Two Indiana women, ages 19 and 21, were abducted, and they both had children under the age of 3 with them at the time.

The women were taken to an abandoned home and in an eight-hour period were physically and sexually assaulted in front of their children.

What makes this story unique is that these women weren’t bound. Especially since they were together and not by themselves, they could have tried to escape, fight back or do something to try to protect themselves. But they didn’t.

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These women, who had a disadvantaged background and low self-esteem, had a difficult time recovering from the incident. They both lost custody of their children. One attempted suicide three times, and the other became addicted to narcotics.

“Their recovery has been phenomenally hard because they realize they didn’t do everything they could have done to protect themselves and their children,” said Indiana State Police Trooper Tami Watson, who recently presented a women’s safety community outreach program at Cornerstone Community Church in Seymour.

Watson said she hopes the dozen women from Jackson County Extension Homemakers clubs who attended the “Situational Awareness” program realize the importance of having a plan and knowing how to defend themselves and their families.

“If we have a plan, I’m not going to say we’re not going to get hurt. I’m prepared to get hurt,” she said. “If they hurt this arm, that’s why the Lord gave me another one. If they hurt this finger, I have nine others. If they hurt this eye, I have another one. That has to be your mindset.

“Once he lays his hands on you, you didn’t give him permission to do that,” she added. “He can’t do that to you. … You need to let him know that you are now in charge of this scenario. I don’t care how old, young, short, big, little, it doesn’t matter. You don’t give anyone permission to hurt you, and you need to let him know that in any way you can.”

‘OK, game on’

Watson, who has been a state trooper for 17 years, said she always has been extremely passionate about situational awareness and safety. The Bartholomew County native was the only girl among her parents’ six children and was raised on a farm in Azalia.She grew up in a time where she could leave the windows open at home and run along country roads at night and not be afraid. But times have changed, she said.It’s now important for people, especially women, to have a plan for every aspect of life, whether you are at home, work or somewhere else out in public.

“If you have a plan, your confidence is going to be better,” she said. “When that confrontation first happens, you’re going to be overwhelmed, it doesn’t matter who you are. There’s that moment of ‘Oh,’ then it’s like, ‘OK, game on. Here’s what we’re doing.’ … If you don’t have a plan, you’re going to lock up. You’re not going to be able to have that little bit of extra confidence you need.”

That plan could involve carrying a gun for your safety and knowing how to use it. Watson and her brother, Brent Lykins, who also is a state trooper, and two sons, Aaron and Alec Watson, started Watson-Chambers Defense Institute.

Don’t be ea

sy targetShe teaches women-only firearms and safety courses and said the three-hour class is extremely popular.“It’s not to make everybody a shooter, not even to carry a gun. The class is to make people aware of firearms,” she said.

“Most of us have them in our homes,” she said. “Ladies, we’re not doing ourselves a favor by not being able to be familiar with guns and be able to use guns. Even if you never carry it, if you are in your home alone and you are forced to defend yourself and there’s a firearm in your home and you don’t know how to use it, shame on you. It’s already there, and you have access to it. You owe it to yourself to be able to protect yourself.”

Having a security system, particularly one with video cameras, also can help deter crime at your home, Watson said. She had items stolen from her police car at home, so she had cameras installed. That may have cost her some money, but she said her homeowners insurance went down $10 per month, and she feels better about her safety.

Watson said it’s important for women to not enable their own victimization. Statistically, women are victimized by men the most, and it’s because women are considered the weaker sex, Watson said.

“It’s probably not popular to use in today’s politically correct world,” she said. “But I’ve worked in a male-dominated field my entire career, and I’m the only girl among five boys. I am very aware that I am the weaker sex.”

But if you’re a strong, on-your-game type of woman, Watson said, you’re not going to be perceived as an easy target.

She said women have to be a little more proactive about their own safety.

“If we rely on all of the men in our lives to keep us safe, as chivalrous as that is and as much as most men would step up to the plate, ladies, we are by ourselves at times in our lives,” she said. “That’s when we’re going to be victimized. That’s when a lot of times, we let our guards down.”

Being proactive

Watson said there are four areas in which people live — unaware, aware, alert and alarm. She said most people live in the unaware neighborhood.“We are unaware of our daily lives,” she said. “People are so distracted by devices — iPads, phones, computers — all the time. We are so distracted by devices and our personal agendas that we don’t pay attention to what’s going on around us.”Criminals, on the other hand, are aware of what’s going on around them, waiting for an opportunity to commit a crime.

“We need to keep an eye on what we’re doing, but we also need to protect our own things,” Watson said. “Don’t make it too easy for the bad guys. We have to take responsibility for our own safety.”

She said it’s time to move into the aware neighborhood and think about the safety of yourself and others around you.

“We need to start operating our daily lives a lot more aware of our surroundings,” she said. “How often do we pass up things that are going on right under our nose and we, A, don’t recognize it; B, sometimes we do but think, ‘Oh, I’m not getting involved in that’; and how often do we not do anything when sometimes maybe we should?

“We don’t live in a safe time. It is getting worse. We have to take responsibility for our safety,” she said. “Make a phone call if you see something suspicious. If not, no harm, no foul. If it is, you may have saved someone’s life.”

Rhonda Kidwell, president of Jackson County Extension Homemakers, said Watson’s program changed her thinking and actions, and she hopes it does the same for other women.

“Just being more aware of their circumstances, of their surroundings, just those kinds of things to be aware of,” she said. “(Watson) did excellent. I thought it was great.”

On the Web

For information about Watson-Chambers Defense Institute, visit wc-defenseinstitute.com or facebook.com/watsonchambersdefenseinstitute.

Author photo
Zach Spicer is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. He can be reached at zspicer@tribtown.com or 812-523-7080.