Even when you are faced with someone who has the most twisted and dangerous intentions, you can likely save your own life by trusting your own gut and acting on that terrible fear. Like you are now probably aware of (what with all the examples the media provides), a dangerous attacker can look no different than you or I, but your brain is undoubtedly paying attention to all the red, warning signs, which signals your intuition. Basic knowledge of surviving a natural disaster will save your life if you’re ever in the unlikely situation. Knowing what to say to your kidnapper can increase your chances of being freed unharmed. You can avoid being kidnapped in the first place by using basic self-defense tricks. You can avoid looking like an easy target by being confident and assertive. Of course, these are only some of the many detailed survival tips in this article. Share this with your friends and family – you just might save a life. Below are 13 tips that just might save your life one day.
13. Trust your intuition because fear is a life-saving gift
No matter what, you must always trust your gut. Never minimize your intuition or tell yourself you’re being silly. In the book The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker (a man who Oprah Winfrey called the nation’s leading expert on violent behavior) the first chapter follows a true story of a 27 year old woman named Kelly who trusted her intuition – and it saved her life. After a stranger in her apartment building offered to help Kelly bring her groceries to her door, he entered her apartment and sexually assaulted her. After the assault, the man promised he wouldn’t hurt her (an unsolicited promise) but then closed the window. Why would he close the window? Kelly’s intuition told her that he most certainly was going to kill her (he would only close the window so that neighbors wouldn’t hear her screams). When he instructed her to wait in the bedroom while he went to the kitchen to “get something to drink” (he was really going to get a knife) Kelly disobeyed his instructions and got up, and very quietly followed directly behind him so that he wouldn’t see or hear her, and when he turned to go into the kitchen, Kelly left the apartment. Sure enough, as Kelly walked away she heard the sound of her attacker rifling through her knife drawer. He was going to go back into Kelly’s bedroom to kill her.
Gavin de Becker explains that this type of intuitive, profound fear that Kelly had when she realized her attacker planned on killing her is “the powerful ally that says ‘do what I tell you to do.’ Sometimes, it tells a person to play dead or to stop breathing, or to run or scream or fight, but to Kelly it said, ‘just be quiet and don’t doubt me and I’ll get you out of here.’” Because Kelly listened to her intuition and acted on it, she saved her own life. So the next time a stranger offers you unsolicited help with your groceries in your apartment building or in a grocery store parking lot, and something seems off, listen to your gut. Whenever something doesn’t quite feel right about someone, that’s the gift of fear. Gavin de Becker states that intuition is the cornerstone of safety: “we react to the unusual, which is a signal that there might be something worth predicting … we intuitively evaluate people all the time, quite attentively, but they only get our conscious attention when there is a reason.”
12. Know your weapons of opportunity
If you ever find yourself in a position where you have to defend yourself against an attacker or experience a home invasion, don’t worry if you don’t have a weapon on you – because you actually do. A home invasion can happen to anyone, anywhere, anytime. You may think you have no way of defending yourself – perhaps your knife drawer is out of reach – but there are still weapons all around you in the form of simple household items. For example, you can grab a nearby pair of your stiletto high heels, smash the heel against the floor to break off the rubber edge, turning it into a sharp and effective weapon. Belts can be used as whips, and a ceramic mug or heavy vase can be slammed into your attacker’s face or torso. You can also break a bottle or wine glass to use as a sharp object. Fill a pillowcase with heavy objects and swing it at your attacker with great force. If you’re in a life-or-death situation, a ballpoint pen can also be useful.
11. Be rude to strangers when they rub you the wrong way
Don’t worry about being rude and unsympathetic to strangers – your survival instincts will tell you that you have to be, especially when they wont’ take “no” for an answer. Ted Bundy would lure victims to his car by wearing a cast and asking young women to help him bring books to his car. Even if the woman got a bad feeling, she would ignore her gut because she didn’t want to appear rude by refusing to help. Just say no. Appearing rude or unsympathetic is worth it if you save your own life. Serial killers often have some sort of “sales pitch” similar to Ted Bundy’s. If someone who gives you a bad feeling offers to help you carry something or help you by giving you a ride, be firm and say “no thank you, I don’t want your help”. It doesn’t matter how kind a stranger is – kindness can be used to manipulate a victim. They’ll also often throw a ton of meaningless details about their life at you to engage you, build rapport and distract you long enough for you to forget that they’re a total stranger. Gavin de Becker calls this signal “too many details.”
If you say no to a stranger (for example, you decline their help with groceries) and they still attempt to change your mind, stick to the answer “NO” – no matter what. A stranger’s persistence or refusal to hear the word “no” is a sign that they are not to be trusted. Yell, “NO! I SAID I DON’T WANT YOUR HELP!” If you’re firm, loud and rude you’ll be less likely to be his victim as you won’t be considered an easy target – which leads me to the next tip.
10. Don’t be an easy target
Here are some examples of how you can avoid appearing to be an easy target: Don’t be distracted looking down at your iPhone while walking alone; never fall for a stranger’s “sales pitch”; carry pepper spray; don’t go for a run alone at night with headphones in your ears, disabling your alertness; never ignore your intuition when something doesn’t feel right; be hyper-aware when something feels off; don’t accept a ride from that good-looking man at the airport who has gathered that you’re traveling alone and might not have a ride; don’t let a stranger change your mind when you’ve already said “no”; don’t appear shy or meek instead of confident and assertive; if someone appears to be following you, turn around and look at them squarely in the eye and then deliberately cross the street – if they continue to follow you, be assertive and yell at them to stay back; fight with everything you’ve got if someone is attempting to drag you to their car because once you’re in their car, your chances for survival decrease significantly; don’t be too routine because being predictable makes you an easy target.
9. Watch out for the unsolicited promise
Going back to the book The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker, the man who intended to sexually assault and kill Kelly also ended up promising he wouldn’t hurt her more than once. When he offered to help her bring the groceries inside her apartment, he promised that he’d simply put the grocery bags down and then leave. Before he closed her bedroom window and went to the kitchen to get a knife, he promised Kelly that he wouldn’t hurt her. As explained by de Becker, the unsolicited promise is a key warning sign that your intuition will pick up on. He explains that the reason a person promises something is because they feel the need to convince you of something, they sense your doubt, and de Becker points out that you must ask yourself, “why does this person feel the need to convince me?”
8. Always keep survival essentials with you
You should never drive anywhere without survival essentials in your car. These include jumper cables, a first-aid kit, a flashlight, a cell phone charger, windshield wiper fluid and a blanket. If you don’t have these items in your car, fix that problem ASAP. Never do a hike without carrying plenty of water with you, a flashlight, a lighter, an extra sweater and extra food. You shouldn’t walk home late at night without pepper spray and a mini flashlight on your keychain. Always keep a stash of money hidden in your car, or in your sock. Carrying these items with you could save your life one day. If you’re ever wounded, stop the bleeding immediately and keep the wound elevated until help arrives.
7. Never admit you’re traveling alone or give personal details to strangers.
It’s funny that we sometimes need to remind adults “don’t trust strangers”. If you make small talk with a stranger while you’re on vacation, that’s fine – but never admit that you’re traveling alone or that you’re with one other girlfriend, for example. Never answer personal questions such as where you’re staying, what your plans are that evening, etc. No matter how harmless a stranger seems, don’t trust them. Keep your distance from them (for example, don’t share a taxi with them) and don’t give out your information. All it takes is a confession to the man sitting next to you on an airplane that you’re traveling alone and he could target you as his next victim. Gavin de Becker calls this “the interview” where an attacker is assessing whether or not you should be his next victim.
6. Know basic self-defense
I can tell you right now that if you pinch an attacker as hard as you can under his armpit, you’ll likely break his grip on you (try pinching yourself under your own armpit – it really hurts). It’s a great idea for you to take a self-defense class to learn several tricks like this. We’ve already covered which household items can be used as weapons (weapons of opportunity) but if you’re just on the street with nothing around you, you’ll need to use your own hands and body as a weapon, which is best taught in a self-defense class. Your attacker will be counting on the assumption that you don’t know how to defend yourself, so make sure you do know how. Remember that once you’re moved to a second location, your chances of survival decrease, which is why you must fight and resist if you feel that your attacker’s intention is to kidnap you.
5. Survive a kidnapping
If your self-defense attempt fails and your attacker succeeds in dragging you to his van, for example, it’s now up to you become hyper-aware of your attacker’s behaviors and your surroundings. You’ve been kidnapped, but you must figure out why and find out what he wants. You must try your best to build some sort of rapport with your kidnapper. Never insult him or provoke him. Instead, cooperate with him, be a good listener, be kind and humanize yourself. This increases the odds of you being released unharmed, or being trusted on your own (perhaps even trusted enough to be untied). There are several true stories of kidnapping victims who gained their captor’s trust and were patient, which lead to them having an escape opportunity or being released.
4. Know how to give yourself the Heimlich manoeuvre
You can only survive for 3 minutes without oxygen, so if you’re choking on something – there’s no time to call the ambulance. Yes, still call one – but you’ll also have to take immediate action yourself if you’re alone at the time of the incident. If bending over with your head down and coughing hard doesn’t work, you’ll need to give yourself the Heimlich manoeuvre by leaning over a table and thrusting your upper belly against the edge of it in consistent, strong thrusts. Another option is to use your fists by putting one hand in a fist above your belly button and putting your other hand over top, then pushing extremely hard in short, sharp thrusts with as much strength as possible.
3. Survive being lost at sea
The ocean can be a deadly playground, and before you think nothing’s ever going to happen to you – remember that there’s approximately 5000 boat accidents each year – so if you love fishing, water-sports or boat rides, read on. As explained by Navy SEAL Cade Courtley on Spike TV’s series Surviving Disaster, the weather can change deadly at any moment while you’re at sea. Sometimes a storm looks far away but in reality, wind direction changes fast and the weather can take a drastic turn for the worst. You won’t be able to outrun a storm, so the driver of your boat will have to face the waves and drive into it since your boat will take on more water from behind than it will head-on. Ultimately, you’ll likely run out of gas and be at the mercy of the sea. You’re facing possibilities of capsizing or your boat sinking. Use the boat’s radio to call in a mayday. Courtley says to say mayday 3 times, state the name of your boat, how many people are on it, your approximate location and what your emergency is.
In the mean time, Courtley explains that you must start packing your bags with survival essentials in case you capsize and end up on a life raft waiting for rescue. You’ll need something reflective (like a piece of mirror) to signal a rescue team, water, food, something to protect you from the sun, extra clothing and as many supplies as you can grab. Drinking sea water is like drinking poison, which is why you should always bring a ton of extra water with you whenever you go out to sea. Use a t-shirt to collect rain water, which is safe to drink as a last resort if you run out of water.
2. Remember the survival rules when stranded
If you find yourself stranded, the first thing you need to figure out is whether or not you have a viable water source. As you know, seawater and snow cannot be consumed. The salt in seawater can cause you to die of dehydration, and consuming snow will dangerously lower your body temperature. Rain water is safe to drink, but what if you don’t know when it will rain – if ever? If you have no water source, do not eat. Eating will make your body need water and make you thirsty. You can survive for 3 weeks without food, but only 3 days without water. It may be tough, but don’t eat until you have water to drink.
In case of rain, collect the rain water in any container you may have, or even in clothing as you can squeeze the water your wet clothing collected into your mouth. Heat stroke is a major cause of death when stranded somewhere hot like a desert or a deserted island. The elements can kill, and the best way to avoid heat stroke is to find shelter. Another way to protect yourself from exposure is to urinate on your shirt, and wrap it around your head. This may sound gross, but it will help keep you cool. If you’re stranded somewhere cold not hot, stuff your clothes with leaves to insulate your clothing and keep you warmer. Remember that you need to protect yourself from exposure, find shelter, keep cool or keep warm depending on the climate, find a water source, and limit your food intake if you have limited water.
1. Always be aware of your surroundings
Being hyper-aware can save your life. Know that one of the most common places women are abducted from is a grocery store parking lot or an office parking garage. Always keep an eye out for someone lurking, and if there’s a van parked next to your car on the driver’s side, enter your car through the passenger side. Always check your car before entering (someone could be hiding in the back seat). Once you’re in your car, always drive away immediately. Never sit in your car and text a friend before you start driving. Another common spot for attackers to wait for a victim is a public restroom. Think about how easy it would be to push you back inside that restroom and lock the door. Not only should you be hyper-aware when you’re in these places (don’t be distracted on your cell phone) but you should also be aware of your surroundings at all times in general. Your brain will pick up on alarm signals if something around you is dangerous, causing your intuition to kick in.