Between 2002 and 2013 three young women (Amanda Berry, Michelle Knight, and Gina DeJesus) were kidnapped and held in captivity in the home of Ariel Castro in Cleveland, Ohio. Their horrible ordeal has already been detailed in books and interviews on TV. All three women were kidnapped when they got into Castro’s car and accepted a ride home. Sadly, this kind of crime is repeated over and over again throughout the United States on a regular basis.
Some people willingly accept rides, others are forced into a car, others are drugged and carried away only to wake up as a captive. This article is primarily written for adult women and teen girls so that they can avoid what happened to the three young women in Cleveland. I will write a separate article in the future on how to prevent babies and small children from being kidnapped. (I will also later this month prepare separate articles on preventing carjacking and also how to fight from inside a car.)
1. Don’t ride with strangers.
Be careful about the people you know, as well. Gina DeJesus knew Ariel Castro. She was a friend to his daughter. When he offered her a ride home, she took it thinking that he was taking her to see his daughter. Ride only with your friends or relatives you trust with your life. Getting in a car with a stranger or a casual acquaintance may cost you your life.
Do not hitchhike — ever. Even if you think that it’s “a nice lady” who is offering you a ride, don’t take it. Evil people often travel in groups and the harmless looking “nice lady” could be working with others who are quite harmful.
2. Do not be predictable.
Avoid routines. If you always take a certain walk at a certain time on a certain route every day, you are way too predictable. Break it up and find alternate routes and destinations.
3. Let people know where you are.
And let them know when you plan to come home. Check in with others. If people don’t hear from you within the allotted time, they can at least retrace where you were the last time you checked in. There are apps some parents put on their teens’ phones to keep tabs on them.
4. Be wary about social media.
Be careful about data you post on social media. Don’t ever post a picture in real time that would reveal you are away from your home or give out plans about your future travels that day. There are bad people (like maybe an “ex” who has it in for you) who might find out where you are going and plan to do you some harm. If you must post something, do it after the fact.
5. Watch your drink.
If you go to a bar, do not leave your drink unattended. Pay attention. It is common for people to put in drinks certain drugs that will knock you out. Here are the facts about the “date rape drugs.”
Know your limits, keep an eye on your drink, and stop drinking early. If you get drunk on your own, you may be setting yourself up for great harm.
6. Arm yourself.
If you think you want to legally carry a gun (if you are at least 21 in most states), go through your state’s requirements to conceal and carry a pistol. Make sure you get proper training and practice often in safe firearm defensive tactics. (Of course, if you are carrying a firearm, you cannot under any circumstances consume alcohol.)
If you are underage, or if carrying a gun is not for you, then I suggest carrying pepper spray. Make sure it is good quality spray that contain OC (oleoresin capsicum). Here is a good quality brand that is inexpensive (about $10), easily concealable, shoots about 10 feet, and definitely works.
I recommend every teenage girl have this on her. But remember, you cannot have this at the bottom of a lot of junk in a purse. If you cannot get to this in a heartbeat, it is worthless.
Another very effective weapon is the “kubotan” or short stick. This is a martial arts weapon, often disguised as a key chain. It works, but you must be trained and willing to use it. Sammy Franco has the best DVD and book on how to use this weapon.
If you are attacked, and you are not carrying a weapon, fight anyway! Statistics show that women who fight back are more likely to survive and escape than those who submit. Do NOT submit! Fight with everything you have! Make LOTS of noise! As you strike, yell as loudly as you can (“Fire!” “Get Back!” “No!”). Here are two articles I wrote last year on the vulnerable targets to strike and the “body weapons” to use against them. Here is an article on makeshift weapons you can use.
Strike viciously, repeatedly, and as soon as you have the opportunity. But when you can, RUN! Run as fast as you can to a place of shelter (police or fire station, mall/shopping center, wherever there is a crowd of people).
If they pull a gun on you, remember two things: it is very difficult for an attacker to hit a moving target, and the would-be attacker probably does not want to draw attention to himself by firing his gun. Personally, I hope that I would not get in the car even if they pulled a gun on me.
8. Try to escape.
Look for opportunities to escape. If you are forced into a car, you will most likely be put in the trunk. From there, look for a latch to pop it open. Late-model cars have these latches, and some even glow in the dark. With any luck, you can jump out when the car stops at a light.
Or try to break one of the break lights and stick your hand out, or stick out some other object to grab attention from passing motorists. Or find the wiring to the lights and disconnect the light; hopefully a police car would see that and pull the driver over. Of course, your hands and feet may be bound. If your hands are bound with duct tape, here is a video on how you can escape:
Here’s how you get out of zip ties:
If you are seated next to the driver (unlikely, but just in case) and you can get the door unlocked, jump out at the first stop (obviously). If you cannot unlock a door, grab the steering wheel if possible and try to crash the car. Or grab the gear shift and try to throw it into park. Try to take the key out of the ignition. If you are in the front or the back seat, try to get attention from passing motorists (mouthing “help me” might work).
9. Leave bread crumbs.
Know where you are and leave clues. If you are blindfolded and in the trunk and cannot escape, do your best to memorize the directions, number of stops, and time it takes to travel. Try to remember certain sounds (like construction sites or schoolchildren playing). Leave as much DNA in the car as you can (leave clumps of hair or pieces of skin or even urine) for the authorities to trace.
10. Don’t give up.
If you are unsuccessful in escaping, do not give up hope, and do not give up trying to escape. You may have to pretend to “cooperate” for awhile in order for the kidnapper to let his guard down. Then attempt to escape as soon as opportunity strikes.
The three young women did not give up for their ten long years of captivity. One day Amanda Berry noticed that Castro did not lock a certain door, and she was able to get to a storm door through which she yelled and screamed at a passing neighbor who then came to her aid and the aid of the others. Finally, they were free.