Can we predict violence?

By Jamie Lindsey

When I was growing up, my mom continuously warned me about the dangers of people. She helped produce the strong intuition I have today and could possibly be why I, thankfully, have yet to be a victim or survivor of a violent crime. I truly believe that my intuition has gotten me out of situations that could have been very dangerous. I’ve been raised to believe that “people are dangerous” and “anyone can have bad intentions.” And although growing up I didn’t really believe that all people would have bad intentions, it definitely made me act like all people had bad intentions. 

I am a crime junkie and constantly listening to podcasts about horrible crimes that have happened to normal people. On the podcast “Crime Junkie” the hosts and friends, Ashley Flowers and Brit Prawat, constantly remind people to trust your intuition and don’t worry about being rude. I couldn’t agree more with these words, and many experts who have studied violence would nod their heads in approval to that advice. It is perfectly fine to tell someone you are no longer interested in talking with them, you don’t need any help with your groceries, you don’t need a ride from them, you don’t want to go out with them.  

Many people think that violence can’t be predicted. That it was a “sudden act” and that whoever committed the act is now a monster. According to the book “The Gift of Fear” by Gavin De Becker, he makes note by saying that those people are in fact very much human. And understanding that violent people have the same human tendencies as every one who is non-violent, we can get better at predicting it. Understanding your intuition within the context of any given situation will help you better prepare and predict what might happen. Take for example the task of driving, something that we do everyday. If you are a good driver, you are not only looking at the road ahead of you, but you are also looking and predicting some of the behaviors of those around you. If you notice the person ahead of you is looking down a lot, you will presume they are on their phone, which will make you more cautious while passing them or driving near them. The same goes for almost any given situation. Look at the context and the behavior of those around you. Is it normal for the given context? Do these people belong here? Is there any reason any of these people should not be here? 

Intuition is something I tell my students to pay attention to a lot. It can be your best predictor of what might happen. If something feels off to you, it probably is, and you should probably listen to your instinct. However, intuition becomes clouded when someone with sinister ideas tries to convince you that things are fine and you have no reason to worry. This is when judgement gets hazy and guards are let down. Predators feed on hazy judgements and will take the opportunity to get into your head and into your life. 

The same book mentioned above discusses one particular story throughout the book. This story is about a woman named Kelly who was bringing groceries into her apartment one night. Her hands were full of bags and as she was walking up the stairs, one bag ripped and cat food cans rolled down the stairs. Right as one rolled around the corner she heard a voice, “Got it! I’ll bring it up!” When he got up the stairs he persisted on helping her, almost forcing a bag from her hand before she finally let him take it. “There’s such a thing as being too proud,” he jokingly told her. “We better hurry, we’ve got a hungry cat to feed.” He speaks again as he follows her. When she got to her apartment she insisted on him leaving then, but he told her, “Oh no, I didn’t come this far to let you have another cat food spill…We can leave the door open like ladies do in old movies. I’ll just put this stuff down and go. I promise.” After that, he raped her for hours and was going to kill her if her intuition didn’t tell her to get out of the house when he went for a drink. The signs were there. She didn’t see them at the time, though she felt them. She knew that within the context of the situation, that guy shouldn’t have been there. But he used her hazy judgement to control the situation and take what he wanted. 

Gavin De Becker goes into a lot of detail about intuition and prediction in his book, words that speak so much truth to me because I know that me and a lot of other women have used our intuition to know if a situation or a person is dangerous. Situations that statically, men usually don’t experience as often. 

De Becker goes into what he calls survival signals which are signals that we should all memorize and know by heart. These are things that people (usually men) will say or do to get control over you. Keep in mind, not everyone who displays these signals is going to commit violent acts against you. But these are signals you should be very aware of when having interactions with people. 

  1. Forced Teaming — According to the same book, “forced teaming is an effective way to establish premature trust because a we’re-in-the-same-boat attitude is hard to rebuff without feeling rude. “Both of us” “Now we’ve done it” “You’d do the same for me” etc. are all examples. 
  2. Charm and Niceness — The important thing about this signal is that we have to understand that niceness is not a personality quality. It is a decision of behavior. Someone overtly trying to charm you or be super nice to you is usually just trying to get something from you. Rather than asking yourself, “Is this person charming?” Asking yourself, “Is this person trying to charm me?” And make sure to answer why. 
  3. Too many details — People who want to deceive you will often use this technique. Consciously, a person knows when someone doesn’t believe what they are saying so that person will keep talking until you believe them, usually adding too many details into the conversation. 
  4. Typecasting — This is used when men label women in a slightly critical way, usually it is insulting. “Someone like you would never read something like that.” “There’s such a thing as being too proud.” This technique works for the perpetrator because the other person usually feels like they have something to prove. 
  5. Loan Sharking — This is used by people as a way to make you feel like you owe them something. They helped with my groceries, I can chat for a minute. They bought me a drink, I should dance with them. Although this is used for non-sinister intent, it is still used by predators. 
  6. The Unsolicited Promise — “The unsolicited promise is one of the most reliable signals because it is nearly always of questionable intent.” Think about it, if someone has no bad intent, why would they need to promise you of that? Wouldn’t they just help you with your groceries and go back to their own car? What would be the need of an unsolicited promise? De Becker says, “The reason a person promises something is that he can see you are not convinced.” So ask yourself, what are they really trying to convince me? 
  7. Discounting the Word “No” — I feel like many women have experienced this signal. Mostly because when those men get a “no” some are still persistent enough to continue to try to get what they want. But sometimes, it’s not even the word no that is discounted, sometimes it’s also the action of no. For example, taking your grocery bag when you said you didn’t want help, shoving the drink towards you when you said you didn’t want one, continuing to talk to you when you don’t respond. These are all signs of ignoring the action of no. Again, ask yourself, why are they disregarding what I want? 

It’s okay to be rude. It’s okay to follow your intuition. In fact, do it more than you don’t. There are so many things we should be aware of when it comes to trying to predict violence. Trust yourself. Your body does everything to protect you from danger. Listen to it. Stay safe. 

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