You might carry concealed for self-protection, but your firearm is a last resort. If you’re ever in a dangerous situation, like an attempted robbery or assault, leaving is better than fighting your way out, and it should be your first choice if it’s feasible. But as anyone who has ever watched a cheesy horror flick knows, blindly running with zero plan just leads you to new problems. There’s a right way to flee danger.
First, try to avoid having to flee in the first place by paying attention to your surroundings and avoiding situations that have the potential to turn violent before they start. If anyone makes you uneasy, keep your distance and insist that they keep theirs. Don’t be afraid to say “that’s close enough” to anyone who isn’t respecting your space, and don’t be afraid to turn around and go back in the opposite direction if you see something or someone in the path ahead that makes you nervous. Yeah, you might look rude, but who cares?
Second, know when you have to escape and when it’s better to give a bad guy what he’s asking for first. Learn the difference between resource predators and process predators, and when you’re clearly dealing with a resource predator who just wants your purse or your car or your wallet, understand that your best option is to comply. Throw your purse or your keys and then run in the opposite direction. He’s got what he wants and you’re getting farther away from danger by the second.
Run Toward, Not From
Sometimes your options are limited. You might just have to flee in whatever direction is available and adjust your plan as you go. But to the extent that you’re able, remember the cardinal rule of escaping danger: Don’t run from something; run toward something. Yes, you’re leaving a dangerous situation, but try to have a goal in mind that you’re running toward. When you start running from danger, there’s a good chance you’ll be chased, and you want to end up somewhere safer than where you started.
If at all possible, run toward people. In a dark parking lot, this means you should run back toward the still-open store, not deeper into the darkness or into the abandoned alley. If you don’t know where people are, lights and noise are good indicators—run toward them and hope you find people. If you don’t, at least you’ll have better lighting to see what you’re doing. Running toward a more advantageous position makes the bad guy less inclined to follow you—he doesn’t want an audience.
Make a scene as you run. Anything to draw the attention of passersby will increase your odds of someone intervening on your behalf or of the bad guy deciding that this is just too much trouble and he’d be better off moving on. Many of us have a tendency to shut down and go silent when we’re afraid, but using your voice will help you draw attention, and attention is the opposite of what a criminal wants.
A couple of notes on special situations:
If you are assaulted in a parking lot, it might seem like running toward your car is a safe option, but be careful. It takes a long time to open your door (especially if you’re fumbling with keys), get in, start the car and take off. If you’re being chased, it might very well give your pursuer the time he needs to catch up to you. If you have the option, run toward the store or toward any lights/noise/people.
If you are driving and you suspect you’re being followed, do not go home, or you risk being assaulted in your driveway. Again, “run” toward a safer place. You can take four right turns in a row to confirm that someone is indeed following you or you can skip that and just proceed directly to the nearest police or fire station; even a busy store or any crowded, well-lit area will do in a pinch.
If you are assaulted in your own driveway, running into your house might seem logical, because it feels like your safe place. But if there’s no one inside, the house is probably a more dangerous place than the yard, where you at least stand a chance of being spotted by a neighbor or a passing motorist or jogger.
Escaping a violent situation is almost always the best choice, if you have one. Just remember when you’re escaping to run toward safety, not simply away from danger.