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Facing the Unthinkable: When the Familiar Becomes the Threat

Updated: Jan 13

The recent tragedy of a Durham real estate agent, whose life was tragically cut short in her own office by a former boyfriend, deeply saddens me. As someone dedicated to personal safety training, especially for real estate professionals, each such incident is a stark reminder of why my mission is so crucial. This article is a heartfelt response to that tragedy, crafted with the hope that it might empower even just one person to be better prepared against such unforeseen dangers.

When the Familiar Becomes the Threat:

The thought of being targeted by a stranger often dominates our fears, a concept that resonates both emotionally and strategically. There's an inherent sense of logic in fearing the unknown, an emotional and psychological distance that feels intuitively threatening. However, what if the source of danger is closer than we imagine, both emotionally and physically?

This proximity doesn't diminish the threat; instead, it adds a disturbing layer to it. Imagine someone who was once a trusted partner or friend transforming into an adversary. This shift forces us to question our judgment, often leading to self-blame. Remember, this is not your fault. Most people naturally look for the good in others, not anticipating that malevolence can be concealed with alarming proficiency. Sometimes, it's not inherent evil but circumstances that push a person into becoming a threat.

Acknowledging that a known person, be it a business partner, friend, or lover, can become dangerous is crucial, irrespective of the cause. This realization doesn't excuse their intent to harm you. In this complex dynamic, we must grapple with the horror of defending ourselves against someone we once trusted.

Distance equals space; space gives you time, and time is the currency that buys you options.

Strategies for Recognizing and Responding to Known Threats

  • Apply Skills Beyond 'Stranger Danger': Many strategies effective against stranger-based threats are also applicable here. Recognize the shift in the known person's behavior without blaming yourself for not foreseeing it. Accepting this change quickly is vital for your cognitive and emotional preparedness.

  • Understanding the Change: Past interactions and environments are key. Acknowledge that this individual is no longer who they were. Any past expectations based on their character are now irrelevant. Treat their presence, especially in unwelcome spaces, as a potential threat.

  • Distance is Critical: Distance equals space; space gives you time, and time is the currency that buys you options. When they appear somewhere you don't expect or want, you MUST prepare to defend.

  • Hands Kill, Where Are the Hands? Hands are often the tools of harm – monitor them closely. 89% of the population are right-handed. That means you can anticipate a weapon will be held right-handed. Or the first punch to be thrown will be with the right. It also means that their left hand will likely try to secure you (clothing, hair or neck grab) before an attack. So, ventrally align (tummy button) on their left side (further away from the right) and be ready to step right (outside the grabbing left) if they suddenly reach out for you.

  • Trust Your Instincts: Recent research in Psychological Science reveals we are inherently skilled at detecting lies (and threats) at an instinctual level. However, cognitive biases often override these instincts, especially with known individuals. We rationalize away the danger, attributing harmful actions to bad days or misunderstood intentions. It's crucial to trust these instincts and recognize when someone's behavior indicates a real threat.

  • Preparation and Response: Be prepared to act sooner than you feel comfortable. Have a plan for such situations and equip yourself with the necessary defense tools. Combine observations of their current behavior (nonverbals) in an environment they probably don’t belong or shouldn’t be, with historical evidence to deduce their likely intentions and respond accordingly.

Navigating the complexities of personal safety, especially in the context of known threats, requires not only vigilance but also a profound understanding of human behavior. It's a delicate balance between nurturing trust in relationships and maintaining an awareness of the potential for harm. Remember, recognizing danger doesn't mean living in perpetual fear; it's about being prepared, informed, and resilient. Whether facing the unpredictability of a stranger or the heartbreaking betrayal of a familiar face, your safety is paramount. Stay alert, trust your instincts, and never underestimate the power of your intuition.


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