..Lorna Hartman..

We are somewhat in awe of a person who shows extraordinary courage with a criminal, whether by outwitting the criminal or by outfighting him. In the following case*, though, a young deaf woman truly deserves our admiration for her resourcefulness in stopping what clearly could have been a terrible crime.

As told to the editors in an interview: "I was seventeen, a senior in high school waiting at a bus stop on my way home from school. Because I'm deaf, I didn't know that a man was approaching me from behind, so there was no way for me to set up my defense, even though I had taken self-defense. I'm almost a black belt in karate, so I'm pretty sure of myself.

"It had never occurred to me that my deafness would get in the way of my defending myself. When the man approached me and put his hand on my shoulder, I thought maybe it was someone asking for the time. A lot of times people will ask me what time it is, and if I don't see them, they'll touch me and say, 'What time is it?' When I turned around, I recognized a man who had raped me three years before. The first thing that came to my mind was 'I don't know what I'm going to do.' I got really scared.

"He said, 'Hi. It's been a long time since I've seen you.' He was friendly because I had never allowed him to feel like what he did to me was wrong. At the time, I hadn't even realized it was wrong. Anyway, since I had never confronted him, I guess he didn't have a reason to be uneasy, and probably assumed he could get away with it again.

"I knew I had to do something, something fast. I knew I couldn't run away fast enough. I didn't want to do anything to scare him, or make him feel a need to grip me really tight, because he still had his hand on my shoulder.

"Then I got an idea. Another man was coming up on the other side of the street, and I figured, well, I could yell at this man and ask him for help, but I wanted to play it really cool. So I pretended that the man across the street was my dad. I said, 'Hey, Dad. Hey, Dad, wait. Hey, Dad!' And the attacker started getting really shaky, and the other man turned around, and I just kept saying, 'Hey Dad, I forgot I have to tell you something, I'd like you to meet my friend.' So the attacker let go his grip on my shoulder, and I was walking real fast across the street and saying, 'Hey Dad, I forgot, I forgot.' I'm still talking to this total stranger I don't even know, and this man is looking at me really puzzled and I'm thinking, Keep still, don't move, just wait till I reach you. The next thing I know, the attacker split, and I got up to the other man and I said, 'Oh, I'm sorry, I thought you were my dad.'

"I was really upset the whole thing had happened, so I ran, and I couldn't call my parents, because I'm deaf, so the only thing I could do was take a bus to the other side of Santa Cruz. I felt that if I went to another bus stop across the street or in the area that he might get me again. So I took a bus across town and then rode the bus home from there.

"I felt that what I did was really a good device to use in terms of my deafness. If there are other people around, I could perhaps use that device again. It has made me more aware of the fact that someone can approach me from behind without me knowing, so I am more conscious about things that happen behind me. I don't tend to stay in one particular position very long, because I know that if I'm out on the street along, especially at night, my vision is the only thing I have in terms of preparing myself for another incident..."

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Check the column again in January for the last part of her story--you won't want to miss it. And remind yourself that women who are attacked often avoid rape, or even serious injury; you just don't hear about those cases. This woman's deafness didn't stop her from outwitting a potential attacker, and hearing people can do the same. Criminals don't always win, and they're not always smarter!

*From Her Wits About Her, edited by Denise Caignon and Gail Groves. Copyright 1987 by Denise Caignon and Gail Groves. Used with permission of Harper & Row, Publisher, Inc. (now HarperCollins). All rights reserved.

If you have a similar story of preventing crime or helping to capture a criminal, or know someone else who does, contact Lorna Hartman.

Link to previous Crimestoppers columns: