Knowing how to defend yourself is an important skill. Whether you are walking from or to your car in a dark parking lot, using public transport, or trying to get help when your car breaks down on a country road, knowing how to protect and defend yourself in a dangerous situation can be critical to your physical and emotional health. Preventing these situations from occurring, however, is much more important.
Below are some tips to prevent violent situations from occurring:
- Be aware of your surroundings and trust your instincts. If you sense trouble, change your route and be prepared to run or defend yourself.
- Avoid wearing conspicuous jewelry or sexually suggestive clothing out alone.
- Never hitchhike or accept rides from strangers. Use public transportation or a taxi instead.
- Look confident: appearing insecure or afraid makes you an easy target.
- If you are waiting for a ride or to meet someone, remember there is safety in numbers. Wait in a well-lit, populated area such as a coffee shop or a bus station. Remember that even a cashier inside a store could call 911 if you need help.
When using public transportation:
- Don’t choose a seat that may prevent you from exiting quickly. Instead choose an aisle seat.
- On a bus, sit near the front to be closer to the driver.
- On a train, opt for the car carrying the most passenger or directly behind the train driver.
- Use caution when getting in and out of the car, walking to or from your car, and in parking lots.
- Keep your windows up and doors locked.
- Never leave your car unlocked when you are not inside, even for a few minutes.
- If someone is intimidating you on the road—i.e. driving alongside you or tailing you—never pull off in a dark and/or quiet area. Instead, wait until you reach a well-lit or more populated area to pull off.
In a taxi:
- Check the driver’s identification to make sure it matches the driver.
- Sit in the back seat right-hand seat to prevent the driver from locking the rear passenger door behind him.
- Avoid flagging taxis from the street; instead, call for a cab. This a avoids standing in a potentially dangerous area looking for a taxi and also ensures that the cab driver can be traced from his previous location.
- Travel against traffic so you can see what’s coming.
- If you’re being followed by a car, change your path to make it harder for the driver to keep following you.
- Never use earphones when in an isolated area. If you use earphones in a safe area, make sure they are not so loud so that you can’t hear your surroundings.
- Always carry a cell phone and identification.
If you are attacked, it’s important to be able to think and react quickly. Below are seven excellent defense tips adapted from the SavvyMiss.com website:
- Let the attacker know you are aware of the situation. In a loud, firm, and clear voice, tell the attacker to go away and that you don’t want any trouble. In many cases, an attacker will judge this reaction and leave you alone.
- Get in a ready position. Bring your fists in front of your chest. Stand with your knees slightly bent and your feet shoulder-width apart with one foot slightly in front of the other. This “ready” position allows your body to be steady and for you to react to the attacker’s moves quickly and effectively.
- Get your hair ready. If your hair is long, tuck it into the back of your shirt. Undo your ponytail, as many attackers will try to pull women’s hair.
- Look for weapons. Many objects you carry can be used to defend yourself. Your purse handles or straps can be used to strangle, and the purse itself—or a book or tote bag—can be used to hit an attacker. An umbrella can be used similarly. Small, sharp objects such as a lipstick case, keys, or a pen, can be used to stab an attacker in the eyes. If you travel to dangerous places often, consider carrying pepper spray and a loud whistle.
- Yell “fire.” I think this tip is particularly clever, as yelling fire instinctively gets the concerned attention of others.
- Ask other for help. Shout for a particular person—identified by his or her outfit—to call 911. Tell them you need help quickly.
- Wait for your moment to attack and run. Act complacent for a quick minute after you’ve been attacked, because in order for an attacker to hit you, he needs to let go somewhere. When this happens, use a free arm or leg to hit, kick, or scratch, preferably in the face or groin.
Remember that these last self-defense tips are for the worst-case scenarios and you can prevent violence by not allowing entering into vulnerable or dangerous situations. If you are attacked and escape, always remember to call 911 and report the incident to the police.