hold, asked me to call 911. I nodded by way of acknowledging both persons and backed off. I told my husband to call 911. I knew it wasn’t up to me to sort out their conflict – at least as long as nobody was in any immediate danger of losing life and limb.

I had already assessed my options and resources. Nobody got out of their vehicles to help me. Nobody so much as even positioned their cars to trap the assailant’s vehicle. Obviously I couldn’t count on anyone but my husband. Fortunately, the passenger was doing OK for the moment and the situation was not escalating. I distanced myself by going to the far side of my own vehicle and called 911 myself, keeping an eye on the two inside the other vehicle.

If I’d had help or if there had been a knife, I’d have tried de-escalation. If the victim’s breathing had actually been obstructed by the choke hold, I’d have intervened physically, backing off if a hidden gun or knife appeared. But one thing I really didn’t like about that situation was the prospect of a vehicle turning into a weapon. Any physical intervention on my part could have resulted in me being injured or killed by movement of the car. That said, I’d have intervened in a heartbeat if I’d thought the victim was in immediate danger. But as it was both parties calmed down. After a couple of minutes the passenger shut the door. They drove off.

I have no idea how their story ended. Hopefully they got to their home or homes all right. Hopefully they learned that their actions will get attention.

“I didn’t know what to do,” my husband admitted later.

“It’s OK. You did what was needed,” I assured him.

How did I know what my options were? I think I can credit Rory Miller’s book Conflict Communication: A New Paradigm in Conscious Communication. Heck, even my years in a customer-service job have to count for something. I’ve also had, to date, four other close calls in which I successfully avoided fighting. So I’m kinda getting used to that gig. But I give the most credit to – you guessed it – karate training.

Tournaments. Belt tests. Heck, even just an ordinary class when you’re sparring that one karateka who scares the bejeebers out of you (before you learn that he won’t intentionally harm you). The dojo (karate school) is a place where we can explore our capacity to deal with pressure in a mostly safe environment (injuries do occasionally happen). One learns to get control of that adrenaline rush, to instantly assess and decide, and to adapt on the fly. We learn what our limits are and to adjust accordingly.

I can’t fight a car. That’s one of my obvious limits. But is that limit so obvious to me if I’m half-drunk on adrenaline? Is the possibility of getting dragged, run over, crippled, or killed by a car obvious when I’ve got tunnel vision and that pounding in my ears? We’ve all been there, you know the answer is “No.” Many people recognize the onset of an adrenaline rush and they know what to do about it. Soldiers, police, firefighters, medics, and, you guessed it, martial artists all have their methods.

Then there’s the aftermath. This is when one’s body and emotions kinda crash for awhile. Even a minor incident like this… Whew. Yeah. I needed to process it. You guessed it – writing is very much a medium that works for me. The nice thing about writing is maybe someone else will benefit from the lessons I’ve learned and the mistakes I’ve made.

Author: Joelle White

I began training in Karate in June of 2014 after a 27 year hiatus.

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