What Agent in Viral Assault Video Did Right

September 27, 2019

If you’re being threatened by someone at an open house or showing, the best-case scenario—if you’re able to do so—is to collect evidence of the incident that police can use to arrest and charge the assailant. Your first priority, of course, is self-defense in a dangerous situation such as this. But if you’ve familiarized yourself with the property, including the locations and angles of security cameras and other surveillance mechanisms, for example, you can use them to your advantage if you’re thinking fast during an attack.

That, plus a few other crucial steps, is a major reason a real estate agent in Encino, Calif., survived an assault at an open house this week. Security cameras on the front of the property captured a man violently shoving the agent, who has not been named, into bushes. The footage, which shows the man looking directly at the security camera before fleeing as the agent screams, went viral and led to the arrest of Alen Karaboghosian, 45. Karaboghosian’s parents have said he has an “intellectual disability” and intended no harm to the agent.

As a former real estate professional and national safety expert for more than 24 years, rarely have I seen an incident in which the victim—the agent—has such masterful awareness of her surroundings. Situational awareness is the top skill practitioners should develop in order to think and act more intentionally from a place of safety.

Blanket safety tips, such as work at night as little as possible, meet potential clients at your office first, and take a colleague with you to showings, have value—but they don’t prepare you for what to do in the heat of the moment. Let’s examine a few things the agent in the Encino incident did right.

Stop being so nice. It’s true that if you “look like” a victim, you stand a greater change of becoming one. This includes your body language, tone of voice, and overall presence. The Encino agent was unafraid to ask the man to leave the open house, an assertiveness that often rattles criminals or those who wish to do you harm. (Criminals tend to prey on the weak because they’re easier targets.) Though the agent’s boldness didn’t stop the man from assaulting her, standing up for oneself sends a stronger message to a potential assailant than cowering.

Keep escape routes clear. The agent was able to get out of the house the second she started feeling uncomfortable. Agents should always keep an escape route clear, which can be accomplished by always allowing the client to lead during a showing. You’ll be forced to keep doorways clear of any obstruction for such a purpose. It’s important before opening a home to visitors that you make sure nothing is blocking any doorways. Large mail packages that could obstruct an exit are primary impediments if you need to flee the home.

Increase witness potential. Do something to attract the attention of others if you can. The agent did several important things in this regard:

  • She went outside as soon as possible, where neighbors and passersby could potentially see the situation unfolding between her and the assailant.
  • Going outside was a smart move because of the security cameras, which the agent likely knew were there and would help capture evidence of the attack.
  • She screamed bloody murder. Even if an assailant threatens you not to, scream if you’re confident you will be heard by someone. Have another safety plan in place when showing basements and enclosed spaces after ensuring an escape route is clear. If you carry a weapon, make sure it is easy for you to access.