September is REALTOR® Safety Month, and it’s important that every REALTOR® take a self-defense class or a REALTOR® Safety Class like the one offered by NEFAR, which will be taught virtually by Patricia Sherman on Friday, Sept. 17 from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. (Register Here). Just ask NEFAR member Angela Wilson.
When Wilson recently attended a three-hour self-defense class hosted by the Women’s Council of REALTORS®, she had no idea some of the skills she learned would come in handy during a morning shopping trip in Jacksonville Beach.
After spending time in the Target at Marsh Landing, Wilson was pushing a cart filled with merchandise through the parking lot, when she noticed a man in a car staring at her with a fixed glare. “I had a cart full of items, and he was in his car, inching along beside me, staring at me. I was very uncomfortable. I looked over at him because I thought maybe he wanted directions or something,” she recalled.
Instead, the man followed Wilson to the outer limits of the parking lot where her car was parked, settled into a space two spots away from her SUV, and continued to stare at her. “I started to put my items in the back seat on the other side of the car from where he was because my trunk is filled with marketing materials.” However, the man’s continuous stare was so unnerving, Wilson decided to leave her items in the cart, get in her car, and lock the door only to see him drive off.
But that was not the end of their encounter. Soon he returned when she tried to finish loading her car.
“I decided to put my groceries in the car because I had a couple of hundred dollars-worth of stuff, but he came back as I was putting my groceries in the back seat,” she said, noting this time the man got out of his car and cornered her. “He put his arms out toward me. I was totally unnerved at this point. It was the intensity of his staring. It gave me a very bad feeling.”
Then Wilson remembered the training she had learned in her self-defense class.
“They tell you that the first thing you do is scream really loud, then pop them in the jaw if you can, and that’s what I did,” she said, noting her bloodcurdling shriek startled the man, giving her time to block him with her left arm and hit him in the face with her right fist. “He was in my face. He was in my back seat. He had a backpack on, too,” she said.
At this point, the man ran off and got into his car, leaving Wilson upset and shaken. Locking herself back in her vehicle, she promptly called her husband at his work, leaving him to call the police. “I was shaking so bad, I could hardly see the numbers on my phone,” she said. “This is the first time I have been in this situation. But they told me in class, shouting is the number one thing to do. Then you put your left arm out first to block and use your right arm to pop him in the jaw. They teach you that. We practiced it. And I used it. And I thought, what would I have done if I hadn’t been in that class? I don’t think I would have thought to scream like that.”
However, her encounter with the man still was not finished. Sitting in her car, she watched him troll through the lanes of the parking lot, only to return, pulling up directly behind her, pinning her car into its space. “He stopped behind my car, and I couldn’t drive out. I wondered, ‘What is he going to do now?’ So, I revved my engine. I have a Suburban and he had a Camry; it was really no contest,” she said. Apparently, the noise of her engine did the trick. He moved his car to the side, allowing Wilson an opportunity to take a photo of his car with her phone as he drove off.
When the police arrived, they took her statement. The incident was also on Target’s surveillance cameras, and they were able to apprehend the man, who, oddly enough, had not left the parking lot. He was put under arrest. Later Wilson learned that a warrant had already been issued for him on a kidnapping charge.
“This was not the first time he had done this. They told me he had done it before to other women in the parking lot and had stalked women in the Target store,” Wilson said.
After the incident, Wilson expressed gratitude for her self-defense training and recommended that all in the REALTOR® community take advantage of the Safety classes NEFAR offers.
“I never thought it could happen to me,” she said. “Safety classes are invaluable, especially for REALTORS®, who show properties to strangers,” she said.
“You need to remember that you are not always in a safe environment, so you have to be aware of your surroundings. Trust your instincts. If you see anything suspicious, get out of the way. When this was happening, I kept thinking, ‘maybe I’m overreacting.’ I just wanted to get my groceries and get out of there. I was lucky I was not harmed,” Wilson said.
The following are a few important safety tips from self-defense instructor Joe Rosner, which were given at a safety seminar sponsored by the National Association of REALTORS® in 2016. These tips tie in well with the kind of experience Wilson encountered.
- When calling 9-1-1, specify your location and say that there is an “assault in progress.” By giving the emergency operator a purposefully vague statement shows that you fear for your safety, even if you have not yet been attacked, and will get a fast police response.
- Direct your plea for help to someone specific nearby: The “bystander effect” is real. People often justify to themselves why they don’t have to take responsibility for helping someone. Using a whistle or other noise-making gadget to signify danger can be highly ineffective because people might think it is a whistle for a nearby soccer game. Instead, if you can, direct your call for help to a specific person nearby so they know they are responsible for helping you. “Hey, you in the blue shirt! I’m being attacked. Call 9-1-1.”
- Stun guns aren’t good weapons: To be effective, stun guns require you to be close to your assailant. Instead, you should try to run away. You are better off trying to flee than trying to fight at close range.
- Deception works: Point to any building and say, “There’s a police camera.” Hail down the next car that passes by and say, “There’s my spouse.” Hold up your phone and say that you have an app that sends photos directly to your local police department. The attacker won’t know whether you are telling the truth and may not want to stick around to find out.
- Ask yourself: Who is that person and why are they here? If you can’t come up with a logical explanation that makes sense, consider that a warning and get out of there as soon as possible.
Upcoming REALTOR® Safety Classes & Webinars from NAR & NEFAR:
September is REALTOR® Safety Month. Learning about Angela Wilson frightening encounter with an alleged kidnapper emphasizes the importance of keeping safety at the forefront of your mind. In September the National Association of REALTORS® is offering two one-hour webinars that will help REALTORS® avoid dangerous situations.
NAR (Webinar): Avoiding REALTOR® Danger Zones
September 15, 2:00 pm to 3:00 pm Eastern time
REALTORS® can join a former police officer and 35-year REALTOR® veteran, Janet Judd, as she details why safety matters and how implementing safety best practices is not only good for you, but ultimately good for your business.
NAR (Webinar): Conference Year-Round + REALTOR® Safety Discussion: Avoiding REALTOR® Danger Zones (Webinar)
September 16, 2:00 pm to 3 pm Eastern Time
Continue the conversation with the opportunity to ask questions, speak about your experiences, and hear stories from fellow REALTORS®. All are encouraged to participate in this interactive and open conversation about REALTOR® danger zones.
NEFAR (Virtual Class): Realtor Safety-Smart Business
September 17, 2:30 pm to 4:30 pm Eastern Time
Safety should be at the top of the list of things every REALTOR® should be concerned about. We meet complete strangers that in any other venue we would be suspicious of, but in the context of being a customer, we trust them fully. Unfortunately, this has caused our profession to be targeted by people with less-than wholesome intentions. They know we're alone… they know we don't want to "offend" a possible paycheck… and they know many of us are untrained in how to protect ourselves. Take this course and learn tips on how to put SAFETY FIRST!