Red Flags

Do you think you can identify someone who has taken the time to plan a murder?


Maybe you think you can identify them from their past, their looks, lifestyle, tone, friends, career etc.?  Consider this, the testimony during my second trial of the defendant’s childhood was shocking to me – not shocking for the reasons you may expect.  I assumed I would hear gory tales of sexual abuse, long term neglect, physical abuse, and hunger.  Instead, he reported having a grandmother he loved dearly and a wife he loved.  No levels of abuse or neglect were identified from his childhood.  His childhood -at first blush- appeared not that different from mine or any other childhood filled with church camps, family reunions, ball games and theme parks. A family that was nurturing, loving, and close.  This unnerved me.  It showed me that people capable of stalking, rape, torture, stabbing, stealing, drug abuse and murder come from a place not that different than where I came from and look, act, and sound like me.  In fact, it is hard to determine who may be willing to become violent unless you have learned specific red flags to look for.

It is difficult to recognize a predator from their appearance – monsters, predators, rapists, murderers, serial killers, doctors, lawyers, and teachers all look like me, sounds like me and act like me in a lot of areas.  They look act and sound like you too.  You can’t distinguish the predator from the safe person from looks alone.  Imagine Jeffery Dahmer in a suit and tie sitting in a board room leading a business meeting.  Meeting him in this setting, and not knowing his history, would you believe him capable of such violence? If he later approached you in a parking lot would you assume he is a safe person or use your tools to determine if he may be a predator?  Reality is when you meet someone in your everyday life, then meet them again later in a questionable situation, you will be much slower to notice red flags.  The point is it is hard to identify a predator by looks alone – it is impossible to use our eyes to determine if you are safe- especially eyes cloaked in denial, eyes that don’t want to see what is there.  In order to stay safe you need to acknowledge that wolves/predators exist and they are smart enough to approach us in sheep’s clothing.  They do not overtly let us know their sinister plans.  Once we are comfortable trusting instinct, paying attention and engaging in an audition of our own we will find that they give us clues that we can pick up on.  Knowing this allows us to not live in fear at all- rather an empowered freedom of confidence that we are trained with the mindset, awareness, and tactics to keep ourselves, and those we love, safer.  So let’s learn how to see with more than just our eyes and learn how to identify predators before they hurt us.

Below are specific forms of manipulation that predators use to lower our guard and get close enough to hurt us.  I have included specific examples from my case to show you how these play out in a real case.  Please commit these to memory and use them to as filters as you learn to quickly identify threats.

Twelve Red Flags

1)  Trusting your “gut” or your instincts is the first and most important red flag.  Please review Identifying a predator for more information.  

2)  Something doesn’t feel right:  When your intuition is telling you something isn’t right, it isn’t.   This is part of trusting your intuition then engaging in mindset, situational awareness and tools to remove yourself from a situation before it becomes dangerous.

3)  Creating false sense of unity or familiarity:  “We can do this.”

An emotional attempt to create an inappropriate sense of teamwork, intimacy, shared goals, should trigger you to engage your tools, mindset, awareness and tactics.  Inappropriate may look like many different things but generally a person attempting to create a sense of unity with someone in a vulnerable situation (hallway after work hours, parking lot, answering the door while home alone) should set off alarms.  In my case my attacker appealed to the work I had done for him in the past and how his grandmother wanted to only use me claiming “we” must work on this crisis together.

The words themselves are not dangerous or threatening, it is the way they are used and in what context.  Use situational awareness (being aware of your specific situation and what would be appropriate) to determine if the context is appropriate.  The exact same techniques a predator uses to lower your defenses may be the same techniques used at a work retreat for team building.  If a man approaches a woman in a vulnerable situation, using the same techniques, may be attempting to manipulate her.  He may want nothing more than your cell number so he can ask you on a date, or he may be auditioning you for the role in his next crime.  Be mindful and remember it is not the words that are used but the context they are used in that can warn you of sinister plans.

4)  False need to be rescued:  Being asked to rescue someone from a “crisis.”  Ask yourself if this is really a crisis and are you the person to help them.

It seems as if many predators use this tactic as an appeal to good-hearted- nurturing people.  In fact, this was one my attacker’s many ploys.  It worked on me the day I was kidnapped but did not in the incident below.  Read through this real-life-example and look for signs I used to stay safe in Colorado but did not know to use the day I was kidnapped.

I was staying in a hotel in Denver Colorado with my mom and sister.  It was early morning and I was scraping the ice off the windshield of the rented SUV in the hotel parking lot.  We were in the middle of a very congested business area with several stores open within sight of the parking lot.  My mom and sister were in the SUV as I started to scrape the windshield.  In my peripheral vision I noticed a man walking purposefully toward me.  I could also see several other men in the parking lot and knew that we were in the middle of heavy pedestrian traffic and immediately asked myself why this man would be walking specifically toward me.  Why me and not one of the many men in the parking lot?  As the man got closer I stopped scraping the windshield, stretched out my left arm, spread my hand wide open and said, “Do you need something?” This was not spoken in a kind and encouraging voice but rather a challenge.  When I spoke to him I looked at him and immediately made mental notes of what his physical appearance told me: he was not wearing a jacket and it was a very cold winter day, his shoes were clean meaning he had not walked far with the snow and ice that was all over the road, he was holding a new iPhone in his left hand and looked very well kept.  He started to tell me a long, very detailed, story about his family needing help because they were allegedly stuck in a car near the interstate (from his description of the location I knew that he was lying as I had driven that route the day before and it was very far away – too far for him to walk in snow and still have clean looking shoes).   I looked at his clean shoes, despite much snow on the ground, the iPhone in his hand and his overall appearance.  I interrupted him and said, “I don’t appreciate it when strange men approach me in parking lots.”  He immediately became angry, snarled at me and said, “You don’t have to be afraid all of your life.”  He abruptly spun around, quickly walked away from me through the bushes bordering the parking lot and disappeared.   He did not approach any of the other six people in the parking lot nor did he walk into any of the businesses that surrounded us.  He simply got angry and walked away.  Clearly he had sinister plans for me that day.  He did not seek “help” from anyone else but stormed off in a fury when I simply advised him he was making me uncomfortable.

His inappropriate response confirmed his bad intentions.   A smoother predator would have responded gently with an apology and possibly tried again.  A man with no bad intentions would have apologized for scaring me, and not become angry.   Either way, I avoided a situation that was clearly not meant for my good.

5)  Physical or verbal boundary breakers:    Ignoring a “No” statement, standing too close, failing to leave when asked, or any attempt to ignore your will.

You have often heard it said that “No” is a complete sentence.  It creates a boundary that is not up for negotiation or to be crossed.  No means no, literally and figuratively.  If every time you say No to someone and they don’t accept it then engage your tools and remind yourself this person is attempting to force you to do something.  Perceiving it in that manner will allow you to be firmer and more resolute than you may otherwise be.

Reminding yourself that he is attempting to manipulate you may help you get in the right mindset to firmly reject any repeated pushing through of your boundaries and give yourself permission to find a way to get away from the person.  If he continues to engage or tries to make you feel bad for declining his help you have moved from a red flag to a red banner.  Get out. Don’t have a conversation where you try to convince them how you are right to refuse etc… Just get away.  Walk away.  Get out your cell phone or take some action to protect yourself.  It is crucial to have predetermined how many times you will allow someone to break through your boundaries before you take action.  For some people it is one time, for some it is three times, whatever you are comfortable with and is appropriate for the situation.  Once he has crossed the line you have drawn.  (This is what we refer to as drawing the line and is discussed at length below add hyperlink.) If he wants to force you to do something you don’t want to do there is no reason to stay around until you figure out what that may be.

6)  Attempts to shame or guilt:  Negative statements tend to make people feel guilty or act in a way to disprove the allegation.  Know this is intentionally deceptive.

7)  Unsolicited promises:   “You don’t have to worry, I’ll take care of you.”  “You are safe with me.” Ask yourself, “why would he say this, why or how am I safe with this person?”

8)  Emotional pleas:  An attempt to manipulate or control using emotional statements. “I’m scared.” I’m upset.” “I’m hurting.”

9)  Lying:  Listen for the other person to try to convince you something is true especially if using too many details.   A person who has good intentions and is in genuine need of help has no reason to lie to you.  Lying is simply another form of manipulation that works on most people.

10)  Inconsistency: Pay attention to their words and actions in the context of the situation.    Are they consistent? If not, pay attention and understand that this is another form of lying and manipulation.  Any time a person manipulate you acknowledge that they are trying to take something from you against your will.

11)  Behavior inappropriate to the situation/context:  Watch for behavior that may seem odd, exaggerated, or not the norm for the situation.   This can be the result of many things, including but not limited to a person who is under the influence of drugs or alcohol.  Pay attention to determine if you need to remove yourself from the situation.

12)  Too helpful:  Being overly helpful may be a way of gaining some form of leverage or to make you feel as if you now “owe” them something.    Again, manipulating you and forcing you to take action out of guilt or some perceived duty.

It is hard to determine who may be willing to become violent unless you have learned specific red flags to look for.