This photo depicts every woman’s worst nightmare. You are walking alone and you think a man is following you. The hairs on your neck stand out and your heart begins to race. What should you do?
If you’re starting to feel nervous because you’re not sure what you should do, that is very natural.
If you think that this will never happen to you, you are using denial to cope with a difficult subject.
“Denial is a common tactic that substitutes deliberate ignorance for thoughtful planning.” ~ Charles Temper
I was guilty of denial too. I used to lull myself into a false sense of security saying that this was probably not going to happen to me — that I don’t live in a bad neighborhood and all have to do is avoid going out at night. But later on, I did have to travel, sometimes through bad neighborhoods even at night. My rationale was no longer working. I had to find a better way to deal with that possible nightmare above — the worst case scenario.
I wish I could carry a gun, but I can’t in NYC. So I went to others who had more information about personal safety. I even took a half-day seminar entitled, “Refuse To Be A Victim.”
My strategy was to become mentally prepared for that moment when I would have to make a life and death decision. Familiarizing myself on what my options are when faced with a threatening situation has lessened my anxiety, and has made me more self-assured that I will be ready if and when that moment comes.
If a woman is attacked, she will have a rush of adrenaline, her heart certainly will be racing, and her brain may not work at it’s optimum level. She will need to quickly rely upon her wit, reflexes, instincts and the crucial mental preparations she made prior to her attack.
I did the personal safety research for myself, but I’m now going to share it with you. Please read on to find out:
1) How Not To Be Selected As A Target
2) What To Do If You Are Selected As A Target
Criminals may not have the highest IQ, but they are certainly capable of planning. Their victims are not selected randomly and will choose the person that is the easiest prey.
Awareness, Intuition, Mindset and Boundaries
Be aware of your surroundings and be suspicious of people loitering in the streets and near the entrance to your home or office. Always be suspicious. Look around you before you leave or enter any space (your car, home, office elevator or any building).
Don’t dismiss your intuition! This is your sixth sense. It may tell you not to go into a certain building or that someone may be following you. Remember the times you have ignored your intuition. Were you sorry you disregarded it?
One of the ways to not become selected as a target is to maintain a confident, alert mindset. Having your head up will give the appearance that you are not a victim, and will increase the chances that you will not be selected as a target. Pre-planning will give you the strong mindset to be able to confidently take action to stop an attack, escape from an attack and protect yourself or others.
Clearly define your personal space. Be prepared to act when someone gets too close and violates your comfort zone. The simplest action you can take is to move away, but if the person persists, you may need to run or defend yourself by making a physical response.
Everyone knows you leave an ATM with cash. If you could help it, try not to go to the ATM alone. If you are driving up to an ATM, try to park as close to the ATM as possible. Don’t use outside ATMs at night or in unfamiliar neighborhoods. Never use an ATM where people are loitering. If someone gets close to you while you are using an ATM, cancel the transaction, leave quickly, and find another machine.
When walking in the street, always walk in the opposite direction of traffic. A person who walks in the same direction that cars are traveling can be more easily followed and forced into a car than someone who walks against the traffic.
If you are suspicious of someone in a car, walk or run in the opposite direction from which car is traveling. In order for that car to pursue you, he would have turn his car around. Going in the opposite direction gives you valuable time. The car pursuing you may give up to find an easier target. Go to the nearest lighted store or home for help.
If you think someone is following you by foot, cross to the other side of the street, and go to the nearest open business or home.
What do you do when the elevator opens and you have a uncomfortable feeling about the person that’s in there? DO NOT ENTER. Don’t worry about hurting that person’s feeling. Your life is more important.
What if you’re already on the elevator and a strange person enters? If you are fast, you can step off before the elevator closes. If you can’t react that fast, press several buttons for upcoming floors and leave as soon as the elevator stops.
Don’t press the STOP button! This will stop the elevator and you will be trapped inside with the threatening person. If you are being attacked on the elevator and your attacker presses the STOP button, you must pull the button back out. If he hits you for doing this, you must continue to pull the button back out. This is your chance for escape. You can’t be helped as long as you are trapped in that elevator with your attacker.
Some of you may say, “Well maybe the staircase is better.” Keep in mind that stairwells are made to code and so therefore fireproof and even soundproof. Any cries of help will most likely not be heard. In addition, caught in the stairwell, you are automatically giving someone privacy, allowing a perpetrator valuable time and space to harm you without interruption.
Be alert of your surroundings and have your keys ready in your hands when you approach your car. If you are leaving a mall and there are people loitering by your car, go back to the mall and have a security guard escort you. This is one of the reasons why security guards are there. Do not hesitate to make this request. Once you get in the car, place your handbag on the floor. Putting it on the seat next to you makes you a target. As soon as you get in, don’t fix your makeup or call your friend, just lock the door and drive away.
One of the scams I heard about are how people are purposely bumping you on the highway. Once you get out to talk to the person, examine damage, or to exchange information, you are then robbed or attacked. Do not leave the car. Call police and stay inside the car. Open the window only a crack to speak to the other driver. Information can be traded by pressing cards against window. If you are afraid of the other person or if he is threatening you, get license plate number and drive away. If he gets on the hood of your car and bangs on it, drive away slowly.
You have car trouble in a strange neighborhood, and your car is inoperable and your cell phone is dead. Do not leave you car to seek help. Make a sign on any paper or cardboard. “Help. Call Police.”
Being Cautious With Purses and Wallets
Photocopy everything in your wallet and store in a safe place in the event you need to access them and have stolen documents and cards replaced.
A fanny pack or a money belt is recommended so that it can be concealed under clothing, but I don’t find either of them too useful because I carry so many things in my purse.
Law enforcement authorities recommend you keep a small amount of cash in an easily accessible pocket or purse in order to satisfy criminals who are primarily interested in cash.
You can prepare an attractive money roll with singles inside with a ten or twenty-dollar bill on the outside. This way, when a thief approaches you can throw this roll of money in one direction and you run in the opposite direction. Do not hand over the roll! Throwing the money makes the thief have to scramble after the money, allowing you time to escape.
Preparing and carrying an extra cheap wallet is another good idea. This decoy wallet should have some cash, but not contain your driver’s license, car registration, health insurance cards, employee identification, business cards or any valuable documents. No valid credit cards should be placed in this wallet. You might put some cards that come with new wallets to make this decoy wallet look realistic. Again when asked for money, this decoy wallet should be thrown several feet away.
If you are carrying a purse and the robber demands you hand it over, you can either throw the purse or empty the contents on the ground. Making the robber scramble to recover contests will give you an opportunity to escape.
I’ve heard women given advice that they should hold keys in their hands when they are alone at night walking to their car at night. They say having the keys pointing out of their fists can be a weapon. This advice is not that great because most women lack the upper body strength and they have a tendency to paw rather than punch. Also it is very hard to hit a man if he is much taller than you.
A better option would be a self defense spray such as pepper spray. Pepper spray instantly irritates nerve endings in an attacker’s body and causes intense burning upon contact. It severely constricts the nasal passages and throat, and shuts down all but the very basic level of breathing. It also causes the attacker’s eyes to close immediately. The effects of the chemical last up to 20 minutes depending upon the concentration.
Be aware that pepper spray is not effective on a small percentage of the population so make sure you have a back up plan if the spray does not deter your attacker. The spray has a range of 3-12 feet, depending upon the brand, model and size of the container.
If your spray produces a mist, be careful that the wind is not blowing in your direction when you are spraying. Chemical sprays have a limited shelf life and they need to be replaced before the expiration date.
Remember that pepper spray is no use to you in your purse or briefcase. The best place for it is in your hand. The second best place is an outside pocket that you can reach quickly with a free hand. Once you take out the pepper spray, use it right away. Hesitating may give the attacker opportunity to take it away from you.
Pepper spray is legal in all U.S. states, but many have restrictions. Please read what those restrictions may be in your state. They are also prohibited on commercial airlines.
What To Do When You Are Being Pulled, Attacked
What do you if someone tries to pull you into his car? If he successfully drags you into his car, you are going to be raped at the very least. If you could help it, DO NOT EVER allow someone to take you to a secondary crime scene where the perpetrator has more control, privacy, and time to assault you.
If he gets a hold of your arm, you reach and grab his thumb off your arm; it’s the weakest of all the fingers. Grab his thumb and run away. If he grabs your coat, get out of the coat. If you hold onto your coat, he will pull you and your coat into his car. You can not get into his car for any reason whatsoever.
Don’t forget to cry, “Fire! Fire! Fire” to draw attention to the incident. Most people respond to “fire” than “help” because if they don’t respond and there really is a fire, it costs them money and they could also get hurt.
Playing Your Odds
This time, the person puts a gun to your head and orders you to get into the car. Do you comply with a gun to your head? You make a quick decision and run right away. Let’s say that the criminal shoots only 50% of the time because he might want to find another victim that is more compliant. Let’s say that 25% of the time he shoots and hits the victim. And let’s add that 12.5% of the time he either seriously hurts or mortally wounds the victim. Do you like those odds? The actual statistics show that only 2% of the time does he seriously hurts or mortally wounds the victim. I would say those are better odds than for the person who can’t get away and ends up in the car.
Another scenario might be that as you try to get away, he gets physical with you and you end up on the floor. What do you do? Spin yourself around and keep your feet facing him. Kick from the ground to keep him off you and yell, “Fire! Fire! Fire!” as loud you can. Punching and hitting would be less effective as we women have less upper body strength. We have more power in our legs. At this point, fleeing is the best option.
Remember that the person you are dealing with is a criminal and he will lie, threaten, cajole and make promises to get what he wants. Do NOT believe him even if you want to. So if he says, just do this and I won’t hurt you, know that he is lying to you. Women have complied in the past, thinking their lives may be spared, and sadly they thought wrong.
There are no guarantees in life, especially in crime prevention and on the subject of safety. I hope that the tips I provided will be of help.
Please feel free to comment, leave questions or share your own safety tips below.
Street Smarts: How To Avoid Being A Victim w./ Detetive J.J. Bittenbinder, was a PBS special aired back in October of 1993. Detective J.J. Bittenbinder has been a police office in since 1971 and have interviewed thousands of witnesses and offenders. He is also the author of Tough Target: A Street-Smart Guide to Staying Safe, and is considered an authority on the subject of safety.
NRA: Refuse To Be A Victim Seminar, attended in February 2012.