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So often, we find ourselves in situations where we don’t feel safe, be this at home, at the office, in shopping malls or on the street. How can we judge situations and know with relative surety that the behaviour portrayed by the people we face, leans towards friendliness or danger.

The answer is not a simple one, as we can never be 100% sure of what a person is about to do until they actually commence their action. Hopefully, what I am about to tell you will, in some small way, assist you in differentiating between threatening and non-threatening situations and increase your chances of avoidance and survival.

This technique involves what we in the protection and security industry refer to as the AOI Triangle. The AOI stands for Ability, Opportunity and Intent. As seen in the diagram below.

In order for a violent assault to take place, all three elements of the AOI Triangle need to be present. Let’s look at them in detail.


Does the person have the ability to attack you? This would signify that the attacker has the physical ability to attack another person, be this due to training, size, the number of attackers and the presence of weapons.


Has an opportunity presented itself to the attacker to take the advantage and attack you?

This literally means that the surroundings lend themselves to an attack; i.e. You are walking in a dark alleyway, you are alone, you are in an area that cannot be observed or you are rendered vulnerable either due to injury, age or physical disability. Opportunity, in this case also means that you are in an area beyond immediate help, thus, no one can come to assistance before the attacker has made his getaway. Many victims have found out that assault or robbery could occur in plain view and many a hapless victim has been raped in an area where there are people in the very next room.


The attacker has made the mental decision to commit the offence and shows outward signs of positioning him/herself in order to attack.

The easiest way to figure out if you are in potential danger is to look out for the AOI elements. If you see one element, allow your senses to look for the other elements. If you are in a position where two out of the three are present, you need to start making plans for a rapid escape and if the third element appears, do whatever you have to do to get away from the situation.

Allow me to give an example; you are walking down a road to get from A to B. To your right is the road and to your left is a high wall. Coming towards you on the same side of the road that you are on, is a group of men and two are carrying baseball bats. There are two scenarios here, either they are on the prowl for victims, or they are on their way to baseball practice.

Your knowledge of the AOI triangle tells you that at least two of the three elements are present here, namely ability, in that there are more of them than you and they are carrying potential weapons; and opportunity, in that they are walking towards you and you have no place to hide.

How do we complete the triangle? The best way in this case, would be to cross the road. If they too cross the road, we are again faced with two scenarios. Either they are showing intent to accost you, or they needed to be on the other side of the road in order to get to their baseball practice.

So in order to be sure, cross the road again to the original side and see what they do. If they cross again, they are showing unmistakeable intent to intimidate you, thus, turn around and run. If they stay on the opposite side, then the AOI elements are diffused. However, still keep an eye on them.

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