How I Missed 14 Clues In 62 Seconds
How I missed 14 clues in 62 seconds and how we can learn from them
Some crimes are so violent and overwhelming that they happen without warning. This was not the case for me. My initial encounter with my assailant was a type of audition where he watched me, observed my body language, and tone to determine if I was a hard or soft target.
What I know now is the audition is an opportunity for us to evaluate the predator, too. Training ourselves to use our tools – trusting our intuition, looking for red flags, objectively assessing situations using mindset and situational awareness – will help us respond faster.
These tools may allow us, in certain situations, to avoid having to get to the tactics part of self-protection by quickly determining if their plans for us are evil or harmless. There are times when, due to the violent nature of the crime and the speed at which it is initiated, we are forced directly into using tactics with no time to try to dodge or de-escalate a situation. We need to be prepared for either situation.
As you read through parts my story below please look for clues that I did not recognize as warnings that I was in danger. Be careful not to dismiss my mistakes as ones you would not make. I know a few of you may think, “I’d never do that, I’d see that coming,” but experiencing this in a highly adrenalized situation is different than reading it on a website. Remember that this entire interaction took place in 62 seconds – the time it has taken most of you to read this page so far.
Please focus on what you have learned about mindset, situational awareness, red flags, intuition and see how I did (if you have not learned those things yet please check out those pages). Pay attention to where I dismissed my instincts, where I missed the clues he gave me, and what clues I gave him so he knew I was an easy target:
As I opened the door to leave my office I immediately noticed a man’s left arm quickly jerk back out of view. It struck me as odd but I was on the phone with a friend and in a hurry as I bid my paralegal goodbye, so I did not slow down to consider what I noticed and the triggers firing in my “gut.”
As I cross the threshold there was a man waiting for me in the hall. He told me he was a former client in desperate need of immediate legal help; I had helped him in the past and his family needed me now, I was the only one who could help them.
HE WAS APPEALING TO MY PRIDE, FORCING ME TO FEEL OBLIGATED AS THE ONLY ONE WHO COULD HELP A FAMILY IN NEED, GIVING ME A FALSE SENSE THAT I WAS IN CONTROL OF THE INTERACTION.
None of this was true but as a master manipulator he was skilled at reading my face, body language, and tone to determine what approach was most effective. It was a high stakes game of chess with moves and counter moves. Each time I declined or resisted in any way he immediately came back with another reason, excuse, or emotional plea.
During the course of the 62-second walk from my office door to my car he ignored my efforts to say “no” seven times. I didn’t give a strong “no” but rather, “The courts are closed and I can’t help now so please go see my paralegal and I will meet you first thing Monday morning,” or, “I can’t do anything about this now but would be glad to help on Monday,” to “I have people waiting for me so I have to leave. I’m sorry I can’t talk more about this now.” It is easy to see how a wolf would know that I was a sheep and he had me exactly where he needed me.
I was not engaging the tools of mindset and awareness at this point. My instincts were trying to warn me that he was unwilling to honor my boundaries plus his body language was inconsistent with the situation. I had no training to fall back on other than life lessons to be polite, kind, help others, serve others and zealously represent my clients. This led me to think, “I can’t possibly be rude to this man who just lost his wife and just needs help.” My life lessons, taught without boundaries, led med to be a soft target and almost resulted in my death.
I don’t assign any blame to myself or other victims. I was a sheep and I thought and lived life like a sheep. I still do – the difference is now I know how to identify a wolf and meet him head on because of the tools I’ve learned of mindset, awareness, and tactics that allow me to feel safer in a world with predators.
As I spoke to him he did not readily move out of my way to allow me to leave. I paused to speak to him but kept moving forward in an awkward type of dance; I moved forward and he moved backward. He did not try to walk next to me, rather he stayed facing me, moving side to side and backward at the same time. This behavior was INCONSISTENT for that interaction. This is not how a client interacts with an attorney. A client would wait for me in the office or speak to me briefly then go to my office to make an appointment.
Another inconsistency: He told me he and his family were scared because their accounts were frozen and they couldn’t access their money. Later, he pulled out a wad of cash rolled up with a rubber band around it. He tried to put it in my hand telling me it was for me to take his case. I explained that was not how it worked and he would deal with my office manager for payment and a contract.
He put the money back in his pocket and I saw a white powdery substance in a tube in the middle. I froze as I was trying to process what was happening and he melted down emotionally again, distracting me by changing topics rapidly.
This is how a predator “auditions” his prey to see if the proper circumstances exist to move forward with their plans. This particular man presented himself as grief stricken and fearful after having just lost his wife (this was a lie, she died several years prior) so I dismissed my internal discomfort (my instincts warning me) about his erratic behavior by justifying his recent trauma and excusing his inappropriate behavior as driven by grief and fear. Why would he want to hurt me? How could something violent happen to me?
While walking down the hall to get to the exit to the parking lot I continued to encourage him to go back to my office to schedule an appointment. He made no effort to move in that direction. He was between me and the door I needed to exit to get to my car.
I thought that the kind thing to do for this man who was in crisis was to continue to show him respect and ask him questions that would show I was interested in helping him while making clear I couldn’t help him right away. I believed that would get him back to my office and out of my way.
When that failed I asked him to walk with me to continue answering questions so that I could get started first thing Monday. I did this primarily to shake him off. I asked him a series of specific questions about his wife’s will and he answered them with confidence and clarity. “Are you the executor, were there two witnesses, are their signatures notarized?” basic questions to determine if the will was valid. He answered them all. He then gave an unbelievable description of the extreme wealth he stood to inherit, a portion of which he assured me would fall to me for giving him legal assistance. We walked until we reached the back of my car in the parking lot. I told him I was sorry for his loss (still believing his story was true) and told him, again, I could not do anything to help until Monday morning.
I walked around to the driver’s side of my back seat and opened the door. I put the box of files and my briefcase on the back seat. I shut the door and started to open the driver’s door when I saw him standing beside my car with the passenger door open.
He asked for a ride home and I told him, “It’s late, people are waiting for me. I have to be in Louisville in an hour, I’m already late. I need you to go make an appointment with Judy so we can start first thing Monday morning.” He didn’t budge. “How did you get here? I don’t have time. I can’t. I’m sorry.”
Seven times I told him no, without really saying “No!” Seven times he pushed past my refusals. The then sky broke open and it started to storm and rain. Right on cue. I felt stuck. I couldn’t get rid of him – he was already partially in my car. I got in. This was against my better judgment and my will. I wish I knew then what I know now, my response would be completely different.