A survival story submitted by Elizabeth A.
My survival story isn’t very dramatic, but it’s very real to me and important for people to know that an attack can happen anywhere. My husband and I lived in Lima, Peru for three years, as my husband worked for a non-profit organization, supervising legal work in the countries in which our organization a presence. Lima is a city of more than 10 million people, and petty crime is a way of life for many in a city that has high unemployment and very low paying jobs for those that are fortunate enough to be able to find work. Prior to going to Lima, we received some training about what to do and what not to do to avoid being victims of crime. We were pretty careful during the three years that we lived there, and managed to only have one minor home invasion robbery in the three years.
Following our three years in Lima, we were assigned to Montevideo, Uruguay, as missionaries, representing the same non-profit organization. This work took us out among the people much more than the work my husband did in Lima. Montevideo is a city of only a million and a half, so everything is much more lax including traffic, the pace of life, and crime. Because of this casual atmosphere, we let our guard down and forgot about the safeguards we had been so careful to observe in Lima.
One day, while visiting with some friends on the street, I walked around to the passenger side of the car to get in, but upon noticing that my husband was still visiting, I stopped with the door open and waited for him to finish visiting. My back was to the street (my husband had parked on the wrong side of the road) and I stood with my purse and my computer bag slung over my arm, waiting.
When I could see that he was wrapping up his conversation and was about to get in the car, I swung my bags onto the seat and prepared to get in. The next memory I have was of looking up at the sky, wondering where I was and why I was on my back looking up at the sky. That was when I noticed a man thrusting his arm in the car in an attempt to pull out my purse and computer bag. Instantly, I knew what was going on and I slammed my boots against the car door in an attempt to hold the door closed so that he would not be able to pull out my bags. He was stronger than I was and managed to wrestle my bags out of the door and took off running down the street.
My husband, who saw me standing at the door about to get in at one moment, and then looking back saw me nowhere to be found and wondered where I had vanished to. It was then that he saw the man running down the street and recognized my purse and computer bag over his shoulder.
Instinctively, my husband, who had played high school football many years earlier and had remained in good physical condition for more than 30 years, took off after the man, thinking not about his own safety, but about defending his wife! He said that in his mind, he was not going to let that man score a goal! And he didn’t! He caught up with the man within about 30 yards and tackled him to the ground. The man surrendered my belongings and begged to be let go. My husband, knowing that the police would more than likely take an hour to arrive and that if they did show up, they would do nothing to the man, let the man go.
I dusted myself off and gathered up my belongings. It was a bit of a shock to us, but we called our children living in the states, and joked with them that “we had been mugged”! We then went on with our missionary work. It wasn’t until a few months later, when I began to have hip problems, that we realized this thief had taken much more than a few personal belongings from me (which he never even got away with). He had caused some damage to the ligaments in my SI Joints, which caused me severe health problems for the next six years. Only now, after six long years of physical therapy and drugs am I able to walk without pain. We were not able to continue our missionary service in Uruguay do to my inability to do anything other than lay flat six months after the attack.
I tell this story to illustrate the importance for women to do something to learn how to protect themselves. Although this incident took place in South America, it could have happened in the inner city areas of many of our big cities here in the United States. I did everything wrong in the story I told above.
I am grateful to have found the women’s shooting group that has a chapter in my city. Not only am I learning about how to use a firearm correctly, but I am also learning much about situational awareness, where not to be, and how to avoid being a victim. I am fortunate that today I have no more side-effects from the attack I suffered in South America.
I’ll never know exactly what happened to me on the street that day other than that I was thrown down with great force so that a criminal could prey on an unsuspecting victim and enrich himself, perhaps for the purpose of buying drugs. After all, he had attacked me on a busy street, in the middle of the day, with my husband and two other men on the other side of the car. He was taking a big risk in robbing me, but I also had taken upon myself quite a significant risk by being unaware of my surroundings and making it easy for someone to rob me. It is my hope other women will learn from my mistakes and take measures to protect themselves from being robbed or something much worse!
Being alone out in public is very difficult for me as I now know that I have some PTSD. I am always concerned about my safety, and am probably overly cautious, as a result of being robbed years ago in South America. Feeling vulnerable all of the time is difficult. Fortunately, I have taken steps to learn how to protect and defend myself, so that I can go out and do the things I want to accomplish in my life, without always being afraid. Though I can never be too cautious, it is nice to know that I am learning all that I can so that I won’t be a victim ever again if I can do anything within my power to avoid it.