Pastor Frank Bower is the personification of the phrase, “You can’t judge a book by its cover.”
And as a Christian, he likes it that way.
Dressed in a camouflage print tank top and shorts, it’s difficult for Bower to hide his tattoos and scars on his intimidating muscular frame. But he doesn’t want to — they are part of his testimony.
Bower spent much of his younger years as a personal bodyguard of John Gotti, living a life of crime and violence completely opposite of the life he lives today. But he derives from his experiences of the past to inspire now, touring the state and nation to spread his testimony as well as founding the Family Prayer Center Rehab in Overton, Texas, with his wife, Tina.
Bower addressed women and children in the First Baptist Church-Red Oak’s Single Parent Ministry on Saturday evening, teaching self defense, the importance of prayer and shared part of his story.
“I learned that when I ran into Christians in my life, there seemed to be something that took the anger from me,” Bower said. “(Christians) are very alert of everyone around us. That’s very important.”
Through research, experience and statistics, Bower has developed what he considers key tips to self-defense for the normal woman or child.
Bower encouraged women and children to avoid a possible situation by being alert to people’s actions.
“Whether I walk into a store, parking lot — anywhere — I am very observant. We need to be observant. The problem is that there are people preying on us and children,” Bower said. Bower recommended an individual immediately enter a public place with lots of people if they suspect someone is following them.
Bower also said that children or adults in pairs are less likely to be abducted.
“Children that are abducted are children who have wandered off or are not supervised,” Bower said. “We are always paired. Most abductions don’t happen when kids are paired.”
Bower stressed the most important element of self-defense is to buy one second.
“What we’re always trying to do is buy a one-second rule,” Bower said, saying that one second allows a victim the opportu-nity to run from the situation, yell for help and escape. “Statistics show that if you are able to run, a stranger will not chase you.”
“The most important thing I’ve learned is to never panic,” Bower said.
With 85 percent of women abducted dying at the hands of the abductor, Bower said that fighting an abductor at the point of abduction is the fight to stay alive.
“The way I told my daughter is to die fighting, die where you are standing,” Bower said.
Bower stressed that being injured in a public place fares better for the victim rather than going with the abductor. If people witness the altercation, the police and medical services could be called in order to save a life as well as catch the perpetrator. By going with the abductor, women set themselves up for horrific experiences and severe injuries or murder in seclusion.
“Remember, dead weight is a lot heavier,” Bower said, suggesting a woman or child’s first move in self-defense is lying on the ground. “Most men aren’t going to drag you across the Wal-Mart parking lot to their car.”
Bower also instructed the women to yell loudly, stressing that the abductor is not a spouse or boyfriend.
“People are hesitant to get involved if they think the altercation is a domestic issue,” Bower said.
“You’ve got a lot of weapons — your feet, your knees, your hands, your head,” Bower said. “We want you to get away from a person as quickly as possible.”
Bower suggested using a car key or finger to injure an abductor’s eyes to buy at least one second to escape. Bower also said that hitting the nose with the back of one’s head or elbow is a painful strike that buys time. By tucking the chin down, women and children can temporarily prevent an abductor from choking them.
“We’re doing this with everything we have. We’re saving our lives,” Bower said. “Very few people who are abducted ever got in an altercation — they just went. If you don’t get out of the situation, whatever he wanted to do to you will happen.”
“Kids are different — most of the time the abductor tries to persuade the kids,” Bower said. “In the case of young kids, they are trained to yell. The biggest thing we talk about is falling to the ground.”
Children are encouraged to make a scene by becoming dead weight and yelling, stressing that the abductor is not a parent or family member.
“My kids are trained that if a man says, ‘I have a gun,’ they are supposed to run,” Bower said. “The whole picture of this is survival.”
For Bower, one of the most important keys to avoiding or surviving this type of situation is praying.
“We need to make sure we don’t take it for granted that we’re Christians and we’re always protected. Most people want to believe that nothing bad is going to happen,” Bower said. “Long before self-defense is issued, there may not be a need for it. Maybe just because an angel stopped the whole thing.”
The presentation was part of the First Baptist Church-Red Oak’s Single Parent Ministry.
“There’s a huge need for it in the church and the community,” said Single Parent Ministry director Kim Sandling of the ministry program. “It’s not the same as a singles group.”
Although the group is currently meeting for scheduled events, the group plans to begin meeting on Wednesday evenings when the new church building on Ovilla Road opens. The class is for men and women.