How to Spot a Predator in Physical Space

Are you a woman journalist? Do you often fear for your safety while reporting? Here are a few self-defense tips to keep in mind just in case you find yourself facing a predator.

A journalist’s daily routine involves visiting places and talking to people they are unfamiliar with, in order to get the best story. But by getting out of their comfort zone regularly, women journalists often find themselves in situations where they are being attacked while working. Whether they are covering violent crowds or reporting in some place alone, journalists can be attacked by predators.

ACT Approach: Assess, Create, Transition.

If the behavior is culturally/ socially appropriate;
Create: A plan of action to handle the situation; and
Transition: From the current environment to possible exit routes and safety.

–Frank Smyth, Global Journalists Safety

So how do you spot a predator? Like a shark, a predator will test its prey to find an easy mark. They may start by making extended eye-contact, then throw verbal abuse at them, then graduate to physical attack including sexual violence. In a Zoom workshop organized by the TrollBusters Team this month, Frank Smyth who is the executive director of Global Journalist Security, gave some tips on how women media professionals should handle such abuse. 

  • Observe

For any journalist, regardless of what environment we are in – it is always important to have situational awareness. Whether you are visiting a place that you know very well or going to a location for the first time, keep your eyes and ears open to gauge who might be dangerous.

  • Acknowledge the threat 

If a person does seem to approach you in a suspicious way, either by making extended eye-contact, smiling strangely or following you – recognize this threat. Don’t dismiss it or be nice to this person.

  • Look for exits and allies

In case the attacker continues this behaviour, or engages in verbal abuse, your next step would be to create an escape plan. Look around you – do you see any exits? Try to get out of this location if you can. If not, look for people — communicate loudly and draw attention to your attacker. 

  • Use your voice

One way to deal with this problem is to create a scene – so loudly tell your attacker to back off using phrases like “Stop,” “Get away,” or “Don’t touch me.” This will tell your attacker that you are not an easy target and the people around you might also jump in to protect you or diffuse the situation. 

Keep in mind that most attackers are looking for an easy prey. Bad actors are searching for a woman who will ignore their abuse and keep quiet. Do the opposite, notice their attacks and bring attention to their behavior. 

Published by michelleferrier

Executive Director, Media Innovation Collaboratory; Founder, | Online Pest Control for Writers and Journalists;

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