Preclusion with creeps is often not straightforward. Creeps aren’t stupid. If they hunt captive prey, they can be more successful. At the same time, if they corner a victim too obviously, they could blow their cover. Very few people would blame a woman who reacts badly to being cornered in a dark basement.
What the clever ones often do is seek opportunities where people would be physically able to leave, but are kept there by other reasons. That can make it very hard for targets to articulate their preclusion.
For instance, a creep may target someone at a workplace. If you are at your place of work, you’re not physically stuck there… but you can’t just leave, either. If your colleagues or bosses have been groomed into believing in the creep’s innocence, or if they have other priorities (e.g. profits), you can end up feeling completely stuck. This feeling of powerlessness is likely to increase your discomfort, which is what the creep wants.
A creep may target someone at a class. Yes, you could drop your BJJ because of the new class creep, but you really want to carry on training. You’ve invested a lot in your hobby, both in time and money, and you enjoy it. There may not be alternative equivalent training in your area. You’re after all, in a safe space… with people who would support you, if only they could see what you see… and you are there of your own free will. How can you say that you’re forced to deal with that creep, when you could leave at any time? When you could just up and tell them that you don’t want to be near them? How can you justify feeling so unsafe now when ‘nothing is really happening,’ and ‘nothing’ could really happen in such a safe setting?
(For instructors who are routinely struggling to keep – not to get, but to keep – female students in their class, I’d recommend remembering that a creeper is always a possibility. There could be a myriad other reasons why women keep quitting, but forgetting that a creeper could be one of them is unwise.)
A creep may target an individual in a public place, or in the context of a large social gathering. Out of hearing range, they might be targeting an individual, saying the most inappropriate things, or saying things that are borderline in an unequivocally inappropriate tone, while maintaining a completely innocent demeanour. To the onlookers, it will look just like two people chatting. If the targets reacts, the onlookers may or may not believe them. If the creep has spent time developing the appropriate persona, there really are good chances that the targets will be deemed to be “overreacting.”
(There’s another factor here that needs to be expanded on at some point. Predatory behaviour often requires that a predator isolates the prey. That isolation doesn’t have to be physical. There are plenty of ways to cut us off from our resources, and convincing us that if we tried to summon them it would all blow up in our face is a brilliant way to do it.]
These are just a few common examples of how creeps may use our lack of preclusion against us. There are plenty of variations on this theme, because this happens a lot. The important thing for us to remember is that sometimes we may look free to leave, while we’re actually stuck… but sometimes we may feel trapped, when we’re actually keeping ourselves in a situation.