6 Ways to Protect Yourself from Predators

When I think of personal safety, two things pop to mind: The Gift of Fear, by Gavin de Becker, and the creepy man on the subway who followed me home. If only I’d read de Becker’s book back then.

I was working as a model in NYC when, after a long photo shoot that ended at dusk, I hopped on the subway. When I felt a man staring at me then looked up and confirmed he was, I did what I typically did in such cases: darted my eyes away. Then I settled further into the crowd around me so I could keep daydreaming, sans creepy-stare.

Several train transfers and blocks of walking later, I arrived at my apartment building. As I stepped onto the elevator, commotion erupted behind me. I turned to see the creepy guy who’d been staring inches behind me—being yanked back by the building’s security guard. I was okay physically, but shaken and terrified.

Years later, when I read The Gift of Fear, this experience echoed repeatedly. I saw all of the signs, in neon. I’d felt the guy staring, noticed my fear and, sadly, ignored it. Nowadays, I would have looked at him guy straight on, observed his build, approximate age and ethnicity. I’d have maintained awareness of him, rather than vanished into daydreams. I’d have noticed him trailing behind me, called out his description if need be and gone straight to an authority—to whom I could’ve described him fully—and sought safe accompaniment home.

This is only one of many experiences in which I ignored my instincts. I doubt any woman could read The Gift of Fear without nodding repeatedly.

As de Becker points out, humans are the only species that ignores instinctual fear. While animals dart away in light of perceived danger, we, especially women, often convince ourselves to stay around it. So cultured to be polite, we feel we should be “nice” to the guy who’s giving us the creeps. Good girls don’t shun others, we’re taught, unless they cause us obvious harm. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather prevent harm in the first place.

self-defense quote

Being victimized by abuse of any kind is never our fault. Ever.

Predators prey. They stalk, seek out our vulnerabilities and, in the case of sociopaths, are highly skilled at donning sheep’s clothing. But we can learn ways to keep ourselves safe, note the red flags and prevent the worst-case-scenarios.

1.  Trust your instincts.

During my series on dating a sociopath on my blog and show these past two weeks, I’ve heard from many women (and some men) who’ve been stalked, harassed and confined by the controls of an abusive partner. Numerous described the fear they felt upon meeting the person. Some only recognized it in hindsight, or mistook it for magnetism. These women, like so many of others, learned the hard way that our instincts are always to be trusted.

That gut feeling is there for a reason—you don’t even need to know the reason in order to listen or respond. Dr. Wendy O’Connor, the marriage and family therapist I interviewed in this episode, described trusting your gut as the most important red flag.

“So often people get a swirl of emotions, elations, or a deep dark feeling or the famous ‘creeped out feeling,'” she said. “Regardless if it’s positive or negative to the extreme, pay attention to it!”

Dr. Megan quote GB 5-26

2. Practice self-awareness.

As we hone in to stay better in-tune with that inner voice/gut feeling, we should also prioritize becoming more aware of our overall emotions, wants and needs. Doing so requires minimizing distraction—i.e., putting the cell phone and iPod away when we’re out in public alone, for example, and stepping into and exploring any difficult emotions that arise, rather than avoiding them.

If you sense that something is off—publicly or within a relationship—don’t write it off, suggests Dr. Wendy, thinking, ‘Am I crazy?’ Instead, respect and observe those feelings. They’re sharper than you may realize, and could help save you from harm.

3. Don’t mistake obsessive behavior for love or admiration.

Contrary to what many fairytales suggest, a healthy, loving person does not attack us with love and attention. They don’t repeatedly show up uninvited, bombard us with gifts and attention when they barely know us or facilitate constant contact (such as perpetual texts or phone calls). They respect us and our privacy.

If you’re in a relationship and something feels off, look for themes and patterns.

“Do they track your every moment or isolate you from loved ones? This isn’t normal, love or admiration. This is stalking.” – Dr. Wendy O’Connor

4. Take precautions online.

It’s easy to feel somewhat anonymous and safe while posting on social media, and I personally love sharing about my life. But without appropriate boundaries, we open ourselves up to all kinds of risk.

Here are some simple steps to minimize them:

  • Don’t give others a GPS on your whereabouts. Turn your location settings OFF on Facebook and other networks.
  • Avoid posting “checkins” and other social media that reveal your current location.
  • When going through break up, especially if the person is troubled or abusive, reset all of your passwords—including your email, social media and bank account passwords.
  • Save all texts, emails and voice messages from anyone who’s threatening or abusive, in case you need to report them.
  • Don’t post your email address publicly on your blog or website. Instead, use a contact form.
  • Consider blocking or un-friending anyone creepy.
  • If someone reaches out to you, and your gut says YIKES, don’t feel obligated to respond. (Harmful folks often see any attention as positive, even if the attention is negative—i.e., “I don’t want to go out with you.”)
  • Tell others about anything alarming. Tell a friend, a family member, your employer, a therapist—not only for support, but so others have a record as well. This can help if/when you report happenings.

5. Take a self-defense class.

Self-defense classes are empowering. We all deserve to feel safe and secure, and to protect ourselves if need be.

I personally recommend IMPACT, if you have access—though any class that teaches self-defense is worth it. Ideally, the class will teach ways to prevent the need for traditional self-defense tactics, and make both prevention and defense so automatic, it’s muscle memory. This is vital, because once adrenaline kicks in, you’re probably not going to be thinking clearly enough to locate and use your mace can, for example. And holding your keys between your fingers as a “knife,” as many women do, won’t cut it. (No pun intended!)

6. Seek support.

Even if you feel whatever’s happening is “nothing,” feel incapable of getting out of an abusive relationship, or even that you don’t really want to get out but know on some level that you should, professional support is a primo idea. You have nothing to lose by trying, and possibly far more than you realize by not.

Dr. Wendy suggests working with a licensed professional for feedback and to come up with a good game plan, then staying connected with them for a period of time. Meanwhile, don’t hold back.

Often people will lie to their therapist about the most basic things,” she said. “Develop trust with your therapist and talk about your resistance, lack of insecurity, talk about secrets and your desire to learn how to open up to another. Any good professional will be non-judgemental, caring and trusting.”

Helpful resources:

National Center for Victims of Crime Hotline: 1-800-851-3240

National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233 | 1-800-787-3224 (TTY)

U.K. National Stalking Helpline: 808-802-0300

Safety and Protection Resources, via Gavin de Becker and Associates

The Gift of Fear, by Gavin de Becker

Related links:

From “Soul Mate” to Soul Sucker: My Relationship with a Sociopath

In “Love” with a Narcissist/Sociopath: Althea’s Story

I Dated a Sociopath, Part I on Girl Boner Radio: True Stories of Hurt and Healing

I Dated a Sociopath, Part II on Girl Boner Radio: Hope and Healing

The Borderline and Narcissist Love Relationship by Dr. Wendy O’Connor

Does Real Love Exist on the Internet? by Dr. Wendy O’Connor


Huge thanks to all of you who’ve followed along with my ‘dating a sociopath’ series. Due to its popularity, I’ll revisit it occasionally as time goes on—so stay tuned!

What steps do you take to ensure your personal safety? Which step will you prioritize? When has trusting or not trusting your instincts affected your safety? I love hearing from you! ♥

From “Soul Mate” to Soul Sucker: My Relationship with a Sociopath

T swept me off my feet, years before l learned that great partners don’t sweep you anywhere. Rather, they want you to stand strong on your own.

couple feet water

We met in an acting class, of which he was the star. While other women in the class pined over him, I only had eyes for acting. I was there to study—not flirt. And I certainly didn’t need to leap into another relationship so soon after my last.

The entire class knew about my goals and the breakup, just as I knew about their lives and dreams; it was that kind of class, and hello: we were actors. Open, sensitive and overflowing. It didn’t strike me until later that T was an exception. He shared very little about himself. He performed, charmed us with his wit and charisma and drove students in need of rides home in his luxury car. I, being one of the car-less, was content taking the bus home.

One night the teacher prompted us to sit face-to-face with a partner, look them straight in the eyes and say whatever came to mind. When I turned to seek a partner, T was right there.

Peering in his magnetic eyes, I felt naked and vulnerable.

“You don’t know how beautiful you are,” he said. “Or that you’re the most talented actor in this class, probably in this city. You could be a star.”

My cheeks flushed burgundy. My ex never said such things; on the contrary, he’d felt threatened by my modeling and acting. The wounds echoed.

That night, I accepted T’s offer to drive me home. I sat in the car with other students, including a single mom, an elderly woman and a man who’d fled his homeland in seek of the American Dream.

T opened the sun roof, asked if we’d like to watch TV and told us we could turn our seat heaters or personal ACs on or off as we wished. It all seemed pretentious, until I observed my fellow passengers beaming. T was treating people who never received such treatment like superstars.

After dropping the others off, he stopped for gas.


“I’d love a water.”

“I got it,” he said, declining my $5 bill.

He returned with  20-plus bottles, one of each available brand, some chilled, some room temperature.

“I wasn’t sure which you liked,” he said, half-winking.

I couldn’t stop smiling as he drove on, chatting. He seemed fascinated by me and my life—my upbringing, family and goals. We seemed to share much in common, from world views to favorite past-times.

Within days, we were dating. Make that dating on steroids. Every moment was intensely romantic and adventure-filled. People routinely gushed over how “perfect” we were together, some guessing we were newlyweds, versus newly paired.

While his over-the-top adoration felt foreign (in anything but cheesy movies), I began to rely his perpetual loves notes, bold exclamations and gifts. It was as though he filled voids I hadn’t known I had.


By the time T’s true colors emerged, I felt trapped.

We’d been dating two months when T told me that Kyle, a mutual friend, desperately needed a place to rent for a month—but was too embarrassed to discuss it.

“You should offer to sublet your place,” T said. “Stay with me for a while.”

I later learned that he told Kyle a similar story, only flip-turned—claiming I was in dire financial straits, but too ashamed to mention it. (“So could you please rent her place? I know you hate your roommate anyway.”) Kyle and I fell for his plot, and that month sublet became permanent.

Looking back, it’s obvious that while I had been studying acting, T had been studying me. Each bit of knowledge became a tool in his toolbox of seduction, ways to lure and keep me.

He knew I cherished my place and independence, so rather than ask me to move in with him, he had strategized. And probably relished the game, especially when he won. And won. And…won.

He wooed everyone I cared about and dropped out of class to give me creative space (“It’s just my hobby, but it’s your dream, baby. I believe in you.”) After I’d saved up enough to buy a clunky car, he gave me his. (“You deserve better. I treasure your safety.”) I sobbed, as I drove it for the first time, wondering if I should feel guilty or just grateful, whether I deserved it.

The truth was, I didn’t deserve it—but my understanding of “it” wasn’t reality, not by a long shot.

One day, everything changed.

I received the career news I’d been longing for: I’d booked a lead role in an indie film, and couldn’t wait to tell T; surely we’d celebrate.

Instead, his face morphed from human to animal. He trembled, his face pale, nostrils flared, teeth gritted. Saying nothing, he began pacing and heaving while I stood there, paralyzed and perplexed.

“T, talk to me. What’s wrong?”

He shot me a steely glare, then raced to the kitchen. With both hands, he grabbed the heavy, chrome paper towel holster that was bolted to the counter top and pulled, shaking maniacally, until it snapped off.

I dropped to the ground, sobbing and cradling myself. Please don’t hit me!

He didn’t. But he did use the heavy bar to bash a hole in the wall, mumbling something about the “hot actor guy” who’d play opposite me.

That was the first of countless outbursts, which surfaced any time T thought he might lose me or my attention, the shiny prizes he’d worked hard to win.

After he chased a man around a parking lot with a knife for “looking at me the wrong way,” I packed my bags and left. But we didn’t stay broken up.

He came crawling, pleading for forgiveness: “It’s just that I love you so much! Help me be a better man. I will do anything to make this work.” 

He provided endless excuses for his behaviors—his troubled childhood being the biggie—promising he would work through it all. He started therapy, said he found God, sent a letter of apology to my parents. I was his reason to go on, he said. Without me, what was the point?

I wanted to help T. I loved him. But I also wanted to be happy, to live free of terror and tumult and to move forward in my life. Finally, I realized that the latter was only possible without him. The blissful times we’d shared early on were a farce, and his sociopathic nature, reality.

For any chance at happiness, I had to leave him for good.

Doing so was one of the most difficult and important decisions of my life. I sobbed until I vomited post-breakup, stayed in bed for days. But as healing crept in, my acting career began to flourish (and that later led to writing and Girl Boner). I began feeling strong and whole on my own. A few years later, I met a man who loves me sincerely, with whom I feel more like myself than ever. In the right relationship, we only grow.

If you relate to this story, you’ve probably dated someone on the sociopath spectrum: people who lack empathy and remorse, who thrive on power and control. 

There’s so much to say about all of this, which is why I’m launching a series here and on Girl Boner Radio. I’ll be chatting with two inspiring women who’ve found healing after their own relationships with sociopathic men, a bold woman who is in a such a relationship now and two psychologists. We’ll cover the basics, such as sociopaths defined, common traits and related myths, and ways to move on and heal once you’ve fallen prey to one, and more. I really hope you’ll tune in!

And if you’re feeling lost within and controlled by a relationship, I hope you’ll start believing in the healthier, happier future you deserve. Sometimes the most important thing we can do is recognize that the little voice deep within whispering this isn’t right is brilliant, and worth listening to—even if our hearts can’t catch up with it just yet.

Do you relate to my story? How have you healed from a hurtful relationship? Any questions you’d like to ask my guests? I love hearing from you. ♥

Escaping Rape: A Fightback Woman Who Won

If there was a blue ribbon award for safe solo traveling, ESPN executive Keri Potts believed she would’ve won it. She’d taken a self-defense course in college and had traveled solo numerous times, consistently taking precautions: Limit alcohol to one glass of wine in the afternoon. Don’t stay out late or with strangers. But one night while vacationing in Italy, a date with a handsome artist changed everything.

Unlike many victims of sexual violence, Keri recalls the entire experience in detail. She’s also courageous and compassionate enough to recognize how powerful sharing her story can be. She is one of the most inspiring women I’ve had the pleasure of speaking with. Today, I’m honored to share highlights from our conversation with you. Please read it with your eyes and heart, and pass it on to those you love. Stories like Keri’s can undoubtedly save lives.

AM: I was struck by the photo featured in Marie Claire. Even with his face blocked, Marco appears normal—like a guy many women would gladly pose with. What was your impression when you met him?

KP: He seemed really shy, which was very different from most of the people we’d encountered in Italy. My friend, as you see in the photo, is blonde, and we’d get a lot of “Bella, Bella!”—very traditional American look to her. I don’t tend to attract that so much. He was just shy and quiet, brought over to us by the cafe owner. He started talking about the art he does at a nearby studio. When people just sort of walk up and sit down next to you, it can set off all kinds of alarm bells off in your head. This didn’t do that because of the way we encountered him.

AM: When did your instincts kick in? Do you remember a specific moment?

KP: There were many incidents throughout the night when I was slightly uncomfortable with things, but the opportunities were presented in such a way that played on my self-doubt. I didn’t really have a long history of dating… I’d really only had one boyfriend before I went on that trip. I may be a confident, successful person in most aspects of my life, but that was just an aspect that I was totally green in. So the natural inclination is to look at yourself like you’re doing something wrong, or that you’re being a little too cautious, or making a mountain of a molehill.

I didn’t like that he kissed me right off the bat, once we did meet up on our date. I didn’t like that he leaned in when he was mid-talking… My assumption was that kissing is usually a pretty agreeable action toward each other, you know what I mean? [LAUGHS] It’s usually not such a surprise to the other person! On the surface, it’s just a kiss from a guy, sort of like ‘this is okay’. But if you think about it very clinically, the decision was not mine. It was taken out of my hands.

He wanted me to ride in a cab back with him to my apartment because he knew where I was staying—across the street from a friend of his who runs a bar. My instinct was, No, I don’t need to get in the car with you. But he looked at me like, really? Are you kidding me right now? It’s just a cab ride. When he suggested that I go up to see his balcony, I didn’t even think twice about it because I’d been up there earlier. The first time he said, “It’s not too far from here.” I said, “Oh, no no… No thanks.” He gave me his ID. He said, “Here is my document. Does that make you feel better?” And I said, “Yeah.” He gave his license and I put it in my pocket. So now I knew his date of birth of birth, his address and his name. Even when he presented that to me, he did it in such a way that it would almost be like, You’re being ridiculous, but I’ll play along with it if it makes you feel better. Because I’m just a great guy, I’m gonna do whatever makes you feel better, and I’m harmless.

Your brains are going two different directions, because I’m not evil and crazy like he is. A person on the outside might say, “Why would you go up there alone?” But think about your day to day—how many times we leave ourselves isolated, alone with a man. Just for whatever—for work, a maintenance guy, someone working in a hotel… You realize it could happen anytime.

AM: It makes me think how lucky we are every time it doesn’t happen.

KP: Yes! And how rare, how unusual it was. I’d lived my life 31 years to that point. I’ve been in New York. I’d traveled alone to Spain, to London by myself, Ireland by myself…traveled alone, not as part of any tour or anything. Those things made me feel more confident.

One reason I told my story is because I hear from a lot of people who say, “That could have been me.” People read about rape and sexual assault and they look for for this one thing they can point to and say, “I never would’ve done that, so that would never be me.” They tell themselves these little lies.

AM: And with your story, they can’t do that.

KP: They can try. But I was sober. I knew where I was. I had a friend who knew where I was. I knew where he lived. I’d already been up there and seen it, and he’d never laid a finger on me. There was no talk of sex, because A, rape isn’t about sex, at all. And B, you just don’t expect that someone is hunting you.

AM: So once he attacked you, you ran at him. You fought back. Did you surprise yourself? Had you done anything remotely like that before?

KP: I was a tom boy growing up. I was bigger than all the boys, and they can sniff you out in two seconds. [LAUGHS] You know? You attack the thing that terrified you, so I was no stranger to being physical. But as a woman I’d never had a grown man put a hand on me in violence. And I don’t think you ever think that’s going to happen until it happens to you. It is very jarring, a reversal of natural order. It’s like seeing something your eyes never thought they would see. But I knew that I was not going to get out of the apartment through the door that I came in. And I accepted it very quickly, after an attempt to argue with him. I didn’t keep on that path very long.

I focused on getting out to the balcony because there was space and no room for privacy. I was working my way toward it, but he blocked the door. He could see my brain evaluating, that I knew where I had to go. So he put himself in front of it. It’s as though you’re trying to keep your shit together, and the person who’s doing this to you knows exactly what’s happening to you. Because you can’t control your body.

I’m shaking. My lips are dry and I’m licking my lips. My eyes are saucers. I’m pail, unstable in my stepping. I remember, my legs were so wobbly. My stomach, you could hear it. I was fighting to keep my bowels in. That’s where that term comes from, by the way. They say it happens in war. Your body is literally trying to prepare you, and it’s not the prettiest thing. He could see it and hear it, and I’m trying to act nonchalant.

AM: I’ve never heard anyone describe that, but it makes so much sense. So he felt he was in control.

KP: Yes. I did catch him by surprise. It was just that moment that he leaned back out, slightly out the patio. He put his right foot out, leaned back and grabbed the wood shudders to pull them closed over the glass. And I knew from the way he was smirking at me. He thought he was about to close the deal. Like you’re locked in and no one’s going to see what I’m going to do to you in here. I knew that’s what he was saying to me; it was very clear. And I rejected it. I could not accept it, I just could not.

I pushed through him to get out the door, and he caught me, and he kept trying to drag me back into the apartment, and I knew that as long as I was on the patio, that that was good for me. So we had a very long hand-to-hand fight. I knocked him over. I knocked his potted plants over. I knocked him on his back… I knew there was a ledge over the patio, because I’d been up there twice, and a place to land. I thought I was going to jump and just stand there and scream until someone gets me, but I didn’t have a plan to move until I got down there and realized I had a lot of distance to work with.

I tried to make an attempt to get him off me and he was on me again really quick. The second time I knocked him over really good. He was drunk, so his balance was terrible. His jeans were longer than they should’ve been, so when he stepped back he stepped on the inseam and he’d fall back.

When he stumbled backward, I had enough time to plant my hands and almost to do gymnastics, like a vault. Boom! Hands up. Boom. Leg over, then turn and try to slide down, but my sweater got caught on one of the metal lattice concrete pillars. He was on me again. He’s got my neck, and I’m trying to pull down to break the sweater. So I’m pulling with all of my weight down, and he’s pulling me up by my head and I’m thinking I’m gonna break my neck. I was saying to him, “Let go! Just let go of me. If you don’t do that, you’re gonna kill me. Just let go!” I’m saying to him, it’s over. If you don’t do that, you’re going to kill me. I’m gonna fall. I remember looking at him like, Accept it. Accept…it.

AM: You made a firm decision. That must have helped you, as far as doing whatever you could to get away… Unbelievable. How badly were you hurt physically?

KP: I didn’t feel a thing through any of that. I remember when he hit me on the balcony, he hit my face, my nose, I remember hearing things, but not feeling anything. You hear popping, things crunching, but you dont’ feel a think. The only time I felt anything was when I’d made the last leap to the balcony I landed on, of the American couple that wound up helping me. They would tell you, and they have in interviews, they would sit on that balcony many months after and try to figure out how I actually had done that.

I did what I had to do, and I remember landing very flat-footed. I was in knee-high riding boots, and they were flat, but there’s no padding in those things. I remember landing and feeling like a burning shock wave go up the front of my shins. The next day when the adrenaline wore off, I was in agony. My feet were swollen, and my fingers and my rib and my nose, and I felt every part of me was broken. I felt like everything was broken.

AM: So you’re alone in a foreign country, just fled from your attacker… How did you know what to do next?

KP: It was very difficult, just trying to decide what to do. I was concerned that Marco was going to come get me. He knew where I was, where I was going. I’m thinking, he’s gonna come after me. He’s in the mafia

My brother-in-law was fabulous. He called the American embassy officer to get me some help. I wanted to get on the phone with the embassy because I wanted it on record with the government, if anything more did happen to me.

AM: When did you finally feel some sense of peace?

KP: There were two moments that stand out for me. One was when the officers had brought me back to the street of the crime. That, of itself, was not relaxing. I don’t know how we fit in the car; it was like a clown car. It was nighttime, drizzling. As a victim we assume police officers are on our side. But then I realized it’s not their job to believe me, they don’t have any opinion on it. You are just a person and they are trying to evaluate.

We arrived to Marco’s street and they said, “Which one?” I said, “Number 21, like I said. I gave you his business card, I gave you his address.” “Point it out,” they said. I walked over to the door and put my hand on it. They said, “Where did you escape from?” I didn’t remember what the outside looked like, but I knew it had green doors on the inside. They’re pointing to one door, and another door and another, and got buzzed in. None of them had green doors inside. “Which one, yeah?” They’re saying. “Which one?” “Neither,” I said. “I told you, green doors!” They’re saying, “No, it’s one of these.” We’re kind of at a standstill. And I’m thinking Wow, I’m sunk here.

At that moment, a woman approached me out of nowhere. She said, “Are you an American?” I said, “Look lady, I’m really busy right now.” Thinking she’s going to ask me for restaurant recommendation. The cops were plain clothes, so she couldn’t have known what was happening. She said, “I think you’re the woman my husband let in this morning.” I looked at her and the back of my knees went. I fell into her arms. She hugged me and said, “Angels are watching you.” An older gentleman beside her handed me tissues. He opened his arms and said, “I so worried about you.” And I’m just emotionally kind of done. The officers said, “This is good. This is very good.” The look on their faces was so satisfying to me. We walked seven buildings away and I can’t believe this is really where I went. Going to her apartment, you could not believe how far it was.

The first moment I felt really safe was when I got to my new hotel. At the front desk there were all these messages from my sister and my brother-in-law… Then this man approaches: “Are you Keri Potts?” And I’m nervous, because in my head, Marco’s following me. And he says, “Your boss sent me. He said he wants to talk to you very badly.” They dialed me in to my vice president and the head of the department. “Pottsi? Pottsi?” they’re saying. “We’re gonna get you home, baby. We love you. You kicked his ass. You did it.” They worked through the night to get me home. I was on a flight at 6am the next morning.

AM: I was happy to learn that you’re still traveling. How has the experience changed the way you travel?

KP: It’s been a lot of just healing on kind of the mental side. I had to work in London, maybe nine or 10 months after what happened, we launched a channel in the U.K. My first solo trip was a weekend in Paris. I was a nervous nelly because I knew how hard it was to be a crime victim in another country. After being victimized, I told my dad, “I can’t believe that I ever traveled alone, that I ever thought that was a good idea.” The Paris thing was like putting my toe in the water. I just stayed in my hotel room, which is very unlike me.

This last trip I just took was the first time I traveled out of the country by myself, like I used to. It was important because I’m in a very good place mentally. My dad said, “That’s my girl. Don’t ever let somebody change you. Because that’s what you love to do.” When I was over there, I was definitely my old self.

AM: What advice would you give readers—anything you wish you would have known back then?

KP: My area of expertise is being victimized overseas. Many people who have read my story say, “I’d never even thought to look up the embassy and keep the phone number in my cell…or registered with their Smart Traveler program so they have my passport number and my emergency contact information so that if something happens, something’s done very quickly.” Before I went to Paris, I gave my friends copies of my passport and my credit cards. I gave them my smart traveler program information. Those are really basic things people miss.

Anything can happen to anyone, it can happen to you or to someone you love. Take precautions, but don’t try to be perfect. I always thought I was perfect, that I was doing everything textbook. But there are people that want to kill you, people out there that want to harm you. Sometimes it’s just the perfect storm. It’s not anybody’s fault.


After a year-long investigation, Marco’s charge was increased from attempted sexual assault to sexual assault and an additional assault charge. He plea-bargained and in April, 2010 received a suspended sentence of 11 months, 10 days. He never went to jail, but was put on a five-year probation. If commits further crimes in that time, he’ll land in prison. He was also ordered to pay Keri’s legal fees, which totaled about $10,000.

“At first I felt disappointed that Marco wouldn’t be jailed, but now I feel proud of my efforts;” Keri told Marie Claire. ” I never gave up. A day doesn’t go by when I don’t think of that night. I have a small scar on my stomach where Marco gouged his fingernails into me, and I look at it often. I alternately love and hate that scar. I hate it because it reminds me of what happened, and I love it for the same reason.”

WrightWay Photography, via aFightBackWoman.com


To learn more about Keri Potts and to support her efforts, please pass her story along and follow her blog, A Fight Back Woman. Keri will also be appearing in a TV program about sexual violence on the Discovery ID network soon.

In the meantime, I’d love to hear your thoughts. What struck you most about Keri’s story? Do you see yourself in her experience? When have your own instincts, awareness and perseverance helped save or change your life?

Intuition: Tuning in Like Moms

In the spring of 2005, Rachel Schoger, a 29-year-old mother in Caldwell, Idaho, received devastating news from her doctor. After several miscarriages, she learned that her pregnancy was ectopic, and her baby had no chance of survival. If the baby wasn’t aborted, Schoger risked life-threatening complications.

After her first round on injections to terminate the pregnancy, Schoger sensed that something was wrong—not with her baby, but the diagnosis. She dreamed that the infant was screaming in pain inside of her, and demanded more tests.

Despite the thorough testing she’d endured, the next ultrasound showed a seemingly healthy infant in her womb. In January 2006, baby Seraphine was born. Though she required surgeries to correct deformities Shoger attributes to the injections, Seraphine is now a healthy six-year-old—largely due to her mother’s ability to sense and respond to her instincts. And as we’ve addressed before, instincts (those gut feelings) and intuition (relying on them), aren’t hype, but science.

For years, it was believed that women, particularly mothers, have stronger intuition than men. Although studies have proven otherwise—we actually come out pretty even—mothers have significant intuitive strengths, including faith in their abilities. In honor of Mother’s Day weekend, I say we celebrate them and follow suit. Are you in??? 😉

When it comes to mothers’ intuition, I see three major strengths. Moms tend to trump others in regards to motivation, awareness and action. They are expected to have strong instincts, trust them fiercely and act on them with gusto. Whether the chicken or egg came first here, I couldn’t tell ya. (No pun intended. ;)) Regardless, we can all learn a lot from mamas’ intuitive skill-sets.

Consider these examples:

#1: Imagine you’re a young, single woman heading into an upscale restaurant, alone. A man approaches and offers you a drink. The man is charming, yet something inside you tells you to say ‘no.’ But you don’t have other plans…and don’t want to hurt his feelings… And besides, you’d promised to get out and let loose once in a while. One drink can’t hurt. Can it?

#2: Now imagine you’re the same woman, walking into the same restaurant, holding an infant. The same man approaches. He offers you a drink, says he “adores children,” even has one of his own. When you hesitate he gives you a winning grin and suggests non-alcoholic drinks. Heck, a glass of water? You hold your child closer and give an affirmative, “NO,” then walk away.

See the difference?

A girlfriend of mine told me she never knew how much she could worry until she had kids. That “worry” is the same fear (“Gift of Fear”, as renowned safety expert Gavin de Becker would say) we all experience. Having kids heightens parents’ motivation to do and say whatever it takes to protect them, and, by by extension, themselves.

In previous posts, we discussed how fear and instincts can enhance personal safety and even save our lives. Trusting and acting upon instincts can also help in countless other ways, from making the right romantic and financial decisions to building successful careers. In order to follow our instincts, we have to sense them. Whether your instinctive habits are super-mom savvy or far from it, the following steps can help.

5 Ways to Make Your “Inner Voice” Loud and Clear

1. Keep a journal. I first read Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way about 10 years ago while living in Miami. I was amazed at what those daily “morning pages” —3 pages of free-writing—revealed. Letting our thoughts spill out on paper, or other creative mediums, helps de-clutter and clarify our needs, hunches and wants.

2. Pay attention. Simply deciding to stay more aware is often enough to make our instincts roar.

3. Take some quiet time. Whether you’re trying to make a decision, texting while watching TV and eating dinner probably won’t help. 😉 Whether you have five minutes or 60 to devote to daily solitude, do it. If you’re not a fan of sitting still, take a bath, go for a walk or think while doing something fairly mindless, like folding laundry.

4. Talk it out. Little beats supportive friends when it comes to exploring our instincts. If your friend or partner challenges your inclination and you feel defensive, you probablyl know exactly how you feel. 😉 If they agree, it can be affirming. Your loved ones might even recognize what your intuitive voice is saying before you do.

5. Sleep on it. Yeah, I’m not great at this either, you insomniacs. 😉 But seriously, our minds work through problems while we sleep. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve woken in the morning, knowing exactly what to do about a particular plot point or character in my novel after feeling torn or clueless the night prior.

In what area of your life do you most rely on your instincts? Have you responded to them lately? Any “mother’s intuition” stories to share? 

GOF Moments: Could You Save Your Life?

My grandmother was sweeter than honey, as cheerful as a rainbow and trusting—arguably to a fault. In her later years, she watched every episode of Divorce Court in great anticipation. “How sad…” she’d respond to the verdict. “I wanted them both to win!” She never gave up hope, particularly in others. But even Grandma had her limits…

One day during a cheery walk near her home, a car pulled up beside her. As the window rolled down, Grandma smiled, assuming it was a nice man from a nearby retirement community she recognized.

“Hop in,” the driver said. “I’ll give you a ride.”

Grandma entered the car, closed the door, fastened her seatbelt then looked at the driver—a total stranger. After a silent ride, during which she scarcely breathed, the car reached a stop sign. Grandma didn’t hesitate; she opened the door and fled.

That story, though gratefully anticlimactic, has popped into my head over the years, inspiring wonder. What was my sweet grandmother thinking? What was he thinking? Did more than lack of familiarity prompt her to flee? What if she hadn’t fled, or if the man stopped her? In my favorite imagined scenario my Swedish, Hindi-speaking grandmother lures the man to an Indian restaurant and kung fu-flings him into a samosa fryer. (Hi-YA!) In a way, that’s what she did. Grandma’s actions told the driver she wouldn’t succumb to his desires, whatever they were. She had no need to look back and probably never assumed someone’s identity again.

The one time I sought more details, Grandma chuckled and offered me snacks. 😉 Alas, I’ve come to my own conclusions.

Trust wasn’t my grandmother’s detriment, but her strength. So she was a bit lax on the awareness factor. But once inside that car, she trusted her instincts and reacted. Her quick decision at the stop sign could very well have saved her life.

If you read my Life-Saving Resolutions series, you know how much I value awareness and intuition in regards to personal safety, much due to Gavin de Becker’s revolutionary book, The Gift of Fear. When I use my fear as a tool—rather than talk myself out of it—and react responsibly, I tell friends I had a “GOF moment.” I’m amazed at how many we all experience. We may never how much listening and responding to our instincts helps us, and that’s perfectly okay by me. 

One of many things I love about The Gift of Fear is its emphasis on people who overcame the odds, escaping their attackers to survive. Because I find such stories ultra-inspiring, I’ve decided to launch a new series featuring GOF fear moments. We can learn a lot from others’ experiences. Take, for example, these posts:

Stacy Green: Thriller Thursday: Personal Tragedy While this story doesn’t have a happy ending, it reminds us how important gut instincts are. When we feel creeped out, it’s for a reason.

Kourtney Heinz: The Cost of Distracted Driving No phone call or text is worth taking our minds and eyes off the road. The woman featured survived, but barely. And she and her family can use our help.

Natalie Hartford: He Watched His Grandmother Die: Words from a Survivor This heart-wrenching post gives a face and name to an issue that continues to run rampant, though most of us know the risks. Knowing without reacting is like not knowing at all.

Moi: In case you missed it, my post Lifesaving Resolution #4: Trusting Your Instincts, details the time I was followed home from photo shoot in NYC. Numerous readers shared GOF moments in the comments—insightful stuff!

What sticky situations have you managed to get out of? What “stop sign” inspired a turn for the better? Any GOF moments to share? I’m all eyes/ears. 😉