Angela Champlain-From fought off a knife-wielding assailant trying to force her into a car. She suffered a life-threatening stab wound but says fighting back ultimately saved her life.
But is fighting back the best way to survive an attack?
Twin Cities law enforcement and self-defense experts weigh in.
“If four guys with guns want your purse, don’t fight back. Give them your purse,” said University of Minnesota police investigator and defensive tactic instructor Luke Huck. “If you fear for your life or you are going to be taken to a second location, you need to do whatever you need to survive. We tell the females in our self-defense class they have to know their skill set, their mind-set. They need to be mentally prepared for it.”
Huck, along with another officer, teaches a free self-defense course to students, faculty and staff. One of his students described feeling like a mouse waiting for the cat to strike. If she was targeted, she felt she had no recourse. Much of the self-defense class is about changing that mind-set.
“A lot of the women [in class] start out being very meek. They don’t want to be the loudest. As soon as they start punching the bag and kicking the bag, you see the change in their eyes and their confidence level. It’s very empowering. … Your hands, feet elbows, knees, teeth — you have all these different weapons on you. It may gain them the split second that can help them get away.”
Self-defense expert Anne Yatch, co-owner of Sealed Mindest in New Hope, said that when you’re life is at stake, you should always fight.
“People think we should try to negotiate or verbalize something. More often than not, overwhelming force of action is something the bad guy does not expect,” said Yatch, who has a master’s degree from the Security Studies Program at Georgetown University, with a focus on international security, counterinsurgency and counterintelligence.
Criminals are weighing the risks vs. rewards. Women who raise the risk for their attackers improve their chances of escape, she said.
Cmdr. Paul Sommer of the Anoka County Sheriff’s Office said there are no hard rules about when to employ self-defense. The sheriff’s office has offered self-defense training to county employees.
“Every situation is different. There is not real hard and fast answer. It’s up to the individual what their confidence level is,” Sommer said. “If you are going to fight back, you should do it with all the ferocity you can and you should make the most noise you can. What a criminal is counting on is that he can surreptitiously do it.”
Sommer said training helps.
“It would be helpful to have some training and be in the mind-set you are going to do that,” he said.