Real life: How I survived an assault

Reader's Digest Editors 28 July 2019

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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