Awareness is your 1st Defense
I. DON’T BE A VICTIM
Americans have a greater chance of being a violent crime victim than of being injured in a motor vehicle accident. (Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. Department of Justice) Learning self-defense is not just about learning to kick and punch an attacker. Self defense begins with not thinking of yourself as a victim. Attackers choose their victims the way predators choose their prey. They always go after the sick, isolated, young or old because they are an easy kill. If you look strong, alert and healthy, you have a much better chance of being left alone.
Body language communicates how comfortable you feel about yourself. In self-defense, effective body language conveys a relaxed sense of confidence.
The first phase of an attack is often called the “targeting” stage; the attacker is searching for a victim. During this phase, confident and relaxed body language is critical. There are ways to discourage an attack, just by walking more safely. Keep your head up, look ahead, and drop your shoulders (do not hunch them.) Walk with a relaxed step (not too long or short,) and keep your hands out of your pockets. Compare these two images in your mind: the woman looking down at the ground and the one just described. Who is an easier target? Who appears vulnerable? These changes are small, but they make an enormous difference.
The second stage, or testing phase, of an attack usually involves some kind of verbal communication. There are two different kinds of verbal self-defense in response to athreat from an attacker. The first, and most common, is assertive verbal self-defense.
Assertive self-defense is used when the attacker is unarmed or does not have physical control of you to the extent that fighting back would cause you greater injury. It is simply an extension of your body language: you are verbally communicating that you refuse to be seen as a victim. The second, cooperative verbal self-defense is used tactically, for instance when the attacker has a weapon or is holding you in a way that makes it useless to fight back at that moment. Hopefully, it will make the attacker relax so that he will feel in control. You may use cooperative verbal self-defense if you decide that you don’t want to fight back. Or you may want to use it to trick the attacker. When he lets up, you may have the opportunity to escape or physically fight back. Confident body language and verbal self-defense can be used in every situation. Stop thinking of yourself as a victim and you are less likely to be targeted as one.
There are other skills you can develop to avoid being a victim:
• KNOW YOUR AREA: Know as much as possible ahead of time about the area you will be visiting. If you are forewarned about dangerous areas, you will be less likely to traverse them. It is much safer to go around a potential hot spot than to walk into a hornet’s nest.
• BE AWARE: Keep alert to spot potential danger. Pay attention to your surroundings.
• DEVELOP YOUR INTUITION: Listening to your sixth sense can be one of your most important self-defense skills. If you sense that something is wrong, it is. That gut feeling you get when something is not exactly right is telling you something and you should learn to listen to that alarm, however vague it may be.
• FIGHTING SPIRIT: Knowing you have the desire, ability, confidence and strength to fight back might be all you need to discourage a potential attacker. Develop an attitude that allows you to not be intimidated.
ACTIVITY: Class members should take turns verbally assaulting each other while they practice anti-intimidation tactics (walking confidently, maintaining eye contact, being wholly aware of surroundings.)
More than 2.5 million women experience violence annually. (Bureau of Justice Statistics,U.S. Department of Justice)
To avoid becoming a victim of violence, your first and foremost level of self-defense is prevention.
Women over 35 are most vulnerable to an assault in their own home. Prevent entrance to your home by making it difficult for a criminal to just walk in. The more difficult you make it for the criminal, the less likely it is that he will gain entrance.
• Use sturdy, solid wood doors with deadbolt locks.
• Doors and windows should be locked at all times.
• Install an extra-wide angle peephole in doors.
• Make sure areas by doors and windows are well-lighted.
• Be assertive with strangers in your home. Always ask for proper identification before opening your door to anyone.
• Install an alarm. They act as deterrents and warn you of intrusion.
• Add coverings over your windows for privacy.
• Put interior lights on a timer.
• Use only your last name on your mail box, front door buzzer, etc.
• Have an unlisted phone number.
ON THE STREET
• Keep your hands free.
• Wear clothes that do not restrict movement.
• Carry a mobile phone with 911 on speed-dial.
• Carry enough money for a taxi or bus fare.
• Go around groups of men instead of through them.
• Cross the street if you are being followed.
• If you continue to be followed, go towards people and yell “Fire.”
• Do not be afraid to make a scene in order to get attract attention.
• If someone asks for the time or directions, you have the right to not reply.
• Use well-lighted streets, staying near the curb unless a car pulls up.
• Avoid being on the street alone at night, especially if you are upset or under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
• Try to take walks and runs with friends or neighbors.
DRIVING A CAR
• Keep your car in good running order and avoid driving with a near empty gas tank.
• Keep doors locked and windows rolled up.
• If your car breaks down, turn on emergency flashers, place “Call Police” sign in window or call the police from your mobile phone. If someone stops to help, stay in the car and write a note asking him or her to call the police.
• If you are being followed, drive to the closest police station, fire station, hospital emergency entrance, or open gas station. Never allow someone to follow you home.
• Never pick up hitchhikers.
• Park in well-lighted areas and always lock your car when you leave it.
• Avoid parking next to vans, as you can be pulled in through the sliding door.
• Check around, under, and inside your car as you approach it.
• Be especially alert in parking structures.
• Carry your keys in hand, ready to use.
• Make sure a friend is safely inside her home, or that her car has started, before driving away and ask your friends to do the same for you.
ON PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION
• When waiting for public transportation, assume a balanced position behind the bench, so you cannot be pulled into a passing car.
• Sit near the driver and stay awake.
• If someone harasses you, tell the driver immediately.
• If you feel someone is following you when you get off, walk towards a populated area. Avoid walking directly home.
• If you are uncomfortable about getting on an elevator with a lone man or a group of men, wait for the next one. If you are made uncomfortable once on the elevator, get off at the next floor, or press the emergency/fire button.
• Check the identification of service, delivery, or repair people if you have any doubts about them.
• Know the routes of escape in your work area.
• If you work late, find out whom else is in the building. When you leave, ask someone (perhaps a security guard) to accompany you to your car. Social conditioning: citizens, especially women, tend to be concerned about the feelings of others. Often, we allow this social conditioning to override our instincts. Always listen to your instincts! Keep in mind, an attack can occur any place, any time.
VICTIMS’ REPORT OF TIME OF RAPES AND SEXUAL ASSAULTS
6 pm-midnight 43.4%
6 am-6 pm 33.0%
Midnight-6 am 23.6%
VICTIMS’ REPORTS OF WHERE RAPES AND SEXUAL ASSAULT TOOK PLACE
At victim’s home 37.4%
At friend’s, neighbor’s or relative’s home 19.2%
On the street away from home 10.0%
Parking lot/garage 7.3%
All other locations 26.1%
(Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. Department of Justice) Know your area and be aware of your surroundings. Keep alert to spot potential danger. Always listen to your intuition.If you sense that something is wrong, leave the area immediately.
ACTIVITY: Based on the safety tips discussed, each woman should list three tips she will recommend to a friend.
III. SEXUAL ASSAULT: MISCONCEPTIONS AND REALITIES
The following is a list of common stereotypes about sexual assault and battering, and the facts that are obscured by these misconceptions. Understanding this information allows us to act realistically to protect and defend ourselves.
Rape happens only to certain types of women.
Any woman—of any age, race, class, religion, occupation, physical ability, sexual preference or appearance—might experience rape. Babies as young as 4 months and 92 year old women have been raped; women of every physical description have been raped; women from every cultural group in society have been raped. Simply being female puts us all at risk.
Since rape can happen to any woman, understand that it is not the survivor’s fault. Avoid the false sense of security that comes from believing it could only happen to omeone else.
Most rapes occur as a spur of the moment act in a dark alley by a stranger.
Rapes often occur in the survivor’s home, or in public places such as parking structures.
They are as likely to occur during the day as at night. Very often the assailant is not a stranger, but a relative, friend, neighbor, or other acquaintance. Rapes are rarely spontaneous; they are usually carefully planned, and most rapists will assault again and again, generally in the same area of town and in the same manner.
Understand that practicing awareness of my environment and of other people at all times is an important part of self-protection.
Rape is exclusively a sexual act, and is therefore nonviolent.
Rape is a violent crime that is acted out, in part, sexually. Some rapists carry weapons; most threaten their victims with violence.
Since rape is an act of violence, it is important to consider your right to defend yourself against it the same way you would against any other violent attack.
A rapist is easy to spot in a crowd.
There is nothing about the appearance of a rapist that distinguishes him from other men. According to several studies, there is very little that sets him apart psychologically, either. He can be of any age, race, color, marital status, or class.
Any preconceived ideas about how a rapist looks or acts are not useful to you. You should respond to each person as an individual, and trust your intuition.
Most rapes are interracial.
The overwhelming majority of rapes (more than nine out of ten) involve persons of the same race or culture.
Avoiding men of certain races does not make you any safer. Again, each person deserves to be treated as a unique individual, not a stereotype.
Women are “asking for it” by their dress or actions.
Rape is a vicious crime. There is no behavior or appearance to which rape is the appropriate response. It makes as much sense to say that people are asking to be robbed because they are carrying money in their pockets. Rape is the responsibility of he rapist, not the victim.
Recognize that this kind of attitude is a form of “blaming the victim” which causes a great deal of pain and keeps women divided from each other. We can all work together to insist that rape be treated like the crime it is.
It is not really possible to rape a non-consenting adult.
It is indeed possible to rape a non-consenting adult. Fear of death, threats of violence, or physical brutality can make it impossible for anyone, including men, to successfully end off an assault.
Know that you are not as likely to be immobilized by fear if you are aware of your options for defending yourself. At the same time, recognize that submitting can sometimes be an important form of self-protection, not a reason for guilt.
False accusations of rape are common.
There are conflicting studies regarding the percentage of false claims. A 1975 book, Against Our Will by Susan Brownmiller, claimed that only 2% of accusations were false, based on a trend she noted in New York City. This same percentage appeared in legislation known as the Violence Against Women Act. However, examination of this research reveals that there is no solid basis for it. An FBI study suggests that 9% of claims are “unfounded” – in other words, dismissed without charges being filed. On the other hand, Purdue University Professor Eugene J. Kanin published a study in 1991 based on 109 rape complaints in a Midwestern city from 1978 to 1987. That study found that 41% of claims were false; his statistics were backed up by similar studies on two college campuses. An Air Force Office of Special Investigations study suggests that 27% of claims may be false. and a DNA study conducted by the FBI finds that 26% of accusations are made against the wrong subject.
While we should be aware of these statistics, we should NOT be afraid to confront our aggressors. You have a right to protect yourself and a right to see justice served. That begins with your report of a crime to the police.
We should believe and support each other, remembering that going through the court system after an assault is an act of courage and caring for other women.
There is no way to protect yourself against sexual assault.
It has been shown time and time again that awareness, assertiveness, and physical techniques can greatly reduce the risk of assault. If an assault does occur, they can be successful strategies for self-defense.
Take protection into your own hands, continue to develop your understanding and skills, and create a greater sense of self-confidence in your life.
Determine if the following statements are true or false.
• Rape is always a violent crime.
• It is more important to be aware of your surroundings at night.
• Use your intuition when judging a potential attacker instead of relying on race, class or age.
• A rapist could be anyone.
• Awareness, assertiveness and physical techniques can rarely reduce the risk of assault.
IV. TYPES OF ATTACKS
70% rapes and sexual assaults against women are committed by intimates, friends, or
acquaintances. (Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. Department of Justice, 2004)
However, the word acquaintance describes a wide range of relationships. A person you
see on the subway or bus once a week and exchange hellos with is an acquaintance. A
man who regularly cleans your gutters is an acquaintance. So is a good friend or fellow
employee. Because acquaintances include relationships with various degrees of intimacy, it can be difficult to recognize a potential attack and respond appropriately. If you feel that an assault is going to take place or has already begun, think about what you know of this person. If you know him well, you may be uncomfortable being assertive and direct, but this is absolutely necessary to understand his intentions and his resolve in carrying them out. If you do not know him well, carefully watch his response to your actions and words. Again, trust your intuition. Even if you barely know him, you know something.
Use what you know about him to your advantage. Information is power. In a dating situation, it can be difficult to recognize danger. The rule of thumb is to know where your personal boundaries are before you go on a date. When you are clear about these things, make a pact with yourself to stand by them. If you know your limits before you are in an intimate situation, you can more easily identify danger.
Acquaintance rape usually involves entrapment. The rapist manipulates his prey into an
area in which she is alone with him and where he is not likely to be discovered. It is also
a situation in which she is not likely to be believed.
• Do not allow yourself to be alone with anyone, unless you know him well enough to
trust him implicitly.
• Trust your intuition. If you sense something is wrong, it is. Act on that gut feeling
and get out of a potentially dangerous situation.
• Communicate clearly. In communicating with another person, make sure that your
verbal and nonverbal messages don’t contradict each other. If you say No, you must
say it three ways. Say No with your eyes, voice, and body language.
Other helpful hints to avoid date rape:
• Meet in a public place.
• Provide your own transportation.
• Don’t abuse alcohol or drugs. They can inhibit your judgment.
• Ask questions; listen to and analyze what your date means or implies as well as what
• If you are uncomfortable, end the date and leave.
If you are aware of the potential of certain character traits to predispose a man toward
sexual violence and abuse of his partner, you can screen out these men before you get too
involved with them. Look for these signs:
• Does he anger easily and overreact to little frustrations, lashing out at people and
• Does he exhibit wild mood swings—charming and up one moment, nasty and down
• Does he brood over slights, carry grudges, and glare when someone irritates him?
• Is his language hostile or contemptuous when referring to women in general or you in
• Is he selfish and insensitive, disregarding your feelings or beliefs, or belittling your
• Is he controlling of all aspects of your behavior, telling you how to act, dress, or
• Is he extremely possessive and jealous?
• Does he ever get “too physical” with you?
• Does he expect to get what he wants and bend others to his will?
• Is he a drug or alcohol abuser?
Some rapists plan ahead and may target several women in the same neighborhood. Others are opportunists looking for vulnerable women to attack. In either case, the rapist does not want to be interrupted or caught so he is likely to choose remote or deserted areas, outside or in easily accessible homes with lone occupants. The steps you can take for home and car security as well as personal safety in your everyday activities can also help safeguard you against sexual assault by a stranger.
Safe behaviors need to be reinforced in all women. Women are particularly vulnerable to surprise attack through lack of awareness or a failure to trust their instincts. They should be cautious of potentially dangerous situations and not charge ahead because f a misplaced sense of bravado.
Give an example of your experience using your intuition about an acquaintance or stranger. Did you listen to your intuition? What happened? What would you change?
V. DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
Intimates (husbands, ex-husbands, boyfriends and ex-boyfriends) commit 26% of all rapes and sexual assaults against women. (Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. Department of Justice)
Women of all races, ethnicities and localities are equally vulnerable to domestic violence.
(Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. Department of Justice)
Victims of domestic violence come from all cultures, religions, ages, and economic classes. More than 2 million women are battered by their husbands and lovers each year, accounting for over a third of all hospital emergency room visits by women. What is more, the FBI reports that half of all the women murdered in the United States die at the hands of husbands and lovers who have lost control.
Assault, even by family members, is a crime. Seek medical attention for all injuries and report the incident to police. Decide on a place where you can go and put aside some money. If you think you or your children are in danger, leave immediately. Contact your family court about a civil protection order if you want to keep your husband or lover away from you and your children.
The best defense against domestic violence is prevention. Learn to spot these
characteristics of batterers:
• Jealous of time you spend with others
• Doles out money, angry if you are late
• Keeps you away from friends and family
• Rushes you into an engagement or marriage
• Expects you to be everything to him
• Blames others for his problems
• Blames others for his feelings
• Claims that you control how he feels
• Is easily insulted
CRUELTY TO ANIMALS OR CHILDREN
RIGID SEX ROLES
• Believes women should serve and obey men
• Believes that women are inferior to men and less intelligent
• Refuses to cook, wash dishes or take care of children
Research a local women’s shelter in your area and if possible, volunteer your time or donate clothes, toys, etc. to the shelter. If you know anyone who might be suffering from domestic violence, take this opportunity to discuss the options.
VI. WHEN TO FIGHT AND HOW TO WIN
You would not normally resort to physical defense or choose to fight back unless you are in imminent danger. That is why the first critical steps in determining any course of action are to assess how dangerous your situation is and the intent of your assailant. If your assailant demands your valuables, comply and give them up immediately. Fighting back is not always the right thing to do. However, there are three situations in which you
are better off fighting back immediately, because it may be your only chance:
• If someone is attempting to kill you.
• If someone is going to abduct you and take you to a more secluded place.
• If someone is going to physically restrain you using rope, handcuffs, duct tape, etc.
When you assess the situation and choose to fight back, do so with the full commitment to win. Anything less diminishes your effectiveness.
LOOK FOR SOMETHING TO USE AS A WEAPON. Keys, a briefcase, a fire extinguisher, etc. Use anything to give yourself an advantage in the fight. Additionally, think of your own body as a weapon. Your arms, legs, elbows, knees and head can be used effectively to thwart an attack.
YELL LOUDLY. Yelling is both a physical and psychological weapon. Loud, unexpected sounds can disorient an assailant and possibly attract attention. Yelling will also help you physically and psychologically to be more aggressive. It opens your breathing and brings more oxygen to your brain and your muscles.
TARGET YOUR ATTACK. Despite a woman’s disadvantage in size and strength, you can hurt an attacker enough to get away by learning a few effective ways to hit an assailant in vulnerable areas of the body:
- Bridge of Nose
- Solar Plexus
Incapacitate your attacker as quickly and effectively as possible and then run to a safeplace as quickly as possible.
In most cases, a weapon will not do you any good and may, in fact, cause you great harm. Having a weapon is more likely to increase the danger to you and your loved ones than it is to protect you from a criminal. However, if you do have a firearm in your home, keep it locked and out of reach from curious children. If you hear an intruder, never investigate with gun in hand. Lock yourself and your family in a safe room and call the
Multiple attackers present an extremely dangerous situation that you must make every effort to avoid. As stated previously, know your area, be aware of your surroundings and listen to your intuition. If you are alert, you best defense may be to run away. If you are being pursued, run towards a populated area and yell “Call the police!” If there is no one around to hear you, kick in the glass of a storefront which has an alarm system. The
alarm should attract attention and deter assailants. If you are surrounded, ascertain what your attackers want. If they want valuables or your car, give them up. Things can always be replaced. If they want to physically attack you or rape you, you may decide fighting back is your best option. Determine which attacker is the most dangerous and deal with that person first. If you are being held, use the person restraining you for support and leverage while you kick the person attacking you.
No one can tell you whether active resistance is best, but studies of effective rape resisters have shown that the women who successfully thwarted an attack used severa different approaches—fleeing or trying to flee, yelling or screaming, fighting back. Keep in mind that once you decide on physical resistance, there is no turning back. You may decide this is an immediate reaction or a last resort. In either instance, it helps to have surprise and speed on your side, so you might pretend to cooperate temporarily. However, if you decide to fight, you must be willing and able to inflict serious injury on your assailant.
If you do not think you can fight, here is some advice. Do not panic. You can defend yourself. Your will to survive is stonger than his will to hurt. The moment before you strike back, visualize your confidence, power, and strength as a collective force, and mentally commit yourself to the struggle.
SELF-PROTECTIVE MEASURES TAKEN BY VICTIMS OF RAPE OR SEXUAL ASSAULT
Rape/Sexual assault victims 485,290
- Victim took self-protective action 71.7%
- Victim took no self-protective action 28.3%
- Resisted or captured offender 19.3%
- Scared or warned offender 11.5%
- Persuaded or appeased offender 10.8%
- Ran away or hid 6.9%
- Attacked offender without weapon 6.1%
- Screamed from pain or fear 3.7%
- Got help or gave alarm 3.6%
- Other measures 9.8%
Women who responded to attackers with anger and rage—who yelled, screamed, tried to
flee, or physically resisted—were less likely to be raped than women who froze in panic
and submitted. (study conducted by Pauline B. Bart, Ph.D. and Patricia H. O’Brien of St.
ACTIVITY: Each woman should go home and choose three objects in each room that
could be used effectively as weapons.
VII. THE AFTERMATH OF A FIGHT
Unfortunately, no matter how well prepared women are, the risk of assault in their lives is a constant possibility. It is every woman’s obligation to know how to take care of herself. However, there is an important difference between taking responsibility for your actions and blaming yourself after being hurt in a situation that is beyond your control. You can be diligent, use excellent judgment, and still be attacked. False expectations are dangerous. No matter how safe you feel, you are at risk of assault. Knowing this, you are responsible for being your own best protector, but you are never to blame for being attacked.
Here are some guidelines for what to do after an assault:
Most importantly, get to a safe place. Run to safety, not just away from danger. Do not bathe. Immediately after an assault, it is natural to want to clean yourself. Unfortunately, you hurt your chances of catching the attacker if you change your physical appearance before receiving medical attention. Do not take a shower, brush your hair,
brush your teeth, or wash your hands. Do not clean, brush off, or destroy your clothing. Call someone to support you and have that person accompany you to the hospital for immediate medical attention.Write down any details about the attacker and the experience (description of the attacker, license plate number, etc.) Call the police to report the assault.
From 1992-2000, only 36% of rapes were reported to the police. 34% of attempted rapes
were reported; 26% of completed and attempted sexual assaults were reported. (Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. Department of Justice)
Why is reporting a rape or sexual assault important?
VIII. REVIEW OF MAIN POINTS
You can reduce your chances of being the victim of a violent crime simply by being aware of potential dangers and being prepared to prevent them. Knowing you can physically defend yourself, if necessary, can actually reduce the chance that you will ever have to. Mentally and physically rehearsing for possible confrontations fosters good decision-making skills and quick, effective responses.
COMMONSENSE RULES OF SELF-DEFENSE
1. Make every effort to avoid becoming involved in a dangerous situation. Prevention and being physically prepared can help to avoid an assault.
2. If you are confronted, run away and yell to attract attention.
3. If you cannot run away, use some other non-violent device that will discourage your
assailant. Give up valuables, create a distraction, act, bluff, talk your way out of it—anything to get your body out of the danger zone.
4. If all else fails, be prepared to use physical techniques to prevent the assault and enable you to escape.
Self-defense begins with self-esteem. You must believe that you are worth fighting for, that you are a unique, worthwhile person. Respect yourself, and others will respect you. You have the strength to live your life any way you choose. No one has the right to touch you without your consent. No one has the right to hurt you.
Have each woman describe a threatening situation. Once the situation is determined, theclass should discuss how best to handle each scenario.
SAFE, SMART AND SELF-RELIANT: PERSONAL SAFETY FOR WOMEN AND
CHILDREN edited by Gerri M. Dyer
THE WOMANLY ART OF SELF-DEFENSE by Kathleen Keefe Burg
HOW TO FIGHT BACK AND WIN by Judith Fein
DEFENDING OURSELVES: A GUIDE TO PREVENTION, SELF-DEFENSE AND
RECOVERY FROM RAPE by Rosalind Wiseman
Krav Maga Information Packet: For Women Only (find out from where information was
Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. Department of Justice:
“Violence Against Women: Estimates from the Redesigned National Crime
“Sex Offenses and Offenders: An Analysis of Data on Rape and Sexual Assault”
“Violent Crime: National Crime Victimization Survey”