Women’s safety

I really hate the attitude that some women bring physical and sexual attacks on themselves by the way they dress or act.  Let’s get one thing straight – no one deserves to be the victim of a sexual assault or violent crime. The victim is NEVER to blame.

In an ideal world rape, domestic violence, assault and murder simply wouldn’t exist. Unfortunately, this is not the world we live in. So, what can we do to protect ourselves?

When starting this section of my website I immediately went to one of the experts I consult for research and she made a good point – it can be hard to give advice on how to behave in a threatening situation, because not every offender is the same. The example I gave her was one tip I’d heard: If you think someone is following you, turn around, look them in the eye and ask them the weather, the time, etc. The theory is that if you can ID them in a line-up you’re no longer an ‘attractive’ victim. But as my expert pointed out, it’s also possible this could backfire. Imagine if the would-be offender had planned a sexual assault from behind without a disguise but you can now ID him…as my expert said: “who knows what that might lead him on to do”.

It’s certainly a problem, because I’ve heard this advice many times and passed it on. The reality is, that even a trained law-enforcement officer or criminal psychologist wouldn’t be able to make a call on how the offender would react without any prior knowledge of him.

However, I still believe many safety tips are valuable.  Check out the general/quick tips below and also visit the more extensive self defence and car sections.

Quick tips

Self defence
A course in self-defence for women never goes astray. Anything and everything you can do to even the odds in the case of an attack can only benefit you.

Specific self defence tips

Be streetwise
Be aware of your surroundings. Don’t walk by yourself in poorly lit areas and avoid ‘bad’ neighbourhoods.

Where do women get raped?
Women are most likely to be sexually assaulted in parking lots or in public toilets. Pay particular attention when you’re in these places. See the section on cars for more info on car safety.

Guns complicate things. They are used to control victims and are obviously very effective. However, one site I came across suggested running even if the offender has a gun (if he’s at least a few feet away). I’m not sure about this one – while I agree that it is hard to hit a moving target, my research indicates that there’s no real ‘safe’ place to be shot. It’s not just the obvious heart and head that cause death, particularly if you don’t or can’t get medical attention quickly.

The sympathy offender
Most women are sympathetic (yes, rash and maybe sexist generalisation). If we see a man with an arm in a sling struggling to put shopping into his car, we may offer to help. The problem is offenders take advantage of our sympathetic streak. Ted Bundy is a prime example – he abducted many of his victims by wearing his arm in a sling or using crutches and asking college girls to help him to his car with books. Once at his car, he quickly overpowered them. These women literally died for their kindness.

Help! or Fire!
Most people have heard of this one – apparently people are more likely to come running to investigate if you yell Fire! rather than Help!

Elevator or stairs?
While your gym instructor may suggest you take the stairs at any and every opportunity, safety experts have the opposite opinion. Again, it will depend on the stairwell, but usually they’re solitary places – and somewhere that an offender could wait for a potential victim.

If you’re jogging, you may want to re-think the iPod/MP3 player. I know it’s great to pound the pavement with music in your ears, but it may also drown out the sounds of a would-be attacker coming up behind you.

Also think about where you’re jogging. One website I came across said that most women were attacked between 5am and 8.30am. Prime jogging time. I always avoid jogging alone, along the same route and at the same time if the place is not frequented by others.

You’re not always safe in your own home
Pay attention to your home security and when you arrive home be aware of any changes in the house.

If someone knocks at the door, make sure you positively identify them before unlocking the door – a peephole is obviously a good investment if you don’t already have one.

Apparently rapists target women with their hair in pony tails, buns or generally long hair so they can pull your hair to subdue you. I’m not suggesting you cut your hair – but it would be amiss of me not to mention it here.

Moving locations
Most experts and law-enforcement personnel will agree that your chances of survival plummet if you’re moved from the primary location (where your attacker is abducting you) to a secondary location. The secondary location will have been chosen by the attacker. It will be isolated and somewhere that he can exercise completed control over you. For an organised and/or repeat offender, it’s likely he would have set the location up prior, with restraints, etc.

If your attacker tries to relocate you (e.g. force you into a car at gunpoint or knifepoint), resist and run.