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  • Writer's pictureWSDC

Review: Daytime Rape Attack, Foiled by Defender and Witnesses

Rape attack witnesses
Heroic witnesses who responded to attack Justin Herron (r.) and Murry Rogers (l.)

This sexual assault during daylight hours in a public park is a good example of a real life attack we can dissect for lessons we can learn.

In this case, a 30-year-old man has been arrested and faces charges of attempted sexual assault. The attack was thwarted when witnesses heard the woman's screams and physically intervened.

The 71-year-old woman was attacked at around 11:30 a.m. on March 20 at the park near Mill Avenue and Baseline Road. Police say the woman was on her daily walk when [the suspect]* approached her from behind and knocked her down. The police report says [the suspect] restrained her and tried to pull down her pants.

Items to consider for our review so far:

  • 71-years old. Regardless of how young or old you might be, the fact you are a female makes you a target for sexual predators.

  • Daylight. Not quite noon. Attacks can happen anytime. They don't necessarily come from the shadows.

  • Public place. A park with wide open spaces. Other people are around. Unusual perhaps, but not unheard of.

  • The attack forced the defender to the ground by knocking her down from behind. You might not want to be on the ground, but you very well may find yourself beginning your defense from there.

  • Clothing is a barrier. The attacker must remove it to affect the rape.

The victim began yelling "Help! Help!" alerting witnesses in the area. One witness told police he ran over when he heard her screaming for help repeatedly. He said he saw the woman fighting back, and saw the pair "grappling - she was scooting away and then he would push her down."

"We could see him on top of her," the witness told police.

Okay, some more points:

  • She begins yelling for help, "alerting witnesses in the area". One of our self-defense tenets is 'Attract Attention'. It can bring help, but even if it doesn't, it appeals to the attacker's fear that he could be caught. You need to let people know you are in trouble. Don't stay quiet, no matter what he threatens you with. Ruin his plan and increase your odds of escaping and surviving.

  • Since there are other people in the park, her binary decision to either "stay with people" or "go to people" is STAY.

  • She began resisting immediately. Many attackers will break off the attack if you even indicate you are willing to resist. In this case the predator continued to attack. By resisting, you draw out the attack -- making it take longer for the attacker to complete the assault. And giving time for people to respond.

  • He is on top of her. Yes, I know. Your father/brother/uncle/previous instructor told you never go to the ground! Most times you don't have a choice. The attacker must put you in a sexual position to penetrate you. You have to learn how to defend yourself when forced into one of these common positions.

In an interview with detectives, [the suspect] told them he was just hanging out in the park when the victim walked past him. He said, "Can we talk?" and she replied "I don't know you; stop," according to the police report.

The report goes on to say that [the suspect] said, "I just pushed her down." He says he told the woman, "It's not going to hurt that long," states the police report.

Police say [the suspect] then tried to remove the woman's pants before witnesses intervened. "I was going to finish with her; I didn't have time to [expletive] the lady. I ran out of time," [the suspect] reportedly told detectives, according to the police report. [The suspect] later said, "I just thought it would make her happy."

More lessons:

  • He interviews her before he attacks. He was "just hanging out" when she walked past him. He has been probably watching her for a while during her walk. If we could go back before the attack we might be able to observe and ask, does he look out of place? Is he staring at you? Or is he trying too hard to look like he's not looking at you? He opens with a question "can we talk?". Her response is textbook correct. She tells him flatly, "I don't know you; stop." She doesn't encourage any kind of interaction. She just makes a definitive statement. There is no ambiguity there, nothing that can be mistaken for encouraging a conversation.

  • He pushes her down to the ground from behind. There is no mistake, now you are under a violent attack. You must begin to attract attention and resist. We will teach you to get into to a defensive position so you can have your most powerful weapons lashing out at his weakest points.

  • He tries to pull off her pants. In a weird way, this is actually a good thing for two reasons: 1.) his attention and efforts are on physically pulling off her pants. This means he is not hitting her or threatening her with a weapon to force her to comply through pain or fear; 2.) her clothing is acting as an obstacle that he must get through before he can penetrate her. We teach you to always keep a barrier between you and the bad guy. It takes more time for the bad guy to get through or around a barrier. Time buys you options. It also gives more time for help to arrive.

  • His comments are unbelievable and gives a glimpse into his mindset. He matter-of- factly states to her that the rape is "not going to hurt that long". He says he was going to "finish" with her but ran out of time because of the witnesses showing up. As normal people we can't understand this line of thinking. Apparently, it all makes sense to the rapist and he can justify it in his mind. Remember this when you think you can appeal to a rapist's humanity or reasonableness. It's impossible to expect mercy from these attackers.

Now here is the good news.

Two men, totally unrelated and in the park for different reasons, heard the screams and quickly responded to stop the attack.

Because these guys are heroes in my book I believe they deserve to be recognized:

  • Justin Herron

  • Murry Rogers

Rogers was there for a kid's birthday party.

"It was terrifying to witness. [I] could not believe based on how many people were at the park and the time of day that what I was seeing was actually happening," Rogers said.

Both men rushed over.

"Yell -- tell him get off of her," Herron said. "And then yanked him off, and then I told him to sit down."

Once they'd separated the victim from her attacker, they then called the cops.

Herron was in the city because he is training for -- get this -- his second season with the NFL New England Patriots. He is an Offensive Lineman and is 6'5" and 305 pounds. He is used to moving powerful men around against their will. It's no wonder he could yank the suspect off the woman. And I'll bet the suspect readily complied with the order to sit down.

Thank you to both Justin and Murry. It's encouraging that there are still men like you that we can to count on to help.

Their efforts were recognized by the Tempe Police Department.

While the first story reports of the 141 rapes reported in Tempe in 2019 only two arrests were made. Thats about 1%.

Fight like your life depends on it. We can't count on the justice system to help save us or others from these predators.


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