The most dangerous thing a woman can do: A WAFF 48 News special report

Never take rides from strangers. It's advice that has been drilled into our heads since childhood, yet some women do.

It maybe out of desperation or a lapse in judgement, but it's putting these women at risk for assault, rape or worse.

It turns out the worst thing a woman can do is say "yes." Yes, to a ride home from the seemingly friendly guy at the bar or a ride after being stranded on the side of the road.

Madison Police Lieutenant, John Stringer said women can open themselves up to becoming a victim easily. And contrary to what many believe, wearing conservative clothing does not decrease the risk.

"There's nothing wrong with meeting strangers and talking to people, but you do have to be aware that there is always a possibility that this person may have other things in mind," said Lt. Stringer. "They are violent acts of power and control, that is really what it tends to be about taking control over someone else."

Stringer said women have to assume that people have dark motives behind what seem like the nicest of offers like a drink at the bar or help with a flat tire.

Every year, women are assaulted, raped, and murdered because they said yes to the wrong person. Becky Johnston learned a hard lesson.

"When it touches you personally, then you think about it more," she said. "I really didn't think about it before that because we think we are invincible."

While not a victim herself, she learned through the tragedy of her close friend that letting your guard down for a split second could change your life.

Her friend's daughter, 19-year-old Samantha Burns was raped and murdered in 2002 after being abducted from a West Virginia mall parking lot. That's why Johnston now has a few skills under her belt after taking a rape, aggression, defense class or RAD. It's a basic self defense class taught by Madison Police Officers. They are teaching women the techniques they need to protect themselves in any situation.

"Nobody thinks that they will be attacked so it's really good to do," said Natasha Otey who also took the class.

It's a good idea, but a better idea is not putting yourself in a dangerous situation in the first place. So why and how do women say yes to a stranger?

Madison County Rape Response Coordinator, Monique Brouillette said bad guys know exactly when to use a woman's weak moment to their advantage. She encourages women to do their best to avoid putting themselves in a vulnerable position at all cost.

She said there are two types of perpetrators, those who seize an opportunity when one arises and others who methodically go looking for a victim.

Of the more than 300 reported rapes in Madison County over the last two years, there's no telling how many resulted from a woman saying yes to the wrong thing, but Lieutenant Stringer said it can be prevented.

"Be responsible for your safety, be aware of what's going around you, never put yourself in position where you will be incapacitated to the point that you can't take control of what's going on around you," he suggested.

These are tips women of the RAD class have learned and now share with others.

"Talk to your children, talk to your young girls, even your young men," Johnston added.

"Always have somebody with you, never do things by yourself because you never know, just never know," Otey agreed.

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