Serial killer Ted Bundy once stated that “he could tell a victim by the way she walked down the street, the tilt of her head, the manner in which she carried herself, etc . . .” (Serial Murder, Holmes & Holmes, 2009)
Multiple studies have been done on how criminals select their victims. As such we have an accurate picture of what criminals look at in order to establish whether someone is vulnerable to victimization. Some of the most recent research on the subject confirms very startling notions.
On many occasions criminals have been asked how they choose their victims or why they fought back with a police officer. A lot of the typical answers are related to matters of natural selection. They choose victims based on comparative physical stature, perceived awareness, whether or not they are alone and gender. This study shows that the criteria is much more limited. While the aforementioned reasons apply, the study shows that body language and walking pattern are much more important. The basic idea of the study was to show a selection of inmates 12 videos of people walking away. Those 12 people also provided testimony as to whether they were ever victimized. Accuracy was judged on whether the inmates gave the people who had actually been victimized a 6 or higher out of 10 to show vulnerability. The inmates provided reasoning behind their victim selections as well. The study showed that inmates with severe psychopathy chose victims based on gait and their vulnerability rating corresponded with individuals which had been previously victimized.
What does this mean to the average person? The way you carry yourself can help single you out or rule you out for victimization. While there is victim selection criteria like your gender or age that you cannot change, you can stack the deck in your favor. Walking confidently and not exhibiting behaviors of distraction, ie: fidgeting, fumbling with cell phone, are minimal effort ways to help rule yourself out. In the simplest terms, do you walk like you have the ability to defend yourself? Do you drag your feet and act like a wounded animal? Most of us give these behaviors very little attention because we have been doing them the same for years. This was brought to my attention at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center. We were shown countless videos, and spared countless more, of police officers falling victim to an attacker due to complacency and ultimately how they carried themselves. While you cannot control the people around you or their depravity, you do not have to carry yourself like a victim.
RULE YOURSELF OUT
Source: Psychopathy and Victim Selection: The use of Gait as a Cue to Vulnerability, Journal of Interpersonal Violence, Angela Book, PhD, Kimberly Costello, PhD, and Joseph A. Camilleri, PhD, 2013