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How to Thwart an Abduction Attempt

Kidnappings occur all over the world and for all sorts of reasons. Kidnappings involve family members, sexual predators, and ransom seekers. There is no typical abduction. As more and more people travel throughout the world, the oft-quoted advice to always fight your would-be abductor requires some reconsideration. While on rare occasions, it's best to cooperate, the situation may call for immediate escape, and you need to think fast and act decisively. Reading into your kidnapper and keeping well aware of your surroundings may save your life.


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    Play it safe. Take preventative safety precautions. If you're walking in a public place, always be aware of who's around. Be attentive (rather than drowning yourself out with headphones). Make it a habit to spot an escape route every time you enter a new environment. Avoid dark alley ways and parking lots, and/or get an escort. Don't face the wall when eating out. Lock your windows and doors at night. Carry a cell phone and some safety devices (such as a loud whistle on your key chain). If you are traveling abroad, carry a local paper or magazine in the local language. Read travel precautions online.
    • Follow your intuition or gut instinct If you get a sketchy vibe from someone, listen to your gut feeling no matter how irrational. Ducking into a store, changing your route and staying in the presence of others are all good strategies to avoid kidnapping by heeding your instincts.
    • Vary your routes and times make it difficult for would-be attackers to anticipate your plans. Learn multiple ways to go between your home and office or any frequent destinations.
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    Form a plan. The would-be abductor initially gains the upper hand on his victim because he has the element of surprise in his favor. You can prepare yourself by assessing your situation before an abduction occurs. What kind of abduction are you most likely to encounter? What will you do if someone attempts to kidnap you? Rehearse possible scenarios in your mind and you’ll be ready to act instantly should you actually be attacked.
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    Be prepared to resist, by carrying mace (pepper spray), a steel extendable baton, or improvise and use your keys, held by the key-chain, to rake across the attacker's eyes. Holding a key between your fingers (as a stabbing weapon) can seriously damage the tendons in your own hand; however, it can also do considerable damage to them.
    • If there are multiple armed attackers seeking ransom who attempt to abduct you in an isolated or hostile place where there is realistically little to no chance of escape, you should be cooperative from the get-go. This is frequently the case in parts of South America, for example, where well-organized kidnappers abduct businessmen for profit. About 95% of people abducted in this manner are released alive and the chance of being killed is highest in the first few minutes of the abduction, when something goes wrong — usually when the victim tries to escape or fight.
    • If the would-be abductor is unarmed, if the attempt is sexually motivated and if you are in the vicinity of other people and can quickly get help, you should fight or do anything you possibly can to escape the attacker. This is the case in most abduction attacks in the U.S. and other developed countries and it's also usually the case if the intended victim is a woman or child.
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    Run away. If you've made the quick decision to get away, try to get to a safe public place and continue to scream for help. Don't look back and don't stop until you've reached safety. What qualifies as safety depends on the circumstances. The presence of police officers is almost always sufficient, as is being in a crowd of people (though these situations are only safe if you make sure the police or people in the crowd know what's happening). If you're a foreign national in a hostile country, however, you may not actually be safe until you reach a friendly military patrol or embassy.
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    Put something between you and the attacker. You may not be able to outrun your attacker, but if you can put something — a busy street, a group of people, or even a car (which you can run around as he tries to pursue you) — between you and them, you may be able to delay them enough to get away or to cause the attacker to give up.
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    Make a scene. Yell to get help. Do not scream. Screaming emboldens an attacker and makes you look and act more like prey. Direct commands first at the assailant to stop, then at bystanders to call the police. Direct commands are often obeyed, whereas screams are often ignored. You want help, not just witnesses. This technique is especially successful in or near public places, where the abductor hopes to remain inconspicuous lest others intervene or call police. For children, who are relatively less able to fight or flee a would-be abductor, involving others is sometimes the only chance of escape. Do not simply scream in terror or yell "help," as people are apt to ignore this plea. You should yell out the circumstances and a description of the attacker if at all possible: "A man with a knife is chasing me! He's wearing a blue sweatshirt and torn jeans!" (Children should be taught to yell "I'm being kidnapped! I don't know this person!" or "Help! That's not my mom/dad!" to other people or "I don't know you! Leave me alone!" at the attacker). This should have the effect of deterring your attacker, or convincing bystanders that your plight is real and not a joke/game/quarrel, or at the very least, leaving behind a reliable description for the police to work from if you are unable to evade capture.
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    Grab on to people and or objects. Sadly, people are often hesitant to intervene in an abduction. Get someone's attention and make them intervene by grabbing him or her and holding on while yelling commands (never scream) and explaining the situation. The bystander is now involved in the fight against the abductor, which shifts the odds in your favor considerably, especially if you're a woman or child. If there are no people around to grab, hold on to a large object, such as a lamp post, parking meter, or your bicycle. If you can't get away from an abductor, you at least want to prevent him or her from taking you away against your will.
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    Fight as if your life depended on it, because it very well might. Fight tooth and nail to prevent the abductor from getting you under his control. While everyone should take a self-defense course, you don't usually need specialized knowledge to ward off an attack. Nor do you need to "win" a fight with your attacker: fighting should usually be used just to get out of the grip of an attacker or to enable you to get a head start running away. If your attacker is a sexual predator and you think your chances of escaping are slim, still put up a fight the entire time. Rapists look for easy targets, not someone who is going to struggle and flail. If you fight hard enough, they may decide you are not a good target and give up. The majority of assaults are stopped at the first sign of resistance. First verbal, then physical. Weapons dramatically reduce the chance of an assault succeeding.
    • Fight dirty. Do whatever you need to get away: this isn't a boxing match. Pick up and wield any heavy object that is close at hand. If you have mace, pepper spray or a stun gun, use it. (If you own these weapons, practice with them. A weapon forgotten in a purse is useless. This takes practice. Don't just feel safe because you have it on you. Not knowing how to use your weapon merely gives the attacker another tool to use against you.) If an abductor grabs hold of you, don't be afraid or ashamed to make use of your teeth. The seconds you need to escape can be achieved by stunning him with an extreme action like biting off part of an ear, finger, or nose.
    • Aim for sensitive spots. Poke the abductor in the eyes; hit or kick the groin, nose, throat, or kidneys; scrape your foot hard against his shin; stomp on the top of his foot with your heel, or stomp out sideways into his knee. Your elbows, knees and the palm of your hand are good striking weapons. Your closed fist can be effectively used like a hammer but don't throw punches - without training, you're more likely to break your hand than hurt your attacker. Make your strikes count and do not stop until there is no chance that the attacker will have the ability to continue his attack. One good blow is not enough, it may stun them and make them angry. The idea is to stop the assault, and that requires a critical amount of damage to be inflicted on the opponent. Your aim is never to kill the opponent, just to stop the attack. Death may simply be a side effect of the effort needed to stop the attack. Whatever you do, once you have started the offensive, do not stop until there is no doubt that you can get away safely. They are angry now and probably run faster than you. Hit with elbows and knees until the assailant is no longer capable of pursing the attack. Then go get the police.
    • Do not flail. Flailing and using your nails wildly will only cause what the police call "defensive marks" on the attacker and usually only provides forensic evidence on your dead body. Biting can work to get out of most grips. Or, get your fingers into their eye sockets, the windpipe on the throat, or the groin. If you bite a small area with the front of your teeth in a "pinch" as this causes far more pain and damage than a full mouth bit. Once you are out of the hold, hit the assailant as many times as possible with an elbow or knees until you are sure you can get away safely.
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    Call emergency services. If you have a cell phone, dial the emergency dispatch number for your country. If you can put some distance between you and your attacker, or if you can delay them (by locking yourself in a room, for example), police may reach you in time to capture or at least deter the assailant. If, however, you are immediately subdued, try to conceal your cell phone and then call police when your captor isn’t looking. If you don’t have a cell phone, use any phone available. If you can use a payphone, you may be able to hold onto it. If the would-be abductor cannot quickly remove you from the scene, they may flee, knowing that police are on the way. If you've escaped the attacker, run to a nearby house or business, let them know what happened and have them call the police; this 1) puts you in a safe place, 2) summons police and 3) creates witnesses.
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    Lie about advantages you may have. You should do anything to make the attacker think they're as unsafe as possible. This means lying about advantages you don't have.
    • "My dad is the chief of police. You don't want to do this."
    • "I have anhydrous diabetic chronic pneumonia [made-up disease]. I have to take my medication every three hours or I'll die. If you take me, you're looking at murder charges, no matter what."
    • "There's a police station two blocks away. Why are you doing this here?"
    • Look for anything that seems official and assert that it has cameras: "There's an ATM right there. You know they all have hidden cameras, right?" Or if you see anything that remotely looks like a camera, "You know that's a security camera, right?"
    • It is best to call the police but if for some reason you cannot (lost cellphone, etc.), you should always tell an attacker that police are on the way. "I dialed the panic button from my cellphone, police are on the way. Just run now, and you'll be safe."
    • If you are in your neighborhood lie and say that a neighbor or the neighborhood itself has cameras and/ neighborhood watch where they report any suspicious behavior. Anyway if you are on a neighborhood street there would be at least 5 people in their homes so they would hear you.
    • Another thing to do if in a neighborhood or near a house pretend as if you live there and you just going home. Do not show that it's not your house. Either knock or pretend to knock on the door and say your mom/dad/brother/sister/friend's name to act like you're waiting for them to open the door.
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    Deal with an abduction. If your efforts to thwart the abduction are unsuccessful, there are a number of things you can do to help you survive your ordeal.


  • If you're placed in a trunk, try to escape. If you can't get out, rip out or kick through the panel leading to the brake lights, and kick the lights out. You can then stick your arm out and alert motorists that you are inside. If you can't push the lights out, at least disconnect the wires so police are more likely to pull the car over. In addition, yell for help and pound on the trunk lid whenever the vehicle stops or is traveling slowly. Many newer cars also come with an emergency trunk release lever. If the abductor has not disabled it, you can pull the lever to open the trunk.
  • If held by the arms, kick back repeatedly (like a horse) and aim for the groin, knee or lower leg.
  • Avoid being restrained. Once you are restrained, with handcuffs, tape, or rope, for example, there is little chance for escape. You must act quickly to prevent being restrained. If you are going to fight or flee, do it immediately. You may not get a second chance.
  • Focus deliberately on the face if the attacker carries a weapon. Most people keep their eyes on the weapon and are unable to describe the attacker's face afterward to the police.
  • If you have a feeling that someone is following you, but don't feel a threat, turn around and look at them. That way, they know that you have seen their face, assuming they are not wearing a mask. Remember that any person following you is possibly a threat.
  • If you are in a region where the predominant language is not your own, make sure to learn key phrases in the local language that might aid you in your escape or evasion attempts (such as the expressions cited elsewhere on this page). People are more sympathetic to those with whom they have a connection and if you are not understood, you cannot be helped!
  • If they grab you by the arms, cross their arms and twist or apply as much pressure downward as you can.
  • Do headbutts to crush their face or head.
  • Biting someone is a viable option if you are being abducted.
  • Your elbow is your strongest weapon. Jab anywhere you can reach.
  • Even if the attacker has a gun, you should seriously consider running. In abductions motivated by ransom or sexual predation, the abductor doesn't want you dead, at least not before he or she has been able to remove you from the initial location. The would-be abductor may not shoot at you at all, especially if other people are nearby, and even if he/she does, if you can put a little distance between you and him/her, the chances of him/her hitting you, a moving target, aren't very good unless he/she's a trained marksman. The probability is even lower that he/she will seriously wound you and then take the time to continue the abduction. Run in a zig-zag motion. This makes it harder for your attacker to get a shot off than if you run in a straight line.
  • The most important thing to do if someone is trying to force you into a vehicle is to fight at all costs. If your attacker is able to get you inside, your chance of escape or survival is dramatically reduced. Use your arms and legs to jam yourself in the car’s doorway if someone is trying to push you into the car. If possible, try to keep your head outside and above the car and scream. This makes it harder to push you in and could alert passersby that something is wrong. If you're forced into a vehicle, open the door and get out if you can. If you can't get out of the vehicle, try to jam something into the ignition cylinder before the abductor inserts the key into the ignition or pull the key out of the ignition, and throw them out the window and/or jam something in. A button off your clothes, a piece of metal, a stick, or the bubble gum in your mouth can all effectively prevent the abductor from reinserting the key and starting the vehicle. If nothing else will work, put the key halfway in the switch and bend or break it off.
  • Always bring a cell phone everywhere so you can call the police.
  • Run into a crowd full of people so you can run for safety.
  • Move quickly. Watch what the attacker does carefully, but don't waste all of your energy all at once. Dodge blows as quick as possible.
  • Keep fighting for all you're worth. Once kidnapper gets you into the vehicle, you will most likely have no chance to fight at that point. So fight with them before you get taken in the vehicle. Give a few shouts if possible to get attention.
  • When being tied up be as tense as possible then relax when the kidnapper is done. Then, the ropes will be looser and make it easier to escape.


  • Your attacker will probably be angry when you fight back, especially if you cause them injury. While some would-be abductors will run away or give up when you fight back, many will pursue you. Do not hold back when attempting to injure your attacker — be as vicious and forceful as possible. It is imperative that you escape once you stun or incapacitate the abductor because if you are recaptured, they may take their anger out on you.
  • If you have a liquid or gel (like lipstick or hand sanitizer), try to put it in their eyes or on their face. They may pause to wipe this off, giving you precious seconds to escape.
  • Keep in mind that if you are recaptured after an initial escape attempt, you will very likely not get another chance to escape. Make your escape count.
  • If you choose to carry a weapon, take appropriate training and be sure that you are willing and able to use it. It is possible that the attacker could turn it against you.
  • It is possible to be abducted by a woman, so don't assume that only a man can be the offender!
  • It is generally a good idea to put up as much of a fight as possible but always use common sense. If you are significantly outnumbered and your captors have potentially deadly weapons, it may be a better idea to just try to cooperate and try to escape or be rescued later. This is particularly true if you think that you will be held for ransom, meaning your life is possibly not in danger.

Sources and Citations

  • U.S. Marine Corps The Individual's Guide for Understanding and Surviving Terrorism (US Marines publication)
  • Tips to help a child escape an abductor

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