What can we learn – Thalia Heffernan

A couple weeks ago, 20-year old model Thalia Heffernan was attacked on the streets of Dublin. I’m glad to hear Ms. Heffernan is doing alright. After reading her story, I think there are some important lessons we can all learn from what she went through.

I am going to refer to two stories. This one from herald.ie and this story from independent.ie.

The attack happened at 4:20 AM around the Dublin city center. Attacks can happen at any time of day and at any location. This does remind me of John Farnam’s famous quip: “Don’t go to stupid places; don’t associate with stupid people; don’t do stupid things. We will add to that, be in bed by 10 o’clock.” Ms. Heffernan didn’t appear to have too much choice tho, as it appears she was on her way to work. In such a case, it behooves us to increase our awareness of our surroundings and take greater precautions and measures to ensure our personal safety.

Especially if you’re walking alone, which it appears Ms. Heffernan was.

“No older than around 18, this young girl hit me three or more times in the face, elbowed and shoved me in an attempt to pull my backpack off my arm, while another young guy came behind me and grabbed the other side. Nearly pulling my jumper and arms with them, they ran away with everything I had.”

When people think about potential attackers, I guarantee you the gender will always be male. Society tends to view women as victims, not attackers, not aggressors. But reality is that an attacker can be anyone: male or female, young or old. You must expand your notion of who could be an attacker, else you will blind to the possibilities.

The assault was physical.

“What’s worse is that there was nothing I could do to even attempt to defend myself, despite screaming and crying after them,” she added. “I knew if I tried to fight back that it would end badly, and maybe even with me in hospital.

“Even now, a number of hours later, I’m still shaking writing this.. No matter how hard you train or how well your capable of fighting your corner, young kids in gangs like this can render you completely useless.

I’m not sure what training she had. I searched around and only found references to her being big on fitness, so maybe she just exercises a lot, but nothing gave me the impression she received any sort of self-defense or combative/martial-arts training.

If I could speak with her, I’d like to inquire about “there was nothing I could do to even attempt to defend myself”. There sure is a lot you can do to defend yourself, because screaming and crying certainly isn’t effective. What I wonder is about her mindset. Has she ever considered in her 20 years of life that someone might want to attack her? Has she ever contemplated what she would do in response? Has she taken steps to enable a useful response? Too many people walk through life never considering that bad things might happen to them, and taking steps that could help them address that situation. Have you ever stopped to think about yourself? And what have you done to address it? Denial doesn’t count.

Regarding her last sentence, she elaborates:

“They’re ruthless and will do anything to get what they want. I don’t understand how anyone could ever even consider doing that to another person. I hope I can help the gardai in identifying at least some of them, and eventually have them all pay for what they’ve done not only to me but countless others.”

“I don’t understand how anyone could ever even consider doing that to another person”.

Let that sink in.

You have to know, there are 7 billion people in this world and I guarantee most of them do not think like you.  There are some people in this world that think so far distant from you that yes you cannot consider nor fathom how someone could be that way. But that doesn’t mean such people don’t exist. Just watch the news every day, and you’ll see countless stories of deviant behavior. The best thing we can do is acknowledge such people do exist, that there are horrible people out there that are ruthless and will do anything to get what they want — including destroying you and not caring one bit.

So what are you going to do about it?

Because another key take-away from this event? The only help the police (the gardai) can give is possible hope of catching the attackers after the fact. No one was around to help her. The only person that could have come to her aid, was herself.

Now, the catwalk queen who has travelled the world alone for her work, says she will take more caution when travelling alone

“I just wasn’t expecting it to happen to me – you never think it would happen to yourself en route to work,” she added of the incident, which Gardai are investigating.

I’ve always been quite an independent person, I travel alone a lot, I’m on my own quite often – after that, I definitely am a bit shook.

“I’ll be a bit more cautious and careful.”

Again, she lived never expecting, never acknowledging such a thing could happen. And when it did, all she could do was be astonished and a victim, instead of meeting the violence and making it stop.

I hope that being “more cautious and careful” will translate over into actually taking greater steps to help herself when violence again comes her way. We all need a wake-up call to the realities of the world, I hope this is hers and she uses the lessons wisely. I hope you can too.

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