It can be a scary world out there, and unfortunately for us girls, we're at greater risk for harm simply because of our size (unless you're one of those kick-ass women with a black belt!). An estimated 1.9 million women in America are physically assaulted each year. Hopefully you'll never have to use these tips, but here are some basics on how to protect yourself when you're alone at night or in any other potentially dubious situation:
1. If someone tries to take your purse, give it to him. While it's awful to lose your wallet or belongings, it's not worth the risk of your safety! It can be tempting to try to use your purse as a weapon, especially if it's large or heavy, but if you don't succeed, you might just make the criminal even angrier. If you do get mugged
, throw your wallet or purse in one direction and run like mad in the other; most of the time, the perpetrator will go after the wallet and you can then escape. When you get home, call the police (of course), and call your credit card companies to cancel your cards.
2. Be aware of your body language. Attackers look for women who are distracted: either talking on their cell phones, fumbling around in their purses for keys or rummaging through their car trunks. Instead, stride confidently through parking lots, making eye contact with those around you. Always get your keys ready before you leave the store or the house, so you can walk straight to your car and get in. Lock the doors immediately. Always trust your instincts, and if a place seems suspicious or you get a weird vibe, get out immediately.
3. Don't go out alone! My town unfortunately deals with a fair share of muggings, and most of the time they occur in the middle of the night to someone who is walking the streets alone. Don't make this mistake! If you're going out at night, go with girlfriends and stick together. Keep an eye on each other and watch each other's drinks. Make sure everyone gets home OK, and be very, very careful if you have a friend who wants to go home with a guy she just met.
If you do find yourself alone at night and need to get home, don't risk it! Call a cab; the money it will cost is worth your safety. If you're on a college campus, you might be able to call a police escort or a shuttle service to take you home. Or call a friend or even your parents: even if it's late, they won't mind getting out of bed and picking you up if they know you'll get home safe.
4. Be loud and attract attention. If you are confronted by an assailant, make as much noise as possible. Yell at the top of your lungs, and scream things like "Fire!" instead of "Help!" (people might unfortunately think you are just fooling around with a friend). Honk your car horn, or blow on a whistle. Throw things. Address your attacker firmly: say, “I hear you. I don’t want any trouble. Go away right now.” Confidence can scare off a predator who is looking for an easy target.
5. Even if your attacker is bigger and stronger than you, you still have options to fight back. Surprise the attacker with strong, purposeful, effective blows. Use strong parts of your body, like the bottoms of your feet, your elbows and your hands. Aim at weak parts of the attacker - eyes, throat, groin and knees. Stomp on the attacker's foot using your heel. If the attacker grabs your legs, fight with your arms. Kick the attacker in the shins or in the groin. It's always better to run from a confrontation than to enter one, but if it's too late, don't miss an opportunity to attack back where he is vulnerable.
6. Be prepared with a weapon. Carry pepper spray or a taser with you. If you're walking to your car, you can space your keys between your fingers with the key part sticking out (like Wolverine's claw!) and create a makeshift self-defense weapon to attack the assailant's eyes. Look around and be creative: do you have an umbrella? A pair of tweezers? Some heavy books? A pen? Maybe there's a trash can or a tree branch around that could save your life if you swing with it or poke with it. Or even better, take a self-defense or a martial arts class and learn how to defend yourself.
7. A word on date rape. You always have a choice if you want to have sex; if you don't, it's rape. Half of all women who are raped know the person who is raping them. To stay safe, avoid secluded places, especially with men whom you don't know or don't trust. Alcohol is often involved with date rape cases, so stay sober and aware. Watch your drink and your friend's drinks for someone slipping something in, and never take a drink directly from a man's hands; get it straight from the bartender yourself. Be clear about what you want and don't want if you find yourself in an intimate situation: you should always, ALWAYS, be able to say no. And if you do find yourself a victim, go straight to the emergency room or a police station - they are trained to help you, and you should not feel any shame whatsoever.
Do you have any other tips for us women? Have you ever had to act in self-defense?