The man who tried to attack me picked a hot day in August. It was four in the afternoon. My 3 1/2-year-old twins hung off my belt loops and my 5-year-old daughter held my hand as we trudged through the muggy, dim parking garage of the Denver Museum of Nature and Science to our minivan. I had a giant plastic bag of artwork and allowance-purchased toys in what usually was a free hand. A heavy back pack completed my look of an overworked pack mule.
I let go of my daughter’s hand for a second to electronically open the side doors of the minivan. Within seconds the kids were inside the car. As I stood between the open driver’s side door and the car, checking to see that everyone was safely inside, I saw a man walk quickly behind our car. At the edge of our car, he advanced toward me. My adrenaline was racing. He seemed to move so fast toward me, yet time seemed to go so slow. As only three feet separated me and my attacker, my parents drove up. Parking on separate levels of the parking garage, we had spent the day at the museum with them. They drove their car to ours to drop off some kids’ toys. I raised my hand and shouted to my parents. The attacker glanced behind him, pretended to check the car next to me, and walked away. But here’s the scariest part, as I turned around, I saw another man was behind me. We parked up against a cement wall; there was no reason for him to be there. Unleashing a well-choreographed attack on a mom and her three kids, the attackers were like wolves picking off the weak at the back of a deer herd.
Although I reported the event, the attackers were never found. The Denver Museum of Nature and Science defended the safety of their garage; although drivers still need the assistance of car lights to see in the garage. I shook for several hours after I got home that night, and those predators still stalk me in parking garages, if only in my imagination.
“What would have happened to me if my parents hadn’t shown up?” I asked a local martial arts studio that night. They advertised women’s self-defense in large banners near my house. I called them, knowing I wasn’t going to allow chance to save me in the future.
“Multiple attackers increase the threat level. They weren’t just going to try to take your purse,” they said.
Visions of my broken body unable to help my kids flashed through my mind. I asked the martial arts what I should do. That day I enrolled myself and my kids in martial arts training with emphasis on self–defense.
Mothers of multiples and their children are at greater risk of attack because the moms are over worked. At any one time our attention is in at least two places at once. Increase the number of children, a different environment, external stressors, and it’s easy to see how getting stalked for an attack go slip completely off a mom’s radar. In addition, one of the most dangerous places to be in a parking garage or parking lot is near your car. If the assailant can subdue you, they have your car to make a getaway. Mothers of infant multiples spend at least ten minutes moving their children and their carriers, their diaper bags and large double or triple strollers in or out of their cars. This makes mothers of infant multiples the most vulnerable. Mothers of multiples who go on an outing with another adult helper give themselves the best chance of decreasing the probability of an attack. However, adult helpers are not always available. Learning self-defense prepares a mother to defend herself and her infants if she is alone.
Many martial arts studios offer self-defense classes for adults and children. I learned quickly, however, that one class doesn’t train your mind to block out your physical stress while maintaining a sharp mind capable of quickly analyzing constantly changing surroundings. It takes stamina built up from attending regular classes.
When choosing a martial arts studio, keep in mind that most require a multi-year contract. They also require the purchase of a special uniform and have belt testing fees several times a year. These financial commitments are worthwhile investments if the studio values the individual journeys of its members over the studio’s financial bottom line. Check around your neighborhood and on sites like Angie’s List for reviews of martial arts studios in your area. With the right training and preparation, you and your kids will never find yourselves facing the wolves following the back of the herd.
Jennifer Smith-Daigle is a stay-at-home mother of a third grade daughter and twin kindergarten boys. She and her boys are survivors of Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome, being some of the first 200 people in the United States to be cured by Fetoscopic Laser Ablation surgery. Jennifer’s life before kids included world travel, historic preservation, and archaeology digs. When she’s not busy with a house full of kids and enough mammals to constitute a small zoo, Jennifer finds freedom in freelance writing, martial arts, and gardening.