Self Defence: When the threat becomes reality - the stages of an attack

When the threat becomes reality - the stages of an attack


There are four main stages to an attack. Each stage represents an opportunity for you to break the cycle and regain control. Knowing what the stages are enables you to recognize and deal with them appropriately and in a timely manner.

Stage one is planning. The would-be attacker builds himself up, and decides to make an attack based on whatever his motive (unmet/warped need) may be - money, drugs, power, respect, etc. This stage includes victim selection, deciding on a location setting up the crime, laying in wait and stalking. Opportunistic attacks may seem unplanned and impulsive, but they do still include this stage; just accelerated or with some of the steps missing.


Stage two is initiation. The would be attacker makes the first move, feeling out whether or not their choice of victim was a wise one. They may approach you directly, attempt to manoeuvre you into isolation, engage you in conversation or draw your attention to something to distract you, or invade your personal space. If the second stage goes smoothly, the third stage follows swiftly.


Stage three is escalation. This is the point at which aggression makes its appearance, but has not yet reached a level of physical violence. Verbal threats, intimidation, posturing and aggressive feints accompany this stage. A typical attacker will have a healthy sense of self preservation themselves, and will attempt to force you into submissiveness from the beginning then keep you submissive with threats, lessening the danger to themselves.


Stage four is violence. The first three stages have gone without a hitch for the attacker, and he can do whatever he wants now. If you’ve let matters get this far, you are in serious trouble - that doesn’t mean you have to give up, it just means you missed a lot of opportunities to shut the attack down.

Each of the four stages has weaknesses that can be exploited to derail an attack and give you the opportunity to get away. Recognizing these opportunities and taking full advantage of them can keep the situation from escalating to full blown violence.