The Three Stages of An Attack And How To Defend (Or Prevent) Each of Them

Updated: May 20, 2021

In our self defense courses, we start with the following concepts that must be understood about an attack. The three stages of an attack tell us the process that an abductor takes to carry out an attack. The three preventative steps are what we can do to lower our chances of being targeted, and the three defensive steps tell us how we should respond during an attack. Understanding these concepts is critical to learning self defense.

The first concept we must understand is Intervention Probability.

Intervention Probability (IP)

IP is the probability that a bystander will witness or intervene in the attack. This is the most important component for the attacker in deciding when, where, and who to attack. Every second longer that an attack takes, the IP skyrockets, which increases the attackers fear that they will get caught. Once the IP gets too high, the abduction becomes too risky to carry out, and the attacker is forced to give up and flee the scene. Attackers have a very narrow window of time that they are willing to take to complete an attack in order to keep the IP low. The goal of the victim in any attack is not to defeat the attacker, but to raise the Intervention Probability so high that the attacker is forced to give up before they can isolate the victim. Essentially, we want to tell the attacker through our actions that this is going to take way longer and be way harder than they anticipated, so they better escape before someone inevitably comes to help.

Think of the IP as a score. A busy street in mid day, with plenty of people around to help the victim, get a description of the attacker, and call 911, has a IP score of 100. However a dark street at night, when most people are sleeping and there are few cars driving by, has a low IP score of 10. A secondary location, where the abductor takes the victim (his basement or isolated location) has an extremely low IP score of 1.

Our goal is to train ourselves to recognize situations that have a low IP score, so that we can raise our awareness, take safety measures, and be better prepared for a crisis.

The Three Stages of an Abduction

The three stage process that an abductor takes before committing an attack.

Step 1: Identify the Target

The attacker needs to find a target to carry out an attack. Being unaware and distracted, and being perceived as unconfident and vulnerable are proven to increase the chances of a person being targeted by an attacker. For our breakdown on how a persons walk effects their likelihood of being targeted, read our article here.

Step 2: Identify the Opportunity

The attacker needs a good opportunity to carry out an attack. They need a place and time where they are unlikely to be caught or witnessed (low IP). Low lighting, isolated areas (parking garage), and areas where there are few people around, are all attractive settings to the abductor. 75% of child abductions happen within 2 km of the victims home because the abductor knows the childs regular route, and waits for an opportune moment (no one around, night time, distracted). Most attacks of women happen at night time where there are very few people near by.

Step 3: Attack and Isolate the Target

The attacker approaches the target and attempts to isolate them from the public area. It is most common for abductors to pull the victim into a car, but it could also be a house, or simply a more isolated area nearby that is unlikely for anyone to hear or see. Once taken to this secondary location, the IP drops to almost zero, and the chances of escape are almost impossible. This is why kidnapping experts advise us to never get taken to a secondary location, no matter what the risk.

The Three Preventative Steps

What we should do to prevent being targeted by a predator.

Step 1: Good Awareness

Poor awareness increases the odds of a person being targeted. An attacker sees a distracted target and predicts that an abduction will be easy. What we want to do is train ourselves to recognize low IP (high risk- where there is little chance of other people being able to help you in a crisis) environments, and make sure to demonstrate high awareness in them. You can significantly improve your awareness by keeping your phone in your pocket, taking out headphones, and by looking up and around you. To learn more about situational awareness and street