I was watching the sad case of Illinois grad student YingYing Zhang being abducted in a car and then later killed by the driver Brendt Christensen, who’s now in prison for life.

It makes me wonder: what could someone do when abducted in a car?

Open the car door and roll out onto the road and run away?


3 Answers 3


First of all, abduction by car is a pretty rare circumstance in the U.S. It might be more common in other countries, I can't say. But I think the statistics show it's only on the order of a few hundred abductions per year in the U.S. And most of those are children under the age of 21. For adults, it's even more rare.

So that should put this into perspective. It's rare, so you shouldn't spend too much time and thought on it.

First, if all you learn is one thing from this answer, it should be: Don't get in the car.

Once you're in the car, you're as good as dead. They will take you to someplace secluded which will let them rape, torture, and kill you there without worrying about being found out.

So, don't let them put you in that car. Do whatever you can to struggle and get free. Your life literally depends on this.

Situational awareness is important here. Use some common sense. A lot has already been written about this subject, so I won't spend any time on it here.

As soon as someone grabs you, if you're a woman, you repeatedly scream, "Help! Rape! Rape! Police! Help!" If you're a man, you yell something like, "Police! Call the police! He's mugging me! Help! Police! Someone call the police!"

As for what sort of martial arts training might help you out in this circumstance, there are some skills you can easily train which require very little time investment on your part and which can be remembered very easily without having to keep training at it.

The most important physical skill to learn is how to get someone to release their hold on you. There are techniques in martial arts called "dissolves" which work to release holds on your wrist and arm.

The main thing to learn is how to apply leverage to the weak part of their grip in order to slide out of their hold. There aren't many of these dissolves. And when you drill them for an hour or so, they become somewhat intuitive and permanently ingrained in your memory. Just learning how to wiggle and how to bend at your elbow is enough if you forget the individual techniques.

Once you wiggle out of a hold, you're free again, and you need to run as fast as you can.

If everything goes wrong, and you're in that car, you need to use whatever you can to get out of there. Don't wait until the car reaches its destination. The destination is the end of the road for you.

Even when the car is moving, do whatever you can to attack the driver and escape. Falling from a moving vehicle isn't recommended, but you might be able to cause the car to crash, and then you might get away. Once the car is crashed, hopefully it will draw the attention of the police, also.

Aside from that, if you're in a moving car against your will, flash signs with your hands and say "help" with your mouth silently. Maybe someone will see you and will call the police.

Here's a web site showing the hand sign to use to indicate that you need help now:


If you can write "HELP" on your palm with a pen, that might also work. Show people your palm.

Obviously, if you still have your cell phone, use the SOS feature. I doubt most abductors would let you keep your phone, though.

Bottom line: Don't get in the car. And once in the car, get out before you reach the destination.

Hope that helps.

  • It would be worthwhile to include a picture or description of the hand signal you have linked.
    – mattm
    Commented Jan 4, 2022 at 15:42

If you find yourself in this situation, you've already lost 98% of the battle. But if you're there, you're probably a woman, so will you be able to punch the guy in the jaw to stun him? Nah. If you know how to punch with your knuckles, the temple would cause more pain. Try an eye gouge to distract him, then if necessary lunge towards the steering wheel, clutch it to your chest so that it's not just your arm strength against his, and jerk it to one side to cause a crash. It's better than certain torture and death in a barn somewhere.

It'd be more of a long shot to be able to do this, but if you're close enough, bite through his ear, then grind back and forth to cause more pain, then go for the eyes or wheel. Do not be polite about his.

If I personally were to jump out of a car, I'd wrap my hands around the back and sides of my head, elbows in tight, to try to protect it.

  • I don't like the idea of biting... I mean it may be 'effective' in that it wins the fight but if you catch a blood borne disease then it's not really a good decision.
    – Huw Evans
    Commented Jan 4, 2022 at 14:35
  • Well, I didn't say they had to like it... but it's better than the alternative. Commented Jan 4, 2022 at 17:55

Ok, so first you shouldn't get in the car. Even if that person is a friend or a fellow student/worker, TRUST NO ONE. Friends might not be trying to do it, but fellow students/workers may be trying to lure you into the car. If you go in to the car and realize that you are tricked, there might be a lock switch in the door to open it even if the doors are locked. A backup option (assuming you are trained in martial arts) is to quickly get to the front if possible and attack the driver. However, this is risky as they might have weapons. If you have the door's lock opened or broke the window somehow with tools or your feet/hands, try to get out and land in a soft surface such as grass. But mostly, don't get in the car even if it is someone you know. Today, this world is dangerous. Trust nobody. Stay safe.

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