Now let’s step back from the light into the dark, my friends. To the place of no return.
The place of no return is essentially being on your own in a time or place that you sense is dangerous. The place of no return is not a priori a guarantee that something bad will happen, most of the time nothing happens. It’s the time when you know that if something bad were to start happening you would be the only one who could stop it from getting worse. It is those moments in life when you know you are very far out on a limb.
Most of the time your place of no return will be somewhere where there appears to be no one else around, that’s obviously one of the main factors that contribute to making it dangerous. But it can also be somewhere where there are others; and it can be a moment when you are directly interacting with someone who you think could harm you. I’ve been through the place of no return many times but there are 3 that stick out in my mind. 2 of these were in places where there were other people; all of them revolved around feeling trapped by untrustworthy men. I will outline these 3 situations in the next post.
In the first few sections I ran through some of the preparation you can engage in to build your confidence as you travel around and decrease the likelihood that you will find yourself in a bad place or become someone’s target for whatever reason. But you will end up in the place of no return at some point. Sometimes involuntarily, sometimes by choice. For me, I’m in a place of no return anytime I walk home alone at night. Yet I have done it a lot of times and most probably will continue doing it, because I like to walk, love cities at night and… the emptiness is also something pleases me somehow. God I sound like batman don’t I.
So you may find yourself alone on a street one night, either because walking is your preferred method of travel; you ran out of money for other transportation; or you’ve been dropped off or had to get off a wee distance away from where you’re staying. Or it might be the middle of the afternoon as you head out of the centre of town into a quiet suburb. You’re feeling good, until you’re struck by the sense that you are very alone, the rest of the world has gone silent and someone is following you.
What do you do?
Once you’re actually in this type of place of no return and potentially in the sights of someone, you need to understand that it is very much a psychological game. Victims are picked. You need to show that you are not prepared to become their victim. It is that precise. You will not become their victim. You need to create a personal relationship between the two of you, but with you setting the terms. You are watching them. You can slow your pace to end up being behind them and being the one following them, if it is safe enough because you are somewhere where there are a number of people around. Or you can quicken your pace if you’re far enough ahead, still keeping an eye on them so that they know that you are watching them. I have found that most of the followers I’ve had tended to stay quite far behind, so in most cases and particularly in those that you really feel are dangerous I would advocate quickening your pace rather than pulling the switcheroo. But remember, in quickening your pace you are doing so with a strong, even stride, and you are not using going faster as a replacement for acknowledging the threat and preparing yourself against it.
Don’t pretend that you’re not suspicious, or shrink into yourself. Some people think that you shouldn’t look behind you because it would demonstrate fear. I don’t agree with this for two reasons. Firstly, I think it’s far more dangerous to deliberately block out your environment and pretend that there’s nothing to worry about. When you put your blinkers on and walk around in denial of the world outside it’s much easier for someone to sneak up on you. Secondly, giving some indications of being motivated by fear is not bad in itself, it’s the direction people see it driving you into that matters. If you use it to prepare yourself for a fight, and you show this, then it’s a different ballgame. Show that you know that it’s you and them; then they know they have more on their plate and it becomes increasingly less worth it to choose you.
It’s also important to show this determination even when you haven’t spotted anything suspicious, because you not seeing them does not mean they do not see you.
What’s more important though than playing the psychological game as a challenger to their behaviour, is to play the psychological game so that you come out feeling like a fighter in yourself. This isn’t about some fake show of bravado, pulling out the scarecrow in you. You engage in the game more importantly for your own benefit – so that you don’t feel like you’re on the backfoot, so that you feel like you have options and some power in the situation still. It’s a way of spinning around this place of no return – the odds are supposedly against you… so what? You can’t control the circumstances but you can control the role that you will play in them.
You are not being chased. You are keeping an eye on them and preparing your strategy. You are drawing your energy up. You are acknowledging to yourself that you are ready to do whatever it takes.
Doing these things stops making you a hapless woman victim and makes you any person who is getting ready to defend themselves in a rumble. Probably I played too many video games as a child and watched too many cheesy 80s and 90s movies, and did too much martial arts, but that’s how I see it. You’re not the little woman. You are someone who can draw blood and cause unprecedented pain just like anyone else…
I have been followed and this has worked for me a number of times. It’s possible that some of these followers were never going to make contact with me. I can’t know what was going on in their heads when they were doing this. But there are two goals at this particular stage – to make your presence and will known, and to get rid of them. So in general, in circumstances scary and normal, I believe in the strength of interacting personally, human to human.
However there is always the wildcard that the person might be out of it – gone on a drug- or alcohol-induced high – and therefore won’t be affected so much by being targeted in return. People not physiologically capable of caring anymore, of weighing up things like the likelihood that they will succed and the costs that they might incur. This provides another reason why it’s good to always watch and know who it is following you.
What’s also vital is to feel free to behave weirdly, atypically for you. Politely say excuse me as you rudely push past the person walking slowly in front of you, because you’re trying to get out of sight of the guy who’s been following you. Duck into the men’s shoe shop you don’t care about being in, to wait and watch for your follower to pass. Run when you are in a section you know they can’t see you. Do what you have to. I once had to hide behind a squat palm tree to make my follower lose sight of me and pass by where I was……. He then walked back and hung around in the area I was hiding because he realised he’d lost me. He sat down, looked around. Walked this way and that. Then eventually got up and walked back the way he came. At which point I took off my heeled shoes and ran barefoot through a parking lot to be sure I got home as quickly as possible.
Note – my asserting oneself in the psychological game strategy did not work on this guy because I’m pretty sure he was mentally handicapped. He wasn’t put off by my checking up on him. I don’t think he realised the trouble he could have gotten into for doing what he did.
Yeah, it felt dramatic. Yeah, someone watching from a window would have thought I was crazy or right at that moment in extreme danger. From his behaviour it was clear that this guy was most definitely following me, but he might not have done anything so my response was technically outsized. But for me, the imperative is – don’t let them follow you where they can find you again.
Aside from not knowing their motives, why they need to follow you and know where you live in the first place, the thought of having to fear them coming back and hanging around, of not knowing that you’re safe even at home… is intolerable.
I know some people will read this and think “mmaaaan, pa – ra – noiiid!”
But I have been able to confirm that a number of people were deliberately following me using the aforementioned techniques. And preparation in the hopes of prevention is always a better idea than damage control.
To be solo and female means to be a target. I know this for a fact. You are a magnet for bad and good doers. Both will assume that you are helpless and unprepared. It’s up to you to show them that you are not.
Being normal, polite, conventional and the agreeable female is what these people rely on. It’s not really socially acceptable to show that you are suspicious of someone, to show that you feel threatened before you’ve even been attacked. They rely on you pretending that everything is okay, and then not knowing what to do once you’ve got your proof that everything is not okay.
Be disagreeable. Be weird. The traditional female role will not save you.