The first measure is to be aware. Your own awareness to yourself and what is around you is your very first line of defense. True self-defense begins long before any physical contact.
The first, and most important component in self-defense or personal safety is awareness. Always be aware of your own feelings, your surroundings and a potential attacker’s likely strategies against you.
Potential Attacker Strategies to be Aware of:
- Intrusion Test — The person subtly checks out your boundaries by physical proximity, comments, demands on your time and attention.
- Desensitization – You become accustomed to these intrusion tests, and no longer notice when your physical/social/emotional boundaries are crossed.
- Isolation – The perpetrator isolates you, or waits for a situation where you’re isolated, to provide an opportunity for an assault/rape/attack.
- Trust your instinct – If someone makes you uncomfortable, don’t discount that feeling. Don’t give out a lot of information about yourself until you feel comfortable doing so.
- Angry outbursts – are intended to intimidate or control
- Ignores you or doesn’t believe you — discounts your “NO”
- Intrusion of your personal space — too close or inappropriate touching
- Interruptions or instrusive remarks — such as about your body, other women, etc.
- Forced teaming — making it seem like you have a mutual problem
- Loan sharking — doing you favors so you owe him something
- Typecasting — calling you a snob/racist/lesbian; he wants you to try to disprove it
Tips to Keep Yourself Safe:
- Listen to Your Body: Use your sixth sense or your gut instinct. Your body will have a physical reaction to a potentially violent situation before your brain has had a chance to process all of the information. Learn to trust this power and use it to your full advantage. Avoid a person or a situation that does not “feel right”; don’t tell yourself you’re being silly or paranoid!
- You Have the Right to Fight: Do you know or have you practiced any simple techniques to get out of various situations, from someone grabbing your arm, to a choke hold, to someone getting on top of you while you’re sleeping? Whether or not you have self-defense training, and no matter what your age or physical condition, you have options. It is important to understand that you CAN defend yourself physically. Many women worry that they will anger the attacker and get hurt worse if they defend themselves, but statistics clearly show that your odds of survival are far greater if you do fight back. Remember to use the element of surprise to your advantage—strike quickly, and mean business. Women are incredibly strong fighters!
Self Defense classes through the Women’s Center begin on July 20th. Sign up today by clicking “Register Now!” on the top of the page.
- Escape is Always Your Best Option: What if the unthinkable happens? A predator who demands that you go with him suddenly confronts you–be it in a car, or into an alley, or a building. You should never leave the primary crime scene. You are far more likely to be killed or seriously injured if you go with the predator than if you run away (even if he promises not to hurt you). Run away, yell for help, throw a rock through a store or car window—do whatever you can to attract attention. And if the criminal is after your purse or other material items, throw them one way while you run the other.
- Avoid High-Risk Behaviors: This is not to be construed in any way as blaming the victim. Violence perpetrated against women is not their fault. But remember, drinking or taking drugs diminishes awareness, reflexes, and ability to handle situations. Make sure people know where you are, how to reach you, etc. Use the ‘buddy system’ whenever possible. If your date is driving or in control of transportation or other arrangements, carry enough money to get home, get a hotel room, or whatever else you need to be safe.
- Car Safety: Always look into your vehicle to make certain it’s safe to get in it. Do not sit in the parking lot. Once you are in your car, turn on the engine and leave. Many women like to sit in their car and check grocery bags, pull out newly purchased items or find a good radio station before they pull out of their parking space. This leaves a great deal of time for someone to approach your car when you’re unaware. Once you’re in your car, lock the doors and keep the windows rolled up.
Adapted from the University of North Dakota’s Women’s Center/Impact Self-Defense Program. Read the full document here.