Real life: How I survived an assault

Reader's Digest Editors

It should have been her normal commute home from work. But Kris Herndon had to call on her instincts when she was attacked by a stranger. 

I was on my way home from work, cutting through the park. On that day, the sun seemed to set faster than usual, and suddenly I found myself walking in the dark. I was less than half a mile from my house, but the path would lead me over a bridge, across train tracks, and through an unlit underpass. 

Then I heard him—a stranger running alongside me in a half-crouch, partly obscured by the bushes. My mouth went dry; my legs felt like water. But I didn’t pick up my pace—instead, I stopped, turned, and faced him. He came out of the bushes and said he’d been watching me “for a long time.” 

How I escaped an assault
Photo by David Monje 

As he walked beside me, I steered us closer to the edge of the park. When we reached the bridge, a train rumbled past, and he seized the moment, lunging at me as his hands closed around my throat. He forced his tongue into my mouth.

The self-defense skills I had learned years before kicked in, and I dug my thumb into his eye, hard. And then came the shock: He didn’t flinch. He only grew bolder, pulling at my clothes. My mind flashed to a tip from an old guitar teacher: “Press the strings like you’re pinching a flea.” I put every ounce of my strength into that thumb, and finally, he let go. 

“Don’t be like that,” he said. 

“It is like that,” I replied. 

I was shaking with fear, but I looked him straight in the eye and began to back away.

I turned to sprint the hell out of there, but then I remembered another self-defense lesson: Never run because then you’re prey. So I walked away—alone—through the pitch-dark tunnel as I punched in 999 with trembling fingers. 


Use self-defense tactics you already know

  • The seat belt elbow: When you pull your seat belt across your body to unfasten it, you’re throwing an elbow. The faster you do this, the more force that elbow has. 
  • The melon eye gouge: Every time you check a melon for ripeness by holding its sides and pushing into the middle with your thumbs, you’re making the same motion as sticking your thumbs in some bad guy’s eyes.
  • The stair climber: Lift a leg to climb stairs, and you’re doing what it takes to knee a foe in the groin. 


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