Woman fights off knife attack

This is a violence success story. I have posted most of the story in italics and interspersed it with my comments. I chose this story to highlight the fact that you need not just give up and die when faced with overwhelming violence and your favourite talisman of self protection is suddenly not available.

Woman fights off knife attack in Deer Park

Special to Newsday

7:34 PM EDT, May 10, 2008

A 53-year-old woman just finishing up Mother’s Day shopping in Deer Park managed to fight off an attacker she couldn’t see who pressed a 10-inch knife to her throat.

I wonder what martial art she must have been trained in to be able to do this? Don’t martial arts teachers always give the impression that without their unique, proven style, this is just impossible?

The attacker, who police said is a parolee with a lengthy rap sheet, assaulted the woman as she loaded bags into her car Friday.

Does, a parolee with a lengthy rap sheet, indicate he had done this before? That he was practised? Does it seem to imply that as potential victims we too should practise our self defence thinking and planning and not leave it to a capricious fate?

As she fought him, she screamed in vain for help, but no one intervened.

The Woodbury woman was attacked at 5:14 p.m. as she opened the door of her 2008 BMW and loaded the passenger seat with shopping bags following an afternoon spent searching for a gift for her mother at a Kohl’s department store at Grand Boulevard and Commack Road.

The victim was talking on her cell phone with her husband when Carlton Frierson, 36, of 27 Washington Ave., Deer Park, grabbed her from behind, police said. Frierson put his hands over her eyes and held the knife to her throat.

Here are the basic facts:

1. She was in a “safe place,” and therefore inattentive to her surroundings.

2. She was multi-tasking and therefore inattentive to her surroundings.

She did not know that fate would bring her into the path of a criminal who was willing to take a chance on his victim selection.

Would she have acted differently if she knew such an attack would happen in one of the area malls on that day? You bet your mother’s day card she would have.

This understanding that an attack can happen to anyone anywhere and some vigilance is useful for self preservation is the one absolutely necessary attribute of a good self defence plan.

As to victim selection: we know from the words of armed robbers themselves, (see my review: Real Crimes, Real Criminals), that indications of money to be had (she was driving a 2008 BMW full of packages), that the target is distracted allowing a “hot interview” (see: Marc Animal MacYoung for his definitions of the various types of criminal interview), that she would be an easy take down, (she was 53). The only thing missing from a perfect criminal attack is that it was in daylight with bystanders in the area.

3. His attack: Following classic techniques of thuggery, which the police tell us he had been practicing, her first knowledge that he was there was when he was upon her from behind with overwhelming force, disorienting her with a hand over her eyes and threatening her with worse (death) if she continued to fight and of course, the implied better outcome (she’d live) if she complied with him.

At this moment, just how might a weapon in her purse or on her key chain have helped her?

4. She “…screamed in vain for help, but no one intervened.” 

This seems to be the norm even when it is obvious that the screamer is in real danger. People usually have to be trained to run toward danger and intervene in a chaotic situation where the roles of the participants are not quickly ascertainable. Other wise, they fall prey to "cognative dissonance" and have to run reality tapes to finally feel able to react. (Wiki definition.      Thanks, Barry…)

During the attack, the victim said she noticed a few other people in the parking lot, watching. "They were just standing there."

"He said, ’Stop talking or I’ll kill you,’" said the woman, who asked not to be named.


Why she prevailed:

cover of Surviving Armed Assaults With reference to Surviving Armed Assaults by L. A. Kane, we see here that she used the foremost techniques of survival: immediate response, refusal to go to a secondary scene and perseverance.


Immediate Response:

- she yelled for help. Even knowing it will not actually bring help, it gives the attacker something else to think about instead of keeping focus on his plan.

- she wrestled.


For the next several minutes, the two wrestled in the car and on the ground beside it, with the attacker keeping his hands over the victim’s eyes. The victim was punched, choked and bitten on the upper arm.

She did not quit when the bystanders failed to show up. 


She did not quit when she was punched, or choked or bitten.


Might she have quit if she was cut? I don’t think so…

"He could’ve raped me, murdered me and left me to die," the woman said Saturday from her home. "I had to give myself a fighting chance."

Refusal to go to a Secondary Scene:

The victim said she fought hardest when the attacker grabbed her keys and tried to put them in the ignition. "I knew that if he was pulling away, I was dead," she said.

Her survival instincts finally fired up, she instinctively knew that to give over control to him and his promises, she would be sealing her fate.

Why do people trust the promise of a criminal who has proven so dramatically that he is untrustworthy? They don’t really, they just give up the fight.

As Animal says, “The technical term for a secondary crime scene is the place they find the body.”

Never give up. Never go to another place which can only be better for him (or why would he go there?), and worse for you.

As shoppers gathered, Frierson ran away, leaving the knife behind in the car.

After the attack, the victim said that one of the passers-by, a high school-age boy, approached her and apologized, saying that he thought she was just joking.

Officers found Frierson hiding behind a trash bin in the rear of a nearby liquor store. He was charged with first-degree robbery.

Staff writer Matthew Chayes contributed to this story.

Copyright © 2008, Newsday Inc.


Reading List:

                                                        Strong on Defense

cover of Strong on Defense








 cover of Street E&E:

 Street E & E: Evading, Escaping, and Other Ways to Save Your Ass When Things Get Ugly