We are each of us warriors in an ongoing battle against crime and our own ignorance. It is important that we understand the ways in which we can Defend the Home Front.
As I was getting out of my car last night to go into the grocery store I always go to when my cell phone rang. It was my husband who needed to discuss a situation that happened at work that has us both worried. I was busying myself with getting the canvas bags out of the back of the car, struggling to get my car keys into my purse, while holding my umbrella, and balancing the cell phone on my ear. The grocery list fell out of my hand and I bent over to pick it up out of the puddle. I had just come from work and was dressed in a tight skirt, wearing matching high heels and my hair was in a ponytail. I didn’t see the man sitting in the passenger side of the vehicle next to mine. Even though it was raining I had parked in a remote area of the parking lot because the walk to the front door would provide some much needed exercise since I’d skipped going to the gym. When the man got out of his car and asked me if I needed help I nearly jumped out of my skin. He startled me but I politely said; “Oh, thank you so much, but I can manage.” I didn’t look directly at him because I was so embarrassed that he’d scared me I didn’t want him to see the expression on my face and think I was mad at him when he’d been so polite. Once I got all of my belongings together, I noticed he was still standing there. By then it was too late.
Had this been a real situation, I might have been relating this story as a police report about my sexual assault or murder. Thankfully this wasn’t a real situation, and I am fine. Yet I’m sure that all of us can relate to doing something just like this, perhaps on a daily basis. Many of us are simply unaware of our surroundings, and that is the first thing a criminal looks for when planning an attack. And perhaps this situation has happened to you and nothing bad came of it, thank goodness… yet every 2 minutes someone in the US is sexually assaulted. By the age of 30, one of every six women in the United States has been sexually assaulted. Those are scary statistics, considering that with a few basic skills some of those assaults can be avoided completely.
As women we’re usually guilty of two things- doing too much for others and not doing enough for ourselves. We don’t take our safety seriously for a number of reasons, we don’t believe it will happen to us, we don’t want to be rude, we are far too busy to pay attention or my favorite excuse is we don’t want to live in fear. Being safe is about not allowing ignorance, good manners, distraction or fear to keep us from protecting what is ours. The bottom line is that a criminal wants what you have, what you’ve earned, what your family cherishes… we can be spiritual and say, if they want it that bad let them have it. But the truth is even though material things can be replaced… your life cannot be replaced!
A criminal preys on victims based on what we call “ease of domination”. If you can be easily dominated or subdued you’re a perfect victim. The crazy thing about this is that YOU have total control over whether or not you make a perfect victim. A few basic skills and an awareness of your surroundings can keep you and your family safe. Let me qualify this by saying there is no guaranteed deterrent against all crimes… but there are many things you can do to help prevent it and keep yourself safe if it does happen to you! One of the best things you can do is enroll yourself and your family in a self-defense course in your community. The NRA offers an excellent course called “Refuse to be a Victim” and courses can be located by visiting the NRA website under RTBV course. The skills I will discuss will help- but being able to put them into practice will give you the confidence to actually use them in a crisis. As they say- practice makes perfect!
Let’s start with the first thing I did “wrong” in the story above. The best deterrent to any attack is AWARENESS.
Awareness can be broken down into three basic categories- environmental awareness, awareness of your surroundings and self awareness. Let’s start with environmental awareness.
Environmental awareness is a little different than being aware of just your surroundings. People don’t regularly think that the weather can affect whether they’re going to be attacked. Environmental awareness involves being prepared for any environmental situation. Is it raining? Is it snowing? Is it really hot or really cold? Is it dark outside? Being dressed for specific environmental situations can hinder and help you defend yourself if you’re aware of what works. Another thing to consider when talking about environmental awareness is your vehicle or your home. If the weather is bad are you prepared for it? Do you have an emergency plan or an emergency kit readily available when the weather turns bad? These things can help save you in an emergency as well.
Let’s use the story above to talk about environmental awareness.
The first thing I should have been aware of is that rain makes it easier for a criminal to attack in a public place. Rain is effective cover for many crimes- it drowns out loud sounds and washes away physical evidence. There is another thing that we don’t often think of when it’s raining and that is how it changes us physically. When it’s a bright sunny day, we tend to walk with our head up and looking around at our surroundings. When it’s raining , if you’re like me, you have your head down and you’re rushing from point A to point B without looking around much. Which situation do you think makes it easier for a criminal to approach us unnoticed? And in which situation do you think anyone else would notice if we were in trouble?
Another environmental issue I didn’t consider was the time of day. Night is great cover for criminal attacks, but don’t think that’s the only time. Dusk and dawn are also prime times for criminal attacks because the light is low making it easy to hide in shadows. Parking far away from a building is great exercise, but parking in an area without sufficient lighting leaves us vulnerable. Darkness is a criminal’s best friend… if you can’t see him or her you can’t identify them should you survive an attack. So parking garages without good lighting even during broad day light should be avoided when possible.
So, let’s say you have to go to the grocery store one rainy night… what should I have done differently to protect myself from the environmental factors? The first thing is to carry an umbrella. An umbrella is an excellent weapon to use when being attacked. Using an umbrella when it’s raining also keeps our head up so we can be aware of more of our surroundings. The only downfall of using an umbrella is that it occupies our hands, which we need to keep free. But knowing we’ll be carrying an umbrella we can accommodate that by not carrying any other items in our hands. Practice on a dummy or boxing bag at the gym using your umbrella as a weapon, aim for vulnerable areas like eyes, throat, groin, or knees. Having the confidence to use your umbrella as a weapon will make it easier to defend yourself should the need arise. Car keys are excellent weapons when used correctly. If you hold your car keys with you, you can use them in two ways- one by setting off the car alarm or two by using a key as you would a knife. Hold the key between your first and second knuckle with the longest metal end protruding outward. If you are attacked use the key to gouge an eye or stab a throat. It sounds gross, but it could save your life.
The second environmental issue I should have been aware of was time of day. I could have still parked far away for the exercise benefit if I had chosen a better parking spot. Parking under a lamp, away from other vehicles, and near video surveillance makes that much needed exercise of walking to the front door safer. NEVER take a short cut through a dark alley- even if you’ve done it countless times, all it takes is that one time for it to be dangerous. And the more regularly you take a specific route, the easier it is for a criminal to take notice and catch you when you’re most vulnerable… so change up your route as well. Exercise is great, but not at the expense of your life, so occasionally give yourself a break and take the elevator. Closed and darkened stairwells are perfect places for an attack, so never go into one alone! College campuses report high incidents of campus rapes happening in stairwells and walking/jogging trails through isolated parts of campus. Above all remember this…in a public place if you can’t be seen neither can the person attacking you.
Next time we’ll discuss awareness of our surroundings-