Fight or Flight Response: We All Have It…

June 16, 2010

Fight or Flight Response: We All Have It…

“I fought with everything that I had.”

On a typical Sunday evening, May 23rd in Leawood; an upper middle-class neighborhood in Little Rock, Arkansas, Haleigh Millwee, 24 years old heard a knock at the door. A man at the door was 56 year-old, Jim Huff who said that he was looking for the owners of a small dog. As Haleigh leaned forward to look at the dog’s information Huff pushed his way into her home. He handcuffed her; tied up her feet together, put gloves on, gagged her and blind-folded her.

“I think that I really upset him because I didn’t do what he said or told me to do. That is why I got beat several times. I fought with everything that I had, I had nothing to lose.” Haleigh prayed, “Lord, I’m not ready to die today, I have too much more that I want to do.”

When Huff attempted to remove Haleigh from her home, neighbors saw that she was struggling with the suspect and helped her to escape. Good Samaritan’s stepped into the storm. The vehicle that Huff was driving was identified by one of the neighbors. Huff lives with his wife LESS than a mile away from Haleigh Millwee’s home.

Huff was arrested three days after the invasion, assault and attempted abduction and remains in jail. Bond was set at $2 million dollars. Huff is facing four felony charges that include kidnapping, burglary, robbery and theft. If convicted Huff faces up to 140 years in prison and $60,000 in fines. Huff has pleaded not guilty.

Haleigh’s assault and attempted abduction brings much warranted uneasiness to Leawood and rightfully so. Lt. Terry Hastings with the Little Rock Police stated, “You never know. People may have seen this fellow, may have talked with him or had a conversation with him. We (the police) need to know.”

Being a target of any assailant is a true fear many have as individuals are realizing more and more that victimization does not discriminate.

It goes without saying that Haleigh’s mind was racing during her assault. Will I be killed? Will he beat me more, rape me, abduct me or kill me? The level of terror and anxiety was enormous and causes most victims to sometimes act irrationally. Some freeze and become incapacitated from fright. Others instinctively resist and try to fight back. Others will run away if possible. This is what is known as the “fight or flight syndrome/response”. This fundamental physiologic response forms the foundation of modern day medicine. The “fight or flight response” is our body’s primitive, automatic, inborn response that prepares the body to “fight” or “flee” from a perceived attack, harm or threat to our survival.

The first thirty seconds are the most critical to your survival.

What Would You Do?

Most people have never pondered this question for themselves or with their family. How would you react under similar circumstances? How would you react independent or together in your family or with friends? How you naturally react depends on many factors: your sex, age, physical condition, culture, personality, how you process information, how you react under extreme pressure, special training, skills and past experience in responding to aggression. Most people do not know for sure how they would respond to a personal crisis until it occurs. Many are surprised afterward by their behavior as having been heroic, calm, cowardly, or stupid.

Would you try to overpower your assailant? Would you try to escape and call for help? Would you comply with his demands and hope that he doesn’t hurt you? Would you allow him to tie you up? Would you allow him to take you away from your home? Would you risk death?

The response possibilities are endless, but most fall into three general response possibilities. You can resist the assault, comply with all commands; or you can try to stay calm, wait, and resist, comply, or flee as the assault evolves. One thing is clear, there is not one single correct response to a life-threatening home invasion or assault of any kind. Thechoice is personal, based on your own assessment of your physical and mental capabilities and your belief as to the level of eminent danger.

Sometimes fighting and screaming, especially if there are neighbors or others who will intervene or call the police. It makes no sense to risk fighting if you are physically incapable of doing so effectively. Total compliance sometimes works. The assailant might leave you unharmed and just leave. However, compliance may increase the duration of the assault and therefore increase the potential for further harm. You need to thoughtfully consider how you might act under circumstances and plan accordingly.

Never Stop Thinking

Keeping a cool head is important, even in dire circumstances. If you keep your wits about you one can increase their options by waiting for the right moment to act. Always be thinking and re-evaluating the situation as it evolves. At first there may be no chance for escape, but after a while you may see an opening. Fighting may not be wise, however assailants may let their guard down once you appear to comply. If you decide to strike a blow, do it fast, suddenly and forceful to the nose, eyes, or throat with the heel of your open palm as if you were holding a grapefruit without concern for the damage you might inflict. While the assailant is momentarily stunned, make your escape. Don’t stand there waiting to throw more punches. You might ask, won’t that cause them to harm me for sure? Maybe, if they catch you. This is an option that must be considered. Always be looking for that chance to escape, your “window of opportunity”.

Haleigh never gave up, she fought back with her entire soul and being. Once outside she drew major attention to herself in seeking help from her neighbors, The Good Samaritans. Instinctively Haleigh knew that if she allowed her assailant to take her from point A, her home, to point B, an unknown destination that she would not live. The second crime scene is almost always more violent than the first if you comply. Never listen to your assailant, “if you do as you are told that he won’t hurt you”. Wait up a sec and think about this…why in the world would you ever believe anything a person says that has already caused harm to you? Talk about a line of crap…he had no right to harm you in the first place; why would you trust or believe anything he would say?

In my posts to come we will take a look at many different assault scenarios along with personal safety education.

Tip – Prevention works best. Your home is your fortress. Harden your home or apartment with strong doors and locks. Install a wide-angle peephole and instruct everyone in your family NOT to open the door to strangers. Chain latches are ineffective as a barrier, so use your peephole to look outside before opening the door. Every exterior door should have two deadbolts, one keyed and one key-less. I don’t care how “kind” the person on the other side of the door “looks”, if you don’t know him/her; DO NOT LET THEM IN nor communicate through the door with him/her. Matter-of-fact don’t even acknowledge their presence. Keep a watchful eye and call 911 if you “gut instincts” tell you that you are in danger.

Take care and STAY SAFE!
Anny Jacoby

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