Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Hiking: An Ounce of Prevention, Part 2.

In part 1 of this post, I wrote about the young woman who was assaulted and then killed while hiking on a mountain trail in Georgia. I gave my thoughts about hiking alone and mentioned having personal knowledge of tragedies that occurred to people simply on a hike or walk.

I will briefly mention three.

1. My great aunt, a widow in her mid-eighties, was out for walk near her apartment in a nice area of San Francisco. It was mid-day when three young men attacked her for her purse. They knocked her down, kicked her repeatedly, and broke her hip. She lived for few months afterward and then died as result of her injuries.

2. A serial killer known as the Trailside Killer stalked hikers in the Bay Area’s Mt. Tamalpais State Park and at the Pt. Reyes National Seashore. He would hide near popular hiking trails and attack unwary hikers. He killed one of my daughter’s high school classmates.

3. A young reporter for a newspaper I published went out for walk with her husband. A van stopped on a busy San Francisco street and at gunpoint men forced them into the vehicle. With a machete, they hacked to death Quita Hague and thought they had killed her husband. They dumped both bodies in a remote part of the city. Her murder and others they committed was the subject of the book, Zebra: The true account of the 179 days of terror in San Francisco.

Were these victims careless? Could they have fought off their attackers and survived? In the case of my great aunt, of course that is highly unlikely. With the others there is no way of knowing. It is possible to do all the right things and still lose your life. According to police authorities in Georgia, the young woman hiker nearly succeeded in fighting off her attacker.

A life lived in fear certainly is not the answer. But common sense approaches to walking, hiking, or running alone certainly make people less of a target. Being aware should be rule one. Walking down a street listening to an iPod, for example, diminishes your awareness — and it makes you look like prey. Not hiking alone in wilderness or countryside or remote parts of cities should be rule two.

Training in a practical form of self-defense always helps. That along with a strong will to prevail in an assault can put the odds of survival in your favor. A final thought: when an attacker wants to take his victim from the crime scene to somewhere else, it usually means he intends to kill the victim. Same if someone wants to tie you up. Fight like a wild animal on the spot. Those are your best odds.

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