Self-Defense in Colombia: Why I Fought For My Purse
I have been traveling off-and-on for 16 years and have covered a few countries in my time, but had never been mugged, pickpocketed or physically attacked—anywhere! This winning streak came to an end in Armenia, Colombia when a guy tried to mug me.
I say tried, as he was thankfully unsuccessful after I fought back and prevented him from stealing my purse. Afterwards, when family and friends were through showing initial concern for my welfare, some of them soon became angry at me. “Why didn’t you just give him what he wanted?!” “You’re crazy for fighting back.” “You should have just given it to him and walked away.”
This in turn made me angry as I was the victim here. Why do I have to be the one to concede and give my attacker what he wants? Why shouldn’t I be encouraged to stand up and defend myself if an opportunity presents itself? I know this encounter could have ended differently and that their anger is only an emotional response related to their concern about my welfare but why not get angry at my attacker instead?
I wasn’t scared or upset in that moment. I was shocked that I had been chosen as a target.
Women are always told to deal with an attacker by giving in and giving them what they want. I know the intention behind this advice is to keep us safe and out of harm, but the fact of the matter is that it doesn’t always mean a positive ending. It doesn’t mean the violence shown towards us is any less if we give up our purses or handbags.
I was lucky with my potential attacker. He was unarmed and obviously expected me to react differently to how I did. He spoke to me in Spanish and tried to get me to look in the opposite direction. Fortunately, I didn’t speak Spanish so I didn’t understand I was meant to look away. This then allowed me to see his hand moving towards my pocket and react by grabbing his arm and struggling with him. He was determined and fought back. It ended when I managed to roll onto my back and use my legs to lever him off me, forcing him to let go of his grip. He responded with one final punch to my head, and then it was over.
I wasn’t scared or upset in that moment. I was shocked that I had been chosen as a target and annoyed at his audacity. No one came to my assistance afterwards and I was left to retrieve my sunglasses and sort myself out before continuing on. If I had not fought back, I still might have been hit on the head. He might have stolen my bag as well as my purse, knowing that he could take what he wanted from me. I would then be stuck in the middle of Colombia with all the inconvenience of not speaking the language and trying to get replacement bank cards and new ID.
I fought back. I know it was a risk to do so, but I felt confident in my abilities in that situation and knew it was a one-on-one encounter with no weapons. Had there been more attackers or a weapon involved, I don’t know how I would have responded. Maybe I would have defended myself again. It was an instinctive reaction, which paid off because I got to keep my purse.