Human trafficking is growing, with women and children making up the bulk of the trade. And while it may not seem that way, it happens all around us, in pristine and poor locations alike. Actress Roxane Hayward can attest to the prevalence of the problem since she was almost kidnapped. Here’s what happened.
“About three and a half years ago I was in Putney, London, for work. I was walking down a suburban street on my way home. It was a quiet Sunday sunny afternoon, the streets were empty and I was in such a great mood walking in the sunshine. I noticed a car drive by me – obviously not an unusual thing to happen on a street in London. It was a black BMW with dark (almost completely black) tinted windows. The diver’s window was rolled down half-way. The thing that stood out to me as weird was when the car got closer to me, it slowed down. The driver looked at me, then sped up completely, did a three-point-turn and came back towards me.
There were no other cars nor people around. Taking inspiration from the street-smart London women, I kept my head down and carried on walking; avoiding eye contact or any form of engagement at all cost. Unfortunately, that wasn’t enough to deter him – he had made up his mind that I was his target. He rolled down the other window and said, “Get in the car.” I carried on walking. He then abruptly stopped the car, got out and started walking quickly towards me. He reached for my arm as he shouted under his breath, ‘I said, get in the f*cking car!'”
“Had I tried to be polite, the story almost definitely would have ended very differently.”
As he walked towards me and reached out for me, I looked straight ahead and started running. I ran for my life – literally. I had just, the day before, watched a Usain Bolt interview and he said, ‘The higher I lift my knees, the quicker I run.’ So there I was, running down the street in a brightly-coloured dress, lifting my knees as high as they could go. As soon as I started running, he got back into his car and started following me. Thankfully, I ran up to a oneway street and turned in the opposite direction to the flow of the cars which forced him to drive away from me. I remember, for the rest of that afternoon walk home, any car that drove up from behind me sent shivers down my spine. I kept turning back to make sure there wasn’t the same black BMW driving my way. I got home, closed the door behind me and burst out crying.
After the incident, I felt so many things. I felt completely helpless. I felt thankful to the skies above that I was left unharmed. But mostly, I felt angry with myself for being so oblivious to the evils that are out there and the fact that I was so ill-equipped to handle the situation might he have grabbed hold of my arm – and who knows to what extremes that might have escalated. Pepper spray in the EU is illegal, I had no clue how to break a grip and certainly no idea how to hold a proper fist, let alone punch someone. So what would I have done? The reality is, I would have fallen victim and have had a far worse story to tell. I was on edge for weeks after the incident and I was worried about every person who looked at me in the street, on the tube and on the bus. I felt as if there was a predator around every corner. It took me a while to get back to my optimistic self and remember that the majority of people in this world are good and have good intentions.
Here’s What I Did Differently
I Was Aware Of My Surroundings
Because of the beauty of the day, I was soaking up my environment and taking it all in. I guess that I can be thankful for that because it resulted in my being aware of my surroundings and not be taken completely off-guard when the situation did occur – we are so often lost in thought or on our phones; not aware of what is going on around us – the first mistake when it comes to self-defence.
I Wasn’t Polite
So often, people are worried about being rude or embarrassed to react abruptly because they feel it might be an over-reaction. All I can say is, had I not bolted away, had I tried to be polite and ask the man what he wanted, the story almost definitely would have ended very differently. The point is: if you are aware of your surroundings and you feel a threat (no matter how slight it may be), get yourself out of harm’s way as quickly as possible rather than hanging around, waiting to find out what the individual’s intentions might be.
I Learned Self-Defence
My entire life and daily routine have also changed as my interests have gone from lifting weights in the gym to wearing boxing gloves in the ring. Nearly three years ago, I stared Muaythai training with two-time World Champion Quentin Chong. Not only have I acquired a new, useful skill that could potentially save my life, but I have also seen a huge transformation in my body and have never felt fitter nor healthier.”
Now, Roxane is a spokesperson for self-defence and hosts seminars that focus on human rights, empowerment, safety and teaching individuals how to defend themselves. She’ll be hosting another seminar on the 20th October in Cape Town. Get tickets here.