I dream of a world where women can walk down the street at night without seeing every unknown man as a threat unless proven otherwise. I dream of a world where it is an outrage and a rarity to hear about a woman being groped in a club; not one where it is just something that unfortunately happens to all of us. I dream of a world where women can feel safe, no matter the time of day or place.
But that is not the world we live in, so here are a few easy tips to keep in mind while living in this world. Share, talk about it, remember them…we need to work together for a safer world, but we need to keep safe in the world we have.
These tips are a collection compiled from prison interviews with convicted rapists about what makes someone a “good” target as well as advice from law enforcement. They are easy little habits to incorporate or to remember. Self-defense moves of course can be helpful, but those are for the worst case. These tips could help you avoid getting into a situation where those moves are even necessary.
1. If someone is following you on a street/a garage/an elevator/ stairwell etc, look them in the face and ask them a question e.g. “What time is it?” or make small talk “Can’t believe how warm it is today.”
Now you’ve seen their face and could identify them in a line-up; you lose appeal as a target.
2. The first thing men look for in a potential victim is their hairstyle. They are most likely to go after a woman with a ponytail/bun/ braid/any hairstyle that can easily be grabbed. Unfortunately, they are also far more likely to go after a woman with long hair, but wearing it down is safer still. Women with short hair are not common targets.
3. The second thing men look for is clothing. They will look for women who’s clothing is easy to remove quickly. Still, “what was she wearing?” is not ever an okay question. But if you have a jacket, wear it. Remember: prepare for the world we live, not the one we dream of.
4. Try to avoid seeming distracted by going through your purse/checking your phone/ etc if you are in an area deserted area, and especially once it is dark. However, remember that daylight doesn’t automatically mean safety.
5. The number one places women are abducted from/attacked in is parking lots (especially grocery & office), garage, and public restrooms. Be extra cautious
6. Very few attackers will carry a weapon because, in many countries, rape usually carries a 3-5-year sentence. However, rape with a weapon is 10+ years
7. Have you ever been told to keep your keys between your fist for safety? Sorry to tell you, but it is not an effective deterrent. If you have an umbrella, carry it in your hand and extend it as far as the handle allows. An attacker will be discouraged by anything that can be used from a distance.
If you carry pepper spray, take it out and tell them “I have pepper spray.” Also, if you can, always carry pepper spray. It is incredibly unlikely to ever be accidentally used against you but it can make you feel – and keep you! – safe.
8. If someone is coming toward you, hold out your hands in front of you and yell “Stop!” or “Stay Back!” Most of the rapists interviewed said they’d leave a woman alone if she yelled or showed that she would not be afraid to fight back. They are looking for an easy target. Make a scene.
9. If someone is trying to grab you or attack you, yell “Fire.” Unfortunately, people are less likely to respond to “Help” due to the bystander effect.
10. If someone grabs you, you likely can’t beat them with strength but you can be sneaky about your own strength. If you are grabbed around the waist from behind, pinch the attacker either under the arm (between the elbow and armpit) or in the upper inner thigh with all the strength you’ve got. It hurts really badly.
Then always go for the groin. And run.
11. If an attacker puts his hands up, grab his first two fingers and bend them back as far as possible and press down with as much pressure as possible. You’ll either break their fingers or bring them to their knees, literally. Then run.
12. When approaching your car, always approach from the front or the back, never from the side. This way you could spot someone hiding behind the passenger door, just waiting to get in as soon as you do before you can lock the door.
13. If you are parked with your driver’s side next to a van or a car that just feels sketchy, especially with a passenger inside, then get in through your own passenger side, quickly lock the doors and climb into the driver’s seat.
14. Before getting in an uber/text/car service etc, always throw a quick glance through the window into the backseat and the trunk if you can see it to make sure that no-one is hiding there.
15. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you’re walking down a street and feel/are followed, ask a group of women or even just one if you can walk next to them or even a guy who seems trustworthy. Explain you are being followed. No decent person will say no.
Equally, keep an eye out and help other women if you see them being followed/creeped on in a bar/club/street/anywhere, recall. Pretend you know them and quietly ask if they need help. You’d be surprised how grateful many are.
16. If you are ever parked somewhere, sitting in the driver’s seat and someone in the seat behind you threatens you with a gun, floor it and drive into a pillar/wall/anything hard. For you, the airbag will deploy but it is very unlikely the attacker would be wearing their seatbelt. It can buy you enough time to get away.
17. Most importantly, put up a fight. Always. Attackers don’t want to draw attention/don’t want trouble. Fighting/screaming etc will usually deter them. They want to take you somewhere quietly and quickly.
… if someone is trying to get you in a car or take you to a different location somehow, even if they have a weapon, the same applies. Fight, always. Many won’t actually use it and it’s just to scare you and even if, very worst case, you did get killed, you’d rather die there than be taken to another location. Those cases are a lot less likely to be solved.
The basic idea for all of these tips is to convince these guys you’re not worth it, you’re too much trouble.
And of course, always be aware of your surroundings, take someone with you if you can and if you see any odd behavior, don’t dismiss it, go with your instincts!
Even if you think “you’re making a scene” or “are being difficult” or feel silly, you are not. That is what we women are told and it is not true. It is our right to defend ourselves, it is our right to perceive danger to whatever degree we feel it.
Stay safe, stay strong. And hopefully, our dream world will one day be our world.