It’s 12:30am. It’s not *too* late to walk the half block from the bar to your place; there are still a lot of people out on the sidewalks having a good time. You tell your friends you’ll text them when you get back to your apartment. About half way home you feel someone is walking behind you- not just walking behind you, but following you with intent. You walk a little bit faster. They walk a little bit faster. Do you run? Do you turn around? Did you make the right choice? These are reasonable questions that will race through your mind in a situation that is entirely possible. This article from ABCNews written by Jamie Cohen offers some possible steps to take to avoid a woman’s worst nightmare.
Expert Safety Tips to Prevent, Defend Against Violent Crime
Protect Yourself: Personal Safety Tips for Women
Some 1.9 million women are physically assaulted annually in the United States, and 15 percent to 25 percent of all American women will report a sexual attack or rape at some time in their lives, according to studies conducted by the Justice Department and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
And experts say that because the majority of sexual assaults go unreported, the numbers from these studies may represent only a fraction of the violent of crimes against women.
But while these numbers may seem frighteningly high, safety authorities are quick to point out that women need not view themselves as helpless victims. ABCNEWS’ Healthy Woman asked crime and safety specialists the most effective precautions a woman can take when walking alone to keep herself from becoming a statistic:
Dress to Kill. Clogs, high heels, and tight skirts are hard to run and fight in, while scarves and long necklaces are easy to grab. If possible, modify your fashion style or wear comfortable clothing when walking alone. You can always change into dress-up clothes later. Or, think through how you would fight in your dress-up clothes. Would you kick off your high heels or hike your skirt up around your hips to run or kick?
Make Eye Contact. It may be your first instinct to lower your gaze as you walk to your destination. But looking straight into the face of potential enemies is the better option. “Eye contact may scare off attackers because they fear you will be able to identify them,” says Mary Ellen Burns, a spokesperson for the Boston Police Department.
Keep Eyes and Ears Open, Hands Free. It is important to be alert to who and what is around you. Talking on a cell phone or listening to headphones makes you easy prey for a predator. The only reason you should be using your mobile phone is notify a friend of your whereabouts or to call for help. Also, limit the number of bundles you have to carry by using a backpack or bag with a shoulder strap. This will ensure that your hands are free to defend.
Be Lazy, Take the Elevator Over the Stairs. And when in the elevator, stand in front of the doors, then if someone you feel uneasy about gets on with you, you can step off immediately.
Fight Your Inner Woman. Experts say that women tend to be sympathetic — don’t be! History has shown that serial killers and other criminals often play on the sympathies of unsuspecting women to lure them into dangerous situations. If someone asks for the time, directions, or help in or around their car, be as courteous as possible but keep moving. You can always assist the stranger by making a phone call to police from a safe location, or by finding others to go back and help with you.
Change It Up. Regularly change your walking routine. Plan out a few different routes that you can take and mark out “safe houses” in your mind at intervals along the way. In the event of attacks, you can stop at these shops or homes where you know you will be safe. Try to incorporate these houses every time you vary your route
Be Paranoid and Suspicious. It is always better to be safe than sorry. When in a parking lot, look at the cars parked on either side of your vehicle. If a male in a vehicle is sitting alone in the seat nearest your car, or if you are parked next to a van, always enter your car from the side opposite the strange vehicle. If the parking lot is particularly dark or deserted, it may be wise to go back and find a friend or guard who can walk you to your car.
WHEN IT’S TOO LATE
If you have gotten yourself into a violent situation, the most important thing is to react immediately.
Run, Run, Run. If the predator has a gun but you are not under his control, take off. Experts say the predator will only hit you, a running target, four out of every 100 shots. And even then, it most likely will not be a vital organ.
Stay Put. Do not let your attacker take you to an abandoned area. If he does, the likelihood that you will be seriously injured increases tenfold, says Burns. You do not want to get to “crime scene number two” so do whatever it takes and never give up.
Hit the Attacker Where It Counts. The eyes, knees, throat and groin are very vulnerable, good places to gouge and kick. But listen to your instincts and try to determine if a counter attack by you is the best approach. If you do decide to fight, make sure your first move is as forceful as possible. It may be your only hope.
Try Anything and Everything. Additional approaches are offering your wallet, jumping out at a stoplight, doing something to cause an accident, or signaling to other drivers. If you are thrown into the trunk of a car, experts advise you to kick out the back tail lights, stick your arm out the hole, and start waving wildly. The driver won’t see you but everyone else will. This trick is said to have saved lives.
Safety Tips compiled from contributions by; Jayne Hitchock, president of Women Halting Online Abuse, Mary Ellen Burns, spokesperson for the Boston Police Department, and The Women’s Safety Project, a non-profit organization founded to provide self-defense information to women and girls.
-As a Martial Art’s instructor, whose focus is on self defense and women’s safety, I find some pieces of this article that need more fleshing out. These experts are absolutely right about being aware. You should never have both ear-bugs in with music playing- you need to be able to hear what’s going on in your surroundings. It’s also important that you keep your hands free, whether it’s to defend yourself, or simply provide other security-you never want to face-plant on a curb because your hands were tucked deep in your pockets. I also think that it is very important to prevent issues before they start- cross the street when you see suspicious activity ahead, look around you and notice the people you see, and if you find yourself in an aggressive situation- talk your way out if you can. Preventing a violent situation is the best piece of self-defense you’ll have in your arsenal. And as they state in this article- running is always an option. So many women love their cardio, so use it- and run like hell.
What I don’t like about this article, is that the writers assume a small women (or any woman for that matter) can hit her attacker square in the eyeball, or directly on a knee joint in the heat of the moment and take that attacker out with one blow. The real truth is, that pound for pound, women are at an extreme disadvantage; and when confronted physically by a man, a woman will not only be out-muscled, but she may also panic. This article cannot prepare you for what your body may do, or how you may respond (especially if an assailant has a gun- I doubt you will be thinking “if I run I have a 4/100 chance that I won’t get shot!”); and without training, it can be very difficult to hit a vital target and do any kind of damage to that target. Being a small woman myself, and knowing my own limits when fighting with men, it is best to realize that it will not be my skill, or my training that gets me out of my situation, but rather an act of VIOLENCE, and my determination to fight beyond the limits of my mind. I must be prepared to do anything to survive, and I also must realize that one blow to the groin will not save my life. If you truly believe that you will need to use physical force, then it is important to begin some type of training that will put you into situations where you can use both your panic response and your strength to target weak areas. I must also note- just because you do well in a self defense class does not mean you can take on the world; you are learning a skill-set, remain humble to remain safe!
Lastly, this article points out that if you are thrown into a trunk you can smash out a taillight to signal for help… while this is true, if it gets to the point where you are tied up and thrown into the trunk of a moving vehicle, you have done many, many things wrong. If your attacker is demanding a wallet or purse- GIVE IT TO THEM. You can replace a purse, a wallet, a credit card, you cannot come back from the dead. However, if your attacker is telling you to get into a vehicle, get on your knees, move to an alley, now it is time to fight back- and do what you must to survive. Only become physical when you are forced into it- and be prepared to fight for your life.
Here is a short list of Do’s and Don’ts I like to give to my college-age female students, a lot of it still applies to an older population:
- ALWAYS be AWARE– Be aware of your surroundings. Trust your gut. If your gut says “danger”- GET OUT.
- NO ONE has the right to put their hands on you.
- TELL your roommate or a friend WHERE you are going for the night, WHEN you plan to return, and HOW they can get in touch with you.
- ALWAYS use the buddy system when going out. DO NOT leave your buddy even if they appear “safe”. Agree that your buddy will never leave you.
- DO NOT go out without knowing HOW you’re getting home, or WHO will be driving you home. DO NOT trust a new “friend” to get you home safely- work out plans with your buddy BEFORE going out.
- NEVER let someone else Handle/Pour/Bring you your drink. If you are unsure about your drink “accidentally” spill it, or get up and get yourself another. DO NOT drink a suspicious drink.
- If you feel NAUSEOUS, DIZZY, or DRUNK after a few sips, find your buddy and LEAVE immediately. DO NOT trust anyone but your buddy to get you home safely.
- TALK your way out of a situation- use force as a last resort.
- IF you are in a situation that is becoming dangerous CALL THE POLICE immediately.
- IF you are assaulted or believe you have been the victim of date rape, get in touch with the police or your school’s Rape Crisis Center. You can also contact the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network which can connect you with a 24 hour Confidential Crisis Hotline http://www.rainn.org or 1-800-656-HOPE