4 mistakes people make when attacked: A safety alert

Inexpensive 'tactical pen' can help your child get away alive

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – One in five women is sexually assaulted in college. The attacker is frequently someone the woman recognizes. And as parents prepare to send their teenagers -- especially their daughters -- off to college for the first time, we wanted to help protect them.

Tactical pen

There is a special pen that women can use to get away from someone who tries to grab them. It is called a tactical pen and it's made of aluminum alloy. There are different makes and models and can cost about $15.

In addition to being used as a writing utensil, it has a point at the top, which can deliver a painful blow -- if used correctly by someone trying to fend off an attack.


“It definitely keeps you more protected and makes you feel safer,” said Taylor Crawford, who learned to use the tactical pen as part of a self-defense class she took.

Crawford, 18, will leave home next month to attend Ole Miss.

Charlie Moore, a retired U.S. marshal, teaches self-defense and instruction on proper use of the tactical pen. The pen he demonstrated for us is made by Sminiker

“They can use it to even up a threat disparity, such as a bigger, stronger male. It should be used as an extension of your hand,” Charlie explained to Taylor during the class.


Moore stressed that the pen should only be used as a tool by someone who has proper training in self- defense.

He showed several different scenarios that he practices with his students. Among them: 

  • Getting out of a chokehold when someone grabs you from behind
  • Getting away from someone who pushes you down and is on top of you 
  • What to do if someone grabs you and tries to kidnap you 

Moore said his focus is not teaching how to fight, but teaching women what to do to get away, so they can call for help.

“My goal would be for them to detect something and avoid it completely, but if you can’t, to give them some skills that they can get out of the situation safely, so they can call 911,” Moore said.

4 mistakes women make

Moore identified four mistakes women make when confronted by a would-be attacker.

1. Being distracted

Women often allow an attacker to get too close to them or to sneak up behind them because they are distracted and not paying attention to their surroundings.

“They’re distracted by their phones or their children,” Moore explained, adding that this makes them an easier target.  

Crawford demonstrated what she learned to do in the class when walking alone to her car.

“Hey stop, no, don’t come any closer,” she said during a mock drill when a man walked up to her, asking to borrow her phone and then trying to grab her.

“She needs to keep them at a distance, at least three feet -- don’t let them into your personal space,” Moore said.


2. Too polite

Moore said women, especially teenage girls, are taught their entire life to be polite. But if someone they do not know walks us to them while they are alone, do not hesitate to be rude.

Moore said make eye contact with that person, use a stern voice and say, "Stop and stay right there. Do not come any closer." 

If that does not work, Moore said, do not hesitate to yell at the person. Attackers are looking for easy prey, so someone who yells and shows strength is not someone they generally want to target.

3. Complacent

“No one ever thinks it’s going to happen to them,” Moore said.

He stressed the importance of knowing what to do if someone does try to attack.

Ellis Ross, 18, is also attending Ole Miss next year.  The soon-to-be college freshman took Moore’s class so she would be prepared -- just in case.

Ross said her biggest fear is a rapist trying to attack her.


“It’s good to know what to do, if it really does happen,” said Ross, who demonstrated how she would react if someone grabbed her from behind.

A mock attacker dressed in pads and a helmet grabbed her from behind.  She kicked, screamed and hit his groin, neck and face to get away.

Moore said knowing what to do can help prevent women from panicking, if they are attacked, which increases their chances of getting away.

4. Lack confidence

Moore said women and teenage girls may not be as strong or big as a man attacking them, but demonstrating confidence can be a significant deterrent to ward off an assailant looking for easy prey. He urged women to walk with confidence.

“Stand with your shoulders back (and) your chin up, scanning your surroundings,” he said.

Avoid walking in short steps, which can signal weakness to someone looking for a target.

Moore’s self-defense studio is in Georgia, but he travels around the country offering group classes. Click here to learn more about the classes he offers.

Ways you can report a sexual assault

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  • Call 911 if you are in immediate danger.
  • Call your local police department or visit the police station in person.
  • If you are on a college campus, contact campus law enforcement.
  • Visit a medical center and tell a medical professional you want to report the crime.

To learn more about your options, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-HOPE (4673) or go here for immediate assistance.