Being attacked while you walk to your car,or being robbed,raped or cornered in a dark alley is a scary thought for most people,but being a victim of violent crimes such as these is a reality for many men,women and children.
According to the National Crime Victimization Survey released by the United States Department of Justice,in 2000,more than 6 million people over the age of 12 were victims of personal violent crimes.
If someone attacked you,would you know what to do? What would you remember about your attacker? And would the information be enough for police to go on?
For one woman,the nightmare of being viciously attacked became reality,but her determination to stay calm and remember essential details led to the capture of her rapist.
On Jan. 18,1994,Kellie Greene was brutally raped by a stranger inside her apartment in Orlando,Fla. The small apartment complex housed mostly senior citizens and seemed like a safe place to live,said Kellie.
As Kellie returned to her apartment from washing a load of laundry,she found the intruder already in her house. When she realized that he was not there to rob her,her survival instincts kicked in. During the unbearable 45-minute attack,Kellie tried to remember details about her rapist so that she would be able to tell the authorities.
“I wasn't going to let him get away with it,” said Kellie,“I wanted to be able to describe him to the police.”
Kellie consciously tried to figure out his weight as her attacker lay on top of her. She also listened for distinct aspects of his voice. Her assailant talked with a lisp and whispered as if he was not nervous. She paid attention to the words he used to see if he was educated.
Because her face was covered with her sweater,she could not see the rapist,s face,but she paid attention to his hands to see if they were dirty or manicured. “ By doing this I tried to figure out what line of work he was in,” said Kellie.
Many people,unlike Kellie,are too caught up in the moment to consciously take in details about their attackers. But experts say that being a “good witness” can play a huge part in catching your assailant.
“Being alert and aware protects people from danger,but can also make them good witnesses,” says Neal Rawls,security consultant and veteran police officer from West Palm Beach,Fla. “Becoming alert and aware takes some practice,and you’ll get better at it the more you do it. When you begin taking a moment to scan your surroundings and notice things,you’ll also begin to retain details about what you see.”
Rawls is the author of “Be Alert,Be Aware,Have a Plan: The Complete Guide to Protecting Yourself,Your Home,Your Family.” He says,that victims should try to remember the big things first.
“It’s best to first try to remember things about a person that they can’t easily change,such as height,approximate weight,gender,tattoos,scars,and body piercings,” says Rawls. “Take note of clothing,hair style and color,eyeglasses,and presence of facial hair,but remember that these things can be easily changed. Describe a suspect or vehicle to police as soon as you can so you don’t start to forget any details,or,write it down as soon as possible,” Rawls adds.
People should definitely train themselves to remember details,says Dave Lakhani,author and personal defense tactics instructor. “ The more they can remember the better. If they are victims of an attack of any kind,but particularly sexual in nature,do not clean up before the police have a chance to examine you,” says Lakhani.
Lakhani says that victims should treat wounds as necessary,but leave as much evidence for the police to examine as possible. The more evidence they have the higher the likelihood of catching and successfully prosecuting the attacker. “Practice remembering details in stressful situations and see how well you do. Focus on remembering four or five key identifying things and you’ll be way ahead of the game.”
Craig Lawrence,certified protection professional,is a licensed private detective and the vice president of Aurico Investigations,a private investigative and security-consulting firm based out of Arlington Heights,Ill.
“When observing any type of crime or accident,remember license plates,license plates,and license plates. License plate numbers can make or break a case,” says Lawrence. “Most people do not train themselves to look for or remember license plate numbers,because they are too focused on the action that is happening in front of them,” he adds.
Lawrence says when reporting information to authorities try to remain calm and organized. “Give authorities any and all information that you remember,not just what they ask for. Too much information is preferable to too little.”
Giving detailed information to a 911 operator is helpful,says Lawrence,but relaying detailed information to a police officer or investigator in a face-to-face interview is preferable. “Try to wait on scene until you are interviewed. Give authorities your name and follow up information if asked. The reason that authorities generally ask for your contact information is not so they can subpoena you into court later,but rather to be able to follow-up with you again if your valuable information gets lost or needs clarification.”
It is the consensus among the experts that remembering details during a rape,robbery,attack or other violent crime is very instrumental in catching your assailant.
Kellie Greene's rapist was caught by the use of DNA testing,but plead guilty three days before the trial. Kellie is the founder of SOAR (Speaking out About Rape)- a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting the rights of victims of sexual assault.
Kellie is also the National Spokesperson for the Pfizer/YWCA Moving Past Trauma Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Community Outreach Program. To find out more about Kellie Green visit www.ywca.org.