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Survive the Unthinkable: A Total Guide to Women's Self-Protection Paperback – August 20, 2013

4.4 out of 5 stars 183 ratings

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About the Author

TIM LARKIN is a self-protection expert and author of How to Survive the Most Critical 5 Seconds of Your Life. He was named Black Belt magazine's 2011 Self-Defense Instructor of the Year. Over the last 20 years his company, Target Focus Training, has trained more than 48,000 people in more than 52 countries. He lives in Las Vegas.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.



Life, in many ways, is like a game. We all live by a set of rules that govern sane, socialized behavior, and when we all play by these rules, people live happy lives in relative safety. These rules are, in essence, a set of agreements that we have with each other. For example, on the road we all agree to stop at red lights and drive on the right side of the painted line. When we fail to abide by these rules, people often get hurt or killed.

Most of us live according to age-old agreements about ethical behavior-- think of the Ten Commandments or the Golden Rule. All societies have remarkably similar ethical codes when it comes to civilized behavior. From a very early age, we are taught these rules until they become part of our social DNA.

The problem with this whole agreement scenario is that obviously, not everyone plays along. There are those among us who do not recognize or abide by the rules the rest of us acknowledge and respect. These individuals are predators. In some cases, predators have consciences, and in other cases, they do not. Asocial predators know how to capitalize on your desire to be a decent, ethical person so they can use it against you to get what they want.


As a woman, you have a special gift--an advantage, really--that many men do not. Most women, even at a very early age, are remarkably good at reading and interpreting the significance of nonverbal cues: body language, posture, gait, expression, grooming, clothing choices, and so on. By comparison, most men are almost comically inept when it comes to reading all but the most overt signals. Whereas men's ability to read nonverbal cues is essentially like a binary code--they either see it or they don't-- women are able to pick up on a rainbow of nuanced signals, as if they're seeing everything in full color while men are seeing in black-and-white.

Think of this set of typically female skills as a natural early warning mechanism (I often describe it as radar) that gives you precious moments to avoid violence instead of needing to deal with it on a physical level. My goal in this book is to make you aware of the many different types of potentially violent behavior.

Asocial violence is designed to be difficult to spot--which is why you need to trust and use your radar so you'll never end up in a dangerous situation. You don't want to live in a constant state of fear. But simply knowing that you have the tools to save your own life--and more specifically, that you have the power to use these tools--can dramatically impact your ability to survive a potentially violent encounter.


There's a saying that wildlife biologists use to differentiate between predators and prey: "Eyes in the front--I like to hunt. Eyes on the side--I like to hide."

Your eyes aren't on the sides of your head. You're no soft bunny or squirming fish. Humans are designed as predators. That means you were also born with the tools to tap into this power to do damage to another human when necessary. You just have to give yourself permission to reconnect with these innate tools when the situation warrants it.

Throughout this book, I will share the many, many ways that you can make better choices that will steer you clear of dangerous situations, whether you're at the ATM, in a nightclub, or simply driving down the street. By far the best way to save your own life is to avoid putting it in danger in the first place--and I will show you dozens of ways to do just that.

But I also recognize that you probably have not come to this book as a blank slate--chances are that something bad has already happened to you. Whether it was physical violence, emotional abuse, or a shaky feeling that you narrowly escaped a creepy guy on a dark street, you may have had an experience that left a lasting mark on your psyche. By taking a look at your history, we'll examine how your prior run-ins with predators may have affected your self-image so you can work toward building your confidence and empowering yourself to live a safer, freer existence.

I'll introduce you to the very ugly world of violence, and the only thing that actually works against it--causing injury. Although unpleasant, it's imperative that I do so, because most of us are completely unfamiliar with this stark reality. Let me assure you, though: The moment you experience violence, you'll never ignore your instincts again--ever. Experiencing it (or even narrowly escaping it) is learning the hard way, and I hope that never happens to you.

The more I can show you about how a predator operates, the better you'll be at avoiding the deadly games they play.


Marta and her husband, Jeff, took a trip to Turkey. Both are highly educated and well traveled, and neither would strike you as a typical victim if you met them. In fact, Jeff is a big man--he stands six foot eight and has the physique of an NFL linebacker. Their guide warned them about walking around Ankara by themselves, but the city seemed completely safe, with lots of American tourists.

After about an hour of relaxed sightseeing, Jeff spotted a local bazaar that another tourist had mentioned to him the previous day. They decided to have a look, and after buying a few souvenirs, they sat down to have some Turkish coffee. As they rested up from their long walk, the couple savored the many sights and sounds, snapping pictures of the various food vendors and enjoying snacks with their coffee.

Before long, two local men at the next table started up a conversation with Jeff. They expressed their fondness for the American tourists they had met, and relief that the Americans they'd met didn't seem to be prejudiced against Muslims, despite what local news programs were saying. Both men were charming, well dressed, and seemingly sincere. Still, although Marta couldn't put her finger on why, her instincts told her something wasn't right.

After ten or fifteen minutes of conversation, one of the men offered them some small cookies that looked similar to Oreos. "These cakes are famous in Ankara--people travel many miles just to taste these--you must try them!" one of the men insisted.

Marta's instincts screamed, "Don't eat them!" but her desire to be polite overpowered her inner radar. Marta and Jeff each ate a few cookies, which were laced with an unknown drug. The only thing that saved them was the fact that Jeff's size meant the drug didn't have a significant effect on him. He managed to fend off the two men, although he was injured in the process.

These two predators knew exactly how to manipulate social conventions. They built up a lot of social goodwill before they attacked. And Marta and Jeff ignored their instincts and assumed everyone around them was playing by the same social rules. Asocial violence uses these rules against you. As Marta recounted this nightmare scenario to me, I could sense that she would never ignore her instincts again. It could have been worse for Marta and Jeff, but they got lucky (and I never suggest betting your life on luck!).


Rape is a violent crime that is greatly misunderstood in our society. Our society harbors certain myths about rape that make it difficult for women to understand these crimes, let alone report them. The blame-the-victim stigma not only prevents women from seeking help, but also perpetuates myths that get women killed. Let's set a few to rest.

MYTH: Rape is a sexual act.

TRUTH: Rape is an act of brutal violence that has nothing to do with sex. Rape is all about power and domination and aggression. Instead of equating rape with "rough sex," think of it as being like a stabbing or a shooting. The rapist uses his penis as a weapon, just like a gun or a knife. That definitely is not sex.

MYTH: Most rapes are committed by strangers in dark alleys.

TRUTH: Four out of five rapes are committed by people the victims know.

MYTH: "Date rape" isn't "real" rape.

TRUTH: Rape is rape. Anytime a woman is forced or coerced against her will into having sex with someone, whether she just met him, has kissed him, or even married him, that is rape.

MYTH: Women get over rape pretty quickly.

TRUTH: Women can suffer physical and emotional trauma for years, even decades, after being raped.

MYTH: The only rape that "counts" is intercourse.

TRUTH: Women can be raped or sexually assaulted in dozens of sickening ways.

MYTH: Rape is not very common.

TRUTH: One woman in six will be raped in her lifetime; one in four female college students will experience a rape or attempted rape while in school.

Myth: When women get drunk or wear slutty clothes, they are asking to get raped.

TRUTH: Nothing a woman does, wears, says, or even thinks makes it okay to rape her. "No" means "no"--in every setting, in every relationship, in every encounter. Anyone who rapes a woman is a rapist, whether he's a thug with a knife in an alleyway, a frat boy with a beer bong and a roofie, or a husband who gets forceful because he thinks his wife "owes" him sex.

Forget the excuses. There are no valid reasons. Rape is rape.


In my training classes, I always play a particular YouTube video as an example of what asocial violence looks like. In this video, a highly trained female police officer has pulled over a man who has multiple outstanding warrants for felony offenses. The man's young daughter sits in the passenger seat, and so the officer doesn't pull out her gun. In turn, she assumes that the girl's presence will prevent the felon from becoming violent. In essence, the officer thought she had an unspoken social agreement with this man.

She was very wrong. In full view of his terrified daughter, the felon methodically beats the officer by throwing her to the ground and punching her nine times in the head. In the video, the commentator states that keeping a safe distance gives you more time to react to aggression. The officer was trained in what to do, but her social conditioning led her to believe that people don't attack other people in front of children, and that took precedence over her training. She could have handled the stop safely and effectively, but she allowed her sense of social decency to override her extensive police training.

This violent criminal probably assumed the officer would "play by the rules" and used that knowledge against her. If the felon had been alone, I'd bet anything that that day would have gone down much differently.

Think you'll pay attention to your instincts the next time your radar goes off? If so, just remember that this highly trained police officer knew she was dealing with a desperate, dangerous felon, and yet she still fell prey to thinking that because the felon's young daughter was present, he would be cooperative. She was quite mistaken, and she could have been killed because of it.


Catherine entered the ground floor of a four-story parking lot with two friends. Their cars were parked on the first floor; hers was on the third. As they walked in, she noticed a guy who appeared to be watching them by the garage entrance. He was well dressed, but there was something creepy about him: The hair on the back of her neck stood up, her adrenaline surged, her heart rate increased, and she got a queasy feeling in her stomach. She considered asking one of her friends to walk her to her car, but then felt silly and gave the guy the benefit of the doubt. The creepy feeling faded as she justified heading to the elevator alone. "He's all the way over by the entrance. He's nowhere near me."

She got in, pushed "3," and when the door opened on her floor, the creepy guy was right there, his body inches from hers, blocking her from fleeing the elevator. For a moment she stood paralyzed, and he lunged at her. This guy wanted something--who knows what. It doesn't matter; it wasn't right. When he lunged, there was no time to ask questions.

Fortunately, Catherine had taken one of my Target Focus Training classes. Her training kicked in and she took action. She immediately identified a target on the guy (his groin) and a weapon in her own hand (her briefcase). In one fluid motion she stepped forward and smashed the briefcase with all her force into the guy's groin. He moved exactly as she had learned in class he would: He bent forward in agony, reflexively raising his chin. That involuntary reflex provided Catherine with a second target: She slammed all her body weight into his temple using a hammer fist (the balled- up pinky side). The combined force of her weight and the impact with the elevator door knocked this guy out. She had injured him twice even though he was much bigger and stronger than she was. His size hadn't mattered--her targeting had. With the guy out cold, Catherine felt safe enough to run and call security.

In an interesting twist, by the time security arrived, the guy was gone. He wasn't sitting there, nursing his injuries. So we can't know for certain what his intentions were--he never had to explain himself. Was it all a misunderstanding? We'll never know.

Catherine's immediate feeling was "Thank god I acted." Her husband had signed her up for my class, and she admits she'd never have come on her own. As with you, or any of us for that matter, violence was not something she wanted to dwell on. It was something that might happen to other people, not to her. But without training, her story might have had a very ugly ending.

Later she began questioning herself. Why hadn't she trusted her instincts, the nonverbal cues her body was giving her--the hair rising on the back of her neck, the queasy feeling that something was absolutely wrong--the moment she'd spotted the guy? Why had she put herself in danger?

Now, the question you must ask yourself is What would I have done?


The three stories I've shared in this chapter have different details and somewhat varied outcomes, but they all share a very important theme: In each case, an otherwise smart, capable woman placed herself in unnecessary peril because she squelched her innate survival instincts in deference to her strong desire to "follow the rules" of a sane, civilized society.

Product details

  • Item Weight : 7.8 ounces
  • Paperback : 176 pages
  • ISBN-10 : 1609613589
  • ISBN-13 : 978-1609613587
  • Product Dimensions : 5.55 x 0.51 x 8.41 inches
  • Publisher : Rodale Books; 8/25/13 Edition (August 20, 2013)
  • Language: : English
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.4 out of 5 stars 183 ratings
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