“Am I Overreacting?” How Women Can Tell If Someone Is Really a Threat

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Author of The Blackout Book and the online course Bloom Where You’re Planted

Although things are beginning to change, it wasn’t so long ago that girls were raised to always be polite, accommodating, and “nice” to others. After all, nobody wanted to be considered rude or a “b*tch” so we were conditioned to be pleasant even if our warning bells were going off.

This did us an enormous disservice. After spending your entire life trying to be courteous, it can be incredibly difficult to deal with people in a more assertive manner. And to make matters worse, our upbringings set us up to have a lack of trust in our own judgment. How can we tell if that person is really following us or if it’s just a coincidence?

All of this can combine to put women at a distinct disadvantage when trying to figure out how to respond to a potential threat.

In a social media group I belong to, a reader asked about how she could have dealt with someone who came on her property rather aggressively. I replied to her question and some of the ladies in the group wanted to see an article on this topic.

Where I got my information

I have spent the past couple of years attending every course I can and voraciously reading about violence. The teachings of Rory Miller and Dr. Tammy McCracken have been especially influential. You can find Rory’s books here and his Patreon account here. You can find Tammy’s website here and her Patreon account here.

In this article, I’m going to talk about boundary setting – this is something I learned in a de-escalation class that I took from Tammy. (If you ever get a chance to learn from her in person, DO IT. It’s worth every penny and more.) Any inaccuracies in explaining this are completely my own and don’t reflect Tammy’s excellent instruction.

I’m not an expert on violence by any stretch of the imagination. In this article, I’m just passing on something I’ve learned and used more than once successfully. There are many other methods of de-escalation and this is by no means suitable for every possibility. You have to use your judgment when you’re in the situation. I just want to offer one simple possibility for judging whether or not someone is a threat and keeping yourself safer.

While I’m writing this article from a woman-to-woman point of view, this can be used by anyone who feels vulnerable or unsafe when dealing with someone who is potentially aggressive and would likely be a stronger opponent. Use language that feels right to you and think through scenarios in your head. Consider what you would say in a tense situation and practice it ahead of time until it feels natural.

When a boundary is also a test

You can use boundaries to establish whether or not someone is a threat, how serious the threat is, and you can be ready to deal with it should the person escalate things further.

When you are approached by someone and you feel that itchy little warning feeling in the back of your mind, what do you do? It’s honestly difficult to know HOW to handle it and each situation is different. It’s pretty easy to second-guess your intuition because we all want to feel safe and like the person with whom we’re interacting is an okay fellow. We also don’t want to be seen as rude. This can be a fatal mistake. A person who is a predator will know that you aren’t sure and that you want to be polite. They’ll use these inclinations against you.

One thing that Tammy teaches is using boundary setting as a test.

If you are in a situation in which you are approached by a person who is making you feel unease, you need to set a boundary. Not only does this put you in a more assertive position and mindset, but it helps you to test the intent of the person. Keep your goal in mind – the goal should be to remove yourself from an uncomfortable situation.

Here’s an example. The person who asked the question was in her own yard taking out the garbage when a stranger stormed up, ranting about how the woman’s tenant had been driving.

In this case, she could say something like, “I understand that’s very upsetting. But you are making me really uncomfortable coming onto my property and shouting at me. I want you to take a step back.”

Look at that statement. It’s not rude. It’s not inflammatory. She is acknowledging his frustration. It points out two facts: she is uncomfortable and he is shouting. It also gives the person a clear action he can take if he so desires so that they can reach a better understanding. Make whatever you choose to say a statement, not a question. You are telling him. You are not asking him.

The test is, how does the guy react to this?

  • If he’s a nice guy who is just angry, he’s going to feel bad that he scared her or made her uncomfortable and the situation will often de-escalate rapidly from there. He will likely apologize, step back, put his hands up in a pacifying gesture. Decent men don’t want to run around making women afraid of them.
  • If he’s too mad to be rational, he might say something like, “I don’t give a f*** how you feel. I’m furious!” This is when she should begin treating him like a potential threat because angry people often do stupid things. However, she hasn’t confirmed he is a threat. He’s just increased her level of suspicion. At this point, I would have my hand on my gun, but probably not have my gun out. I would be putting enough distance between him and me that I could draw and have the space to shoot. I’d be putting those trash cans in between us as a barrier. If I could go inside my house and lock the door, I’d do that immediately. If I couldn’t, then I’d continue trying to de-escalate the situation verbally.
  • If he is actually a threat,  it’s a whole different ballgame. He may actually seem satisfied when he hears you are uncomfortable and may double down on his efforts to intimidate you. A predator may also be ingratiating and try to charm you while still pressing his advantage. “Oh, don’t be worried about ME,” he might say as he takes another step forward. This should fully establish to you beyond a doubt that he is a threat and you need to be prepared to defend yourself. At this point, I’d take a step back and I would draw my firearm. Depending on the laws of the state that I was in, I might not point it AT him – I might point it at the ground but I’d have it in both hands, ready to raise it up to the appropriate level on his next move. You want to get out of this situation immediately, whether that means locking yourself in your car, getting to a more public place, or going inside your home and locking the door. If you are in a situation in which you aren’t armed, then you may want to draw attention to yourself by yelling for help (or shouting “fire!”), honking your car horn, or sounding a personal alarm.

There could be more to the dialogue. Maija Soderholm, the author of The Hustler: Sword Play and the Art of Tactical Thinking and The Liar The Cheat and The Thief: Deception and the Art of Sword Play, pointed out, “The second thing you might hear might be rude and insulting, even if the threat is minimal. The potential threat may not like being ‘wrong’ in their approach and it may come to “WTF are you talking about?! You think I”M a threat?!! You people are always like that.” Or something. I would definitely be making space and getting into a better defensive position, but a second response to this remark might also be worth having in one’s pocket. “Sorry man, that’s just the way it is. No offense, but you gotta back off.”

Do you see how that works? With one simple request, you are able to potentially calm the situation down at best and identify a true threat at worst. If you’ve identified that he is indeed a threat, you can take definitive action with more confidence than if you are still stuck in the loop of questioning your own judgment.

What boundaries can you set?

I’ve used this basic scenario in numerous interactions in which I felt I needed to test whether a person was actually a threat or if I was reading it wrong. Nine times out of ten, they back off immediately because they didn’t realize how they were coming across. The tenth time, I’ve been able to be more certain in my actions because I have tested the person and proven to myself that I’m not “blowing things out of proportion” – that is something we women do a lot in dealing with potentially violent situations.

Some other boundaries you might set in statement form could be:

  • Move away from my car.
  • You need to leave my property (or business).
  • Take two steps back – you’re in my personal space.
  • Let go of my hand.
  • I’m not going to talk with you here.

The first few times you do it may be difficult, especially if you were brought up to be polite and ladylike. But after you’ve used this tool successfully, it becomes much easier.

I used this tool just the other night when I was walking my dog after dark in the condo complex where I’m staying. I was walking our normal nightly route in a very safe area when a man came out of another condo and rushed up to us shouting, “DOG!!!”  My dog was just as unimpressed as I was and started barking at the guy.

I said to him, “I need you to take a couple of steps back. You’re crowding my dog and making me uncomfortable.”

He wasn’t nice about it. He was clearly inebriated. He called me a couple of names. BUT…he backed off. So the boundary setting worked exactly as it should. He gave me space and I left and nothing bad happened.

Your goal in uncomfortable situations

I’ve written this a million times because Selco and Toby have drilled it into my head two million times. Your goal in dangerous situations is “don’t be there.”

So if you are in a scenario like the one described above, you want to get out of your driveway into the safety of your home. I had a situation when my daughter and I lived on a remote farm and our goal was also to get inside the house when three guys showed up and made us uncomfortable. (You can read about what happened here.) When I encountered someone aggressive in a park, I wanted to get away from that person to the safety of a group.

Your goal should be to leave the situation. All of your actions should propel you toward that goal. And another thing to remember, to paraphrase Rory Miller, “Don’t run away from danger. Run toward safety.” Don’t put yourself in an even worse position by running down a dark alley or into a bad neighborhood. Instead, identify something that is more likely to be safe – a crowded restaurant, a police car at a stoplight, or a group of people. Obviously, there may not be a convenient crowd nearby – predators tend to avoid those – but keep this principle in mind.

About using a firearm as a deterrent

A lot of people talk about using guns as deterrents. In part, this is absolutely true. A firearm is a deterrent to some predators who would otherwise take action to harm you. In the situation at my farm that I mentioned above, the sight of my gun caused three guys to decide that a woman and a teenage girl were not the easy targets they had thought we’d be.

BUT…and this is important…

If you have no intention of using your gun, you’re probably not going to deter anyone.

Don’t pull your firearm if you have not mentally gone through the concept of using it. You cannot hesitate if the time comes when you have to use it. If instead of backing off, the threat makes a run at you to try and disarm you, you must use that weapon. You can’t struggle with your morality at the same time you are fighting for your life.

You have to be certain in your mind that you can pull the trigger because if you are not certain, a true predator can read that in your eyes.

Boundaries are not “rude.”

We have it ingrained into us from the time that we’re very young that we need to be polite and not make other people feel bad. This causes a lot of people to feel that boundaries are “rude.” They’re not and if someone takes boundaries as rudeness, I would suggest that they are the person who needs to work on their manners.

While this may have been true when we were children, we don’t have to pass it down to our own kids. It’s SO incredibly important to teach children that they can have boundaries too. And yet, in our society, how often do you see families forcing a child to hug Uncle Buck even though they haven’t seen him since they were in diapers? Or to let Great Aunt Gert give them a kiss? We’re literally setting our kids up to be victims by forcing them to disregard their personal warning bells.

Don’t let your programming of courtesy-at-all-costs override your instincts. Your instincts are there for a reason. They are our own personal alarm systems that tell us when something isn’t quite right. Often, you can pick up things instinctively before the scenario has even developed into something potentially dangerous. (A great book to read on the importance of trusting your instincts is Gavin de Becker’s classic, The Gift of Fear.)

When in doubt, always trust your gut. Don’t be afraid to be impolite if you feel threatened. Worst case, you made a scene and you feel kind of silly. In a different scenario, even if you never know it, your willingness to be assertive may one day save your life by dissuading a would-be attacker who is considering you as a potential target.

Have you ever been in a situation like this?

Have you ever faced a situation in which you were unsure about how to respond? Has a person made you uncomfortable but you brushed off your feelings to be polite? Do you have any other ways you test the intentions of those who have you on edge? Let’s discuss it in the comments.

Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther is a coffee-swigging, globe-trotting blogger. She is the founder and publisher of three websites.  1) The Organic Prepper, which is about current events, preparedness, self-reliance, and the pursuit of liberty on her website, 2)  The Frugalite, a website with thrifty tips and solutions to help people get a handle on their personal finances without feeling deprived, and 3) PreppersDailyNews.com, an aggregate site where you can find links to all the most important news for those who wish to be prepared. She is widely republished across alternative media and  Daisy is the best-selling author of 5 traditionally published books and runs a small digital publishing company with PDF guides, printables, and courses. You can find her on FacebookPinterest, Gab, MeWe, Parler, Instagram, and Twitter.

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  • Gift of Fear already proved useful to my wife, who at one time traveled between offices for work. Avoided sketchy and angry people several times.

  • Great points, love the discussion about boundaries, and yes, the Gift of Fear is an invaluable book.

    If you’re in the West and can’t make it to Dr. Tammy McCracken’s training, check out Women Against Crime: https://womenagainstcrime.com/ . I took Trish’s course years ago and still remember her combination of moves as well as the training on situational awareness.

  • I second your recommendation of Gavin DeBecker’s “The Gift of Fear.”

    If you have children, choose instead “Protecting the Gift.” Same basic information, but specific information relating to protecting children.

  • Daisy, thank you for this . I have been wrestling with this for days and have been having trouble sleeping. What’s the trouble? I have the opportunity to take self defense classes. They aren’t your run of the mill class where they teach you to get away if someone grabs your wrist. They teach a person to really fight and even wrestle around on the floor. I want to do this, but just can’t do it because of my fear. I have been a timid and shy person all 52 1/2 years of my life. How does a person overcome this when it is who they are? Any tips or ideas? I’m sure some of your readers are thinking ” suck it up Buttercup” , but how to do that? I am going to order the book The Gift of Fear that you mentioned. I did get a gun and am signed up for lessons next week. I like your idea on boundaries and I think I can do that. It’s just the physical aspect where strangers will be touching me and watching me struggle. Lately I have been very emotional and am afraid I would possibly end up crying in front of all these people. I know that this is important training for women, but is SO far outside of my comfort zone! Thank you in advance for any words of wisdom you may have.

    • Hi, Mom!

      I have attended some classes that sound similar to the one you’re talking about and you know what? Some women DO cry in these classes. It can be extremely cathartic to face your fears like this and nobody there will think any less of you if it makes you feel emotional.

      What I would do is try to speak with the instructor beforehand. Tell him or her your misgivings and let them know that you really want to attend but that you might be more comfortable observing and not personally getting down and dirty. Not a single instructor I’ve ever taken a course from would say no to this – they want you to feel safe in their classes.

      It sounds like you are doing a LOT to empower yourself with the books and the gun. You’ll definitely get more out of the class if you participate but even going to watch and learn can help. And you are already out of your comfort zone just by facing the need to protect yourself.

      Remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day. This is a journey and if you’ve spent your entire life on a different road, it will feel pretty scary at first. I really think you should take the class, do you best to participate, but set up an “out” to just observe ahead of time so you don’t feel trapped. Please come back and tell us how the class went – I really want to hear about it.

      I know you can do this!

    • I think I can suggest a motivator.

      Your well being is always more important than other people’s opinion.

      You may feel that you’re selfish to value yourself so “highly”, which isn’t true. But there’s a way to think about it: your well being is very important for your friends and family. If you need to overcome a challenge or a dangerous situation, do it for THEM, because they need you.

    • Hi Mom– I felt like you when I went to my self-defense class. I couldn’t imagine myself getting into a scuffle and fighting for my life. The instructor taught us 3 simple moves for self-defense and then we practiced for a long time in the police gym on dummies. To my amazement, I actually enjoyed this (and I’m not athletic and have no previous martial arts or self-defense training). I went right home and taught as many people as I could to reinforce my own learning. I found that mentally and physically practicing what I learned helped me to get beyond my fear and helped me feel like I could face that kind of situation with confidence.

    • Mom,
      Can you try to visualize yourself in a situation where you are the only person standing between the attacker and an innocent child or elderly person? Then, your survival isn’t simply for yourself but to try to protect those who cannot help themselves.
      Women who were raised and encouraged to always be quiet and composed, or who are by nature blessed with that personality, can find letting go very difficult. But boy, oh boy, once they do the experience is often exhilarating!
      I love helping a woman learn to shoot a handgun for the first time. We start with a .22 (they are fairly quiet) and it is rare that even the most timid of shooters isn’t soon asking for a try at a 9mm. Or a 1911 (look it up for fun)!
      Sometimes the thought that it isn’t just for YOU that you need to survive (and thrive) but for so many others can help break through barriers.
      It’s important that I add, though, that ought not be a permanent mindset—it’s just for an initial push/motivation. It’s essential you read the recommended books to help reframe ways of thinking of your place in world.
      Best of luck. And keep trying even if you can’t do it this time!

      • Thank you Daisy and everyone for your kind words and encouragement! I plan to see if I can watch a few classes and then go from there.

    • Dear Mom –
      By all means, take the course!! It’s important to get past your inhibitions because otherwise you may not be able to use your firearm if you need to, with disastrous consequences.

      FYI I took up Krav Maga (a form of active self defense) a few years ago, and found it both empowering and fun. You may find the same with the self-defense classes you are thinking of once you start.

  • Last night I read “Pronouns are Rohypnol” on “Fair Play for Women” which offered insight into the fact that when women are forced to be polite and play the pronoun game with someone who is clearly male, it is disorienting and also lowers women’s threat awareness, and that is even before biological men invade women’s spaces AND demand special treatment.

  • Think assertive, act assertive, and be alert, always. Be confident, even if you don’t feel that way. Fake it ’til you make it. This sounds like another “ladylike” thing but having good posture and standing tall when I’m out and about gives me confidence and sends an unspoken message of strength to others. Don’t be on your phone when waiting in lines. Be aware of what’s going on around you. I went for a solitary walk in the woods yesterday in a state forest and my situational awareness was on high alert the whole time but I was still able to relax and enjoy myself. I always carry in my purse (or fanny pack, in the case of walks) pepper spray, a box cutter, and a tactical pen. I’m in the process of getting my license to carry and am learning how to use my gun. Good men respect a woman who can shoot and isn’t afraid to do it.

  • Thank you so much! This information is invaluable!
    I will get the “Gift of Fear”
    Thanks Daisy, very well written and easy to understand.

  • Two more possibilities if you are caught out in your yard or away from your weapon-
    Fake a yell to a person in the house like “Joe, come out here, I’ve got a situation” or something like that even if there’s no one in the house to give yourself time. And then go into the house as if you are going to talk to someone inside.
    Another thing if he is still coming toward you, is to focus your eyes behind him as if there is someone there to make him look to give yourself a second or two without saying anything. He will likely look to see what you see.
    I would likely say STOP, NOW is a very assertive tone.
    ITs good to think ahead of what you would do because if you don’t you are surprised more.
    Always be situational aware, but hard to do at all times. I need to train myself in that.
    Sometimes something happens that I realize how I’m not paying attention. One time I was walking between a couple of fences following someone and the other person ducked and I didn’t even think about it and walked right into a gate that somebody put across both fences at face level. That will make you feel stupid.

  • Many years ago I had dropped my husband off at the airport in the very early morning hours and our kids were in the backseat sleeping, they were just toddlers. I was driving home, stopped at a light just outside the airport when a man approached my vehicle demanding a ride. I said no and told him to back away and then I checked to make sure the doors were locked. I live in Canada, no firearms. When he heard those locks click in place he charged my door and pounded on my window and door, waking my children. I couldn’t give up my vehicle – there was no way I could unstrap both of my kids fast enough. Another vehicle approached and I hoped this would be the end of this but they just drove around us while this stranger continued to pound on my vehicle, yell at me and try the other doors. I yelled to back away or he could be hurt, checked the intersection and drove through the STILL red light. I shook all the way home but we were safe. I’m sure it was only seconds but it felt like hours.

  • A couple years ago, my small town police department offered a course called RAD (Rape Aggression Defense). It was taught by police officers, one of which was a woman. It was fantastic! I walked out feeling informed and empowered. We practiced moves and on the last night got to “beat up” one of the officers (who was wearing full protective pads). Even though the officer was a big guy, made even bigger by the pads, we were all able to get out from under him and stop him from continuing to attack us. I definitely recommend a class like this.

  • My parents taught us to be respectful of older people and I was, except for one time. While visiting my grandmother 60 years ago when I was about 8, I was quite disrespectful of a very elderly great aunt who stopped by. She was admiring my dimples and pinching my cheek and just kept talking and tugging on my cheek. On top of that, she smelled like moth balls and had coffee breath. I did try to put up with it but after about 90 seconds. I blurted out, “WHY DON’T YOU JUST SHUT UP!” My grandmother snatched me up, took me to another room, and popped me several times with a belt. She acknowledged that I was in a bad situation, and explained what I should have done instead. Bless her heart. But I have been gifted with that boiling point at which I will not tolerate people invading my space or putting their hands on me, and several times I have arrested people who were following me or approaching me by going on the offensive. I throw up a hand like a stop sign, and say very loudly and firmly, “Stop. Don’t come near me; I don’t know you.” Then the person would sputter some excuse like just wanting a dollar or to know the time (that line is SO OLD that even kids know not to fall for it). Then I would reiterate, still with my hand out, “No, do not come near me.” So far, they have always backed off. I am always armed, but never had to pull my gun. My tone of voice and that hand like a stop sign have always been effective. I don’t care if I hurt someone’s feelings or if I misjudge a person’s intentions. I have also been very direct with people at work who crossed a line. You have to make yourself more important than that other person and not care if they get offended. I never made personal friends with work associates, and that made it easier to deflect someone if necessary.

  • My folks raised me to stand on my own two feet and stand up for myself. Even before I started my career which was (and sadly still is) a male dominated field, the boys quickly found out I am not a push-over. Men didn’t have an issue. Male or female, one should not put up with bad/threatening behavior. And to the boys who thought calling me a bitch gave them power, my reply of “Thank you. I think every woman should be a bitch” wasn’t what they expected. Be In Total Control of Herself – read that decades ago, committed it to memory, and use it when needed.

  • IMHO, if you look/act like a your a target, you will be considered a target. Won’t help you if you come across a true nut case but best not to be an easy target.

    • One of the most important points, that seems to be overlooked is not to be a target and to maintain Situational awareness,
      (the ability to quickly judge or size up a situation is a necessary skill also).
      It is a lot easier to avoid a situation, rather than to de escalate one.

      Setting boundaries though possibly useful in some scenarios, is basically doing very little and way too late.
      In civilized times it can have some merit. In SHTF times, it will be a liability.

      If an aggression is planned against you, or an aggressive person is inbound or has arrived in your space, then setting boundaries is useless. You have already lost the advantage, your options become more limited by the moment.

      Many predators are passive-aggressive. First they disarm you with a passive demeanor then they turn aggressive, only when they
      are ready to spring their trap. By the time you see the aggression it is far too late, your options are very limited or non-existent.

      Most “self defense” classes are a joke. They are there to make you feel confident. The outcome is scripted, you will overcome your attacker, without a doubt.
      Why? Because the instructors are not planing to harm you , or hurt you in a serious manner. You might as well be “attacking” a dummy that can’t fight back.
      Much unlike thugs, rapists and such. If the instructor dislocated your shoulder or broke your arm (like a thug might do) chances are, that would end your willingness to fight back. You would sue the instructor and never recommend the course.

      Pain is a great, fight ender.
      Most men know this and it is commonly taught, to make your opponent hurt, (though not always the “why” of it) in order to make them back off or to end a fight. It is also taught in some instances as a first strike option.

      So while you are busy setting boundaries, your opponent might be sizing you up as to how much pain to inflict on the first strike, to put you into submission. Which is why you need to be aware of your surroundings at all times and avoid such an encounter altogether. If that is not possible, you better be preparing for the fight of your life, not setting boundaries.

      Boundaries are bound to be broken and some might consider them as a challenge. Men sometimes set them as a prelude to a fight. Often it is viewed as a sign of weakness and unwillingness to fight or defend oneself.
      Is that really the signal you want to send? That you are scared?. That will only empower a predator or a bully.

      An aggressive, I’m willing to fight stance and tone are more likely to defuse those who would also be stopped by setting boundaries, it might also deter some who had thought you were an easy target, realizing now that you are not.

  • This discussion has been all about what choices you might have if you are aware of a possible threat and have an opportunity to do something(s) about it. A long time ago as I was getting out of my car after dark to enter a local business, a guy came up behind me, stuck a knife in my back and demanded all cash in my wallet. My only saving grace was that I was fortunately carrying very little cash, so he didn’t get much for his efforts. Since then I’ve learned the value of keeping minimal stuff in a throwaway wallet and keeping serious contents of ID, cash, current charge cards and any other plastics of significant value … out of sight and a long way from a throwaway wallet with little to nothing of value in it. Probably this would also be a good idea if you were traveling in a country where pickpocketing was rampant.

    That memory stayed with me, so when I saw an interesting emailed promotion this evening for a pocket stun gun, I looked at the details. 2“ x 4“ x 7/8“ thick. Rechargeable via wall plug-in power. Electric arc that when jammed up against a bad guy would immobilize him instantly. Probably that arc would also be an effective fire starter (like the rechargeable arc fire starter that I already have). Then the gotcha details emerged: Not available for NY, CT, RI, MA, NJ, WI, HI, MI and IL. What does that say about the states that clearly have no respect for your right of self defense?


    • Lewis–I don’t know about the other states, but in IL you need to have a FOID (Firearm Owners Identification) Card to carry a stun gun. You can, however, carry pepper spray with only an ID or drivers’ license (IL-issued, of course). All are for sale here. Maybe you should do some research before stating that some states “clearly have no respect for your right of self-defense.”

  • Agreed…”The Gift of Fear” is a wonderful starting place to educate yourself. Also…regardless of your political views on the NRA, they DO offer an excellent class — “Refuse to Be a Victim.” Read the book many years ago and took the class just recently. BOTH are GREAT resources! Continue to stand strong, ladies!

  • This happened to me a few years ago. It didn’t involve a face to face confrontation thank goodness, but it was a vehicle to vehicle thing. I was traveling from my home in the Houston area to a destination about 300 miles away. About 50 miles out of Houston, a white truck got right on my bumper. I moved from the lane, and it moved with me. For the next over 100 miles I couldn’t shake it. I would change lanes, slow down, speed up. I tried everything. It was so close I couldn’t see the license plate. The driver’s sun visor was down, so I couldn’t see a face. I could only see his shirt. A blue plaid.
    I considered calling 911, but I thought it would seem stupid and rude. But, as the miles went by, I really got scared. I was in my late 50’s at the time, had my cat in a crate strapped in the front seat and couldn’t figure out what I had done to attract his attention.
    I knew my stop for restroom and gas was coming up, so a couple of miles before it, I got into the left hand lane on the interstate. I didn’t want to tip him off that I might exit. As the exit came up, there was an 18 wheeler in the right lane, which would block the exit. The truck was right behind me. At the last minute, I whipped my car in front of the 18 wheeler and made the exit. I was really afraid I would be hit by the big truck, but I made it. There wasn’t enough time for the bad guy to make the exit. I also knew there wouldn’t be an exit for him for several miles.
    I made my gas stop and for a bit, I was confident I had ditched him. But – once I got back on the interstate, I had the sinking feeling he may be waiting for me. Then I saw it. He had cut across the median – I could see the tire marks – and it looked like he had tried to catch back up to me on the other side.
    BUT, he had been stopped by a Highway Patrol. I knew it was him because it was a white pick up and the guy standing on the side of the road had on a blue plaid shirt.
    I don’t know to this day how it happened, but maybe someone else (who wasn’t so “polite” saw what was happening and called the police. Maybe it was just pure luck. IDK.
    Maybe there are some tips on how to shake someone while you are in your vehicle. I will never forget this incident. And, the move I made to make that exit, I had seen in a movie about an 18 wheeler that was after a woman alone. I also feel a little sorry for that 18 wheeler driver that I’m sure I scared the wits out of.

  • Lori, my list of states that the Massachusetts seller was unwilling to supply to came directly from that seller — which even included his own state.


  • I have noticed about myself that I always go on the offensive if I believe someone is plotting against me even if it is someone teasing me or doing something harmless like stuff hay down my back on a hayride. As I pondered my response to perceived threat I realized I was fortunate to have a father who taught me self defense techniques when I was a teen. By doing this, the unspoken message was loud and clear that I have value, value worth protecting in the event he was not around to do it. So, I urge fathers of adolescents to give their daughters this same message.
    I don’t foolishly run to trouble, but assess the severity of the threat before reacting as I carry concealed all the time and have a heavy responsibility to use good judgment.

  • I’ve had several scary encounters. The advice you give is great. Creating or keeping space or a barrier between yourself and the threat is critical. A lifesaver. Figuring out what other “tools” might be at hand, also helpful. Can you attract a crowd? Can you create doubt or fear in the mind of the person threatening you? Here are a couple of fun situations I’ve found myself in over the years:
    1. I lived alone in a beautiful but remote farmhouse. Nearest neighbor 2 miles away. Police further. Late one night, three guys pulled up in front of my house, drunk or stoned, clearly up to no good, not worried about two big dogs barking inside. My second story bathroom window was above the front door and looked onto the driveway. I slid open the window and slid out the barrel of my shotgun. It took them a minute to look up, but when they did, they freaked and left quickly. I said nothing. I did not show my face. I did not fire the gun. I did not want them to know, if they did not already, that I was a woman alone in the house. As far as they knew, there was a creepy, crazy, quiet person waiting and watching them from above with a shot gun aimed at their heads.

    2. Pushing the cart out of the grocery store, I see two guys trying to break into my car. Broad daylight! About four or five car lengths from my car, I stopped my buggy in middle of the parking lot, blocked traffic, and started yelling like a banshee for them to get away from my car. I attracted a lot of attention by screaming and by blocking traffic. They did not like the attention. They slowly backed away and walked away, but I did not get in my car until they were well gone. They called me “loco.” A Good Samaritan called the police.

    3. Pulled up to the gym early one morning when it was still dark. Parked. Door still locked. A “little voice” said, “don’t get out of the car.” Trust the little voice! A man appeared out of nowhere at my driver-side window. I looked at him. He looked at me. Evil, evil eyes. I kept his gaze, slowly reached to my console and opened my phone (I had a flip phone then!). The illumination from the phone in the dark must’ve thrown him off. He slowly turned his head and then walked along my car and then out to the street. He looked back a few times to see what I was doing. When I was confident he was gone, I ran in the gym. Turns out, he’d been looking in the gym windows and…… Uck. We called the police. Here’s the scary part: A few weeks later, a young woman living near the gym was tortured and killed in her home, in the early morning hours. Turns out, it was the same guy I’d encountered in the parking lot.

    4. Once, a man showed up in the lobby of my office accusing me of plotting and threatening to kill him when all he wanted to do was marry me and make babies. (You read that right) I’d never seen the guy. At that time, I had a job that put me in the papers and I received all manner of crazy fan/hate mail, which I regularly forwarded to the police. Strange thing, this guy was very calm while he explained all of this weirdness to me. I did not argue with him. I listened for a minute or two with furrowed brow, and then told him I was very concerned and he should immediately report this in person to the state police for them to handle since it clearly was a criminal matter. I turned to the receptionist (who was dialing the police), and asked her to write down the name of the chief and his number. I took it, handed it to him and escorted him out of the lobby, the door of which I shut and locked. I called the police. They thought I was a nutter. An hour later, I get a call from the chief asking me what was going on because he had a crazy guy saying I’d told him to report me for making death threats. That fellow actually was dangerous, and the police were very helpful thereafter. I do think the fact that I was calm and seemed to be taking him seriously kept things from escalating.
    4. Do not run or walk with both ear buds in. Use only one and leave the other ear open so you can hear what is going on around you. I was in college, going for a run on a quiet Saturday morning with music blaring in both ears. I could not hear the car that pulled up next to me on the street, but I did see it in my peripheral vision before it was too late and was able to run before I got snatched. Two guys chased me through a parking deck, a parking lot, and a hedgerow before I lost them. They were very serious about trying to catch me. No-one was around because it was a Saturday morning in a college town and everyone was still in bed. I saw no one who could help me. The shops were all closed. I finally lost them. The police later found the abandoned car, which was stolen. The guys who tried to grab me were snatching and grabbing college girls, raping them, and dropping them on the edge of town. I got lucky despite being stupid.
    5. Pray. Constantly. I mean it. After 50-odd decades on this planet, I know the Holy Trinity has been by my side. I know it. I know it like I know my name. A year ago, I fell off the side of Camel Back Mountain when the trail beneath my right foot collapsed. Two guys saw me fall, scrambled down the side of the mountain to me, and were shocked when I opened my eyes and then sat up. I’d hit my head at least twice and on each side, flown through the top of a tree which kind of shredded a leg, had my shoes blown off my feet and my pack pulled off, but I did not break a bone, a tooth, a fingernail. I did not have a concussion. I did not need stitches. I did not pick up a single cactus needle, which, if you know the mountain, is just pretty much impossible. I walked 45 minutes down the mountain to the trailhead with one of those nice guys accompanying me. I was a scary bloody mess, but I was ok. I’d been praying on my way up that mountain. I was not alone. There are many ways I could have been harmed or died over the years, but I live. Something will get me someday, but I know where I’m going and I am looking forward to it. I flatlined in the ER last year (allergic reaction), and being released into the light was truly glorious. Coming back was the hard part.

  • When me and my husband moved into our house we were unloading stuff and the next door neighbor approached us and insisted on helping. I felt uncomfortable because he seemed a little too intense.

    After a few days he knocked on our door with a few copperhead snakes squirming around on some sticks to “warn” us about them nesting in the area. (Maybe trying to show us he is just that cool to carry poison snakes around on sticks, maybe he was trying to scare us off, maybe he was just straight up trying to warn us, not sure). He didn’t seem to speak much English which made it even more awkward to deal with.

    He would come over drunk, tell us sad stories, asked us a couple times if we would take his kids (in case he got deported or something?)

    We just tried to be umm, I guess sort of polite. Wasn’t sure how to handle it but tried to stay friendly non committal and neutral. A member of his family asked my husband if they could drive through our yard if there was a roadblock on our street. My husband told her no. They seemed to kind of accept it.

    So maybe 9 months after we moved in my husband was out and I was behind our workshop (maybe100 yards off their property line) taking paint off cabinet doors with chemical remover. I was all suited up and working away, turned around, there’s the guy standing behind me.

    Honestly I don’t even remember what I said but we had some sort of a calm verbal exchange and he left. I think I remember him saying something like he just wanted us to be really good neighbors or something. He may have been drinking….

    One night there was some sort of incident on the road out front. This guy had just walked on our property to see what it was about, chatting with my husband. My husband walked away for a minute and they guy asked for my phone number. I was able to tell him in Spanish no, he should only have my husband’s phone number. I think he understood I was setting a boundary which was good.

    We never had an out and out run in with him but don’t feel super comfortable being their neighbor either. They have several people over there every day taking care of animals. Not sure really their perspective on what a neighbor should be, culturally what do they expect from us.

    There have been times I have seen him and few other guys standing on their property all staring toward our yard. Like really staring not just looking. Not sure what to think. They have chilled out on that though since I decided I would try just standing and gazing facing their property while watering our animals.

    We don’t speak much Spanish and they don’t speak much English. When we first moved here I really wanted to practice Spanish speaking with his wife but she told me flat out they are illegal (but working, so kind of protected by their employers apparently) and I had enough Spanish to tell her please don’t tell me because if someone asks I don’t want to know. Her husband and his brother were standing nearby intently watching us and listening to our conversation. Me and his wife have never quite become buddies, more or less cordial though. I feel like maybe he is trying to get something from us through her or something.

    It seems like they want to sort of merge with us, he had her try to give us a bunch of baby chickens (I refused them politely).

    We have more open space than they do and I am thinking maybe they’d like to have their animals graze on our land, like share and share alike…. which under ordinary circumstances might be doable but we just don’t feel comfortable because of the perceived give an inch take 10 miles dynamic. Just feeling low grade creeped out just about all the time (it’s been about 3 years now) don’t want to call ICE bec the little kids and blah blah blah and understand sometimes people need to leave violence and opression in their place of origin, maybe they have PTSD, love thy neighbor and all that. Also my great grandparents were immigrant refugees so I try to give these neighbors some slack and coexist.

    It’s like they are pushy to kind of merge with us but at the same time kind of like they don’t completely trust us. The feeling is definitely mutual. However I think they also realize if we were going to try to get rid of them we would have done it a long time ago.

    I am hoping the kids and grandkids will be more adjusted coming up. They all speak great English and are called upon by the mom and dad to translate at times… which they do with a sigh, you know they’d rather be doing something else, normal kid attitude stuff.

    This is basically highlights of the situation… Any thoughts, advice, similar experiences? I sure could use some guidance. Thanks in advance.

    • someone must be praying for us because things have gotten much better. I’m pretty embarrassed about writing all the mean stuff though. Thanks whoever you are who’s been doing the praying.

    • “It seems like they want to sort of merge with us”

      that’s exactly what they are trying to do. in primitive survival cultures there is no personal property, there is only the tribe, and “mi casa su casa” which really means “su casa mi casa” is the only way of life they know.

      “things have gotten much better”

      hope they stayed that way but don’t expect it to.

  • Thank you for this article! I wish it had been addressed like this in my License to Carry Class. It clearly sums up the challenges that many of us struggle with because we were trained to be “nice” girls. Being a kind, generous, affectionate person does not mean being a doormat for everyone to walk on. It is a lifelong journey to set and enforce healthier boundaries Your use of the test reminded me of an exercise in a conflict disengagement class I took. You described it in a more practical and effective way.

    I used the “Take a step backward, you are crowding me.” in the past. and the person backed up as asked.

    I have found that the athletic exercise I got while taking martial arts classes made me less timid and fearful.

  • Best advice a cop friend gave me as a teen was listen to your gut. It saved me several times.
    Another was to keep talking, don’t let fear rule, start taking charge. I talked down a would be rapist with no safe place and no possibility of help and no weapon but my wits. I was 16.
    In my late 50s and early 60s I annually took MANDT classes while working with mentally handicapped violent men. It was a form of deescalination from Germany. It usually worked but not 100%. These were men with missing brainparts, damaged or TBI, or who just loved fear and violence. They had attacked people, raped children or teens, ect. Being observant and listening to that special warning sense saved me or co works many times. They weren’t able to stand trial.
    My Dad had told me to listen to your gut. If you feel uneasy back out of that place. Don’t run but definitely get away. Don’t be brave and walk in if your gut feels a sudden fear. Applying that was hard until other men also told me that..like my cop friend.
    Yes we were always supposed to be “nice” while not giving in to fear. But aren’t we always taught fears like fear of the dark and a somewhat natural fear of the unknown or fear or loud or violent men.. We need to know what our gut is telling us and listen.
    Here on my property I felt that suddend gut tightening when I started to walk between two buildings. I backed up and walked around a different way. As I silently approached from the other end of that area I saw two large men stand up in the area where I had almost walked. At 3 AM no one belonged out on my land. That time I was armed and had a cell phone. I hit a silent code to 911 with gun drawn I watched where the men went and whispered where they were heading to a side dirt road so they were met by a sheriffs Deputy. They were carrying a few power tools with the last 4 of my social etched on them. Eventually the tools were returned and the guys did time for B&E. The thefts stopped. That was why I’d been out walking in the dark in navy blue sweats and black rubber soled shoes with a 38 revolver in my hand and 911 on speed dial. I’d made up my mind I was tired of it. The guys had a reputation for violence and I was 70 at the time. I’m 74 and I’d still prefere a quiet peaceful life… but I’d prefer being called an old “bi-ch” to getting roughed up or killed.

  • I posted a bit about times of danger but I lived with death threats here for several decades. I was a pastors wife and licensed preacher and then pastor as well in a rough rural community.
    It was a balancing act serving a community and helping people while being hated and feared because we were outsiders. We raised 4 good children here. When my husband died in 2002 I was again getting death threats. Every day I walked a lonely 4 miIe loop gathering sticks to cook dinner and heat water. When I was getting uneasy about the walk a stray joined me. Infact she moved herself onto my property. Tgen each day when I went walking another dog then another would join me until 27 surrounded me each day when I went walking. I was confronted by armed men se c real times but the dogs would growl and bare their teeth even at theirown owners. I never said a word just stood tall and smiled. I told my daughter my guardian angles have teeth! They started calling me the “Crazy Dog Lady”. The grandmothers were telling them to leave me alone or “your dogs will only leave your bones”. 2 years later I left to accept a job offer in the city. 12 years later I returned a remarried, retired, grandmother.
    Yes I had a problem with thieves but it was men from a village 4 miIes away. Them men of this village who are now grandfathers were just teenagers when I first moved here. They remember the “Crazy Dog Lady” and welcomed me back. They sent sons and grandsons to help me while we moved. Some are still MS13. I’m still vigilant and watchful. A neighbor was just recently arrested for being involved in a horrific multiple murder involving dismemberment.
    When I had Covid last year I could barely walk to the door for months afterward. A neighbor brought us a hot lunch 2 or 3 days a week for three months. He never came in. Always stood on the porch. He has so little it was surprising. He was sleeping on his bother’s porch all winter. He was homeless then relatives gave him an old camp trailer. I let him take a few bricks to make a fire pit. He picks up odd jobs when he can. Sometimes the food was as simple as macaroni and cheese with green chili wrapped in tortilla dough and fried. It was actually quite good. Sometimes it was a meat filling with red chili. Sometimes a plate of meat and beans stacked in homemade blue corn tortillas and smothered in home made redchili sauce. He always brought enough for two.
    Just saying, if you believe in prayer and practic it, you have an extra layer of help. Still we all have an inborn warning system that we must pay attention to.

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