I was recently asked by a Maid Arise reader to do a post on self defense. This is not a topic I have ever addressed but believe it is not only crucial, but quite relevant in my own life. I hope you might learn something from this as well.
How many times have you ever had a feeling you were being followed? Have you ever thought that maybe someone was possibly a threat to you? Were you ever “creeped out” by the guy at the gas station? Has anyone pulled up next to you in a car and you felt uncomfortable?
If you have never had any of these experiences it's not because you never were in such a situation but because you weren't aware of it. These scenarios are not uncommon. As young women we need to be alert of our surroundings.
If you have been in these circumstances what was your protocol? What did you intend to do? If any of these circumstances escalated you naturally will fall to instinct. Or, you will respond to what you have been conditioned to do (whether this is something you have been taught and have practiced, or, unfortunately, something you read on Facebook or saw in Holywood. :) )
A year ago, on an ordinary day, I went out to do my regular jog. Half way down the driveway I realized I had left my pepper spray at the house. I really didn't want to jog back home. I knew I should but I thought I would just run to my neighbor's drive (¼ mile) and back. Nothing could possibly happen to me on such a short run.
As soon as I passed our archway I knew something wasn't right. It fact I felt a dread steal over me that instantly frightened me. It made me look over my shoulder. And there behind me, about 100 feet away, slowly making it's way through the pot holes was a silver suburban. Even though we live in the middle of no-where it is not uncommon for vehicles to travel on our dirt road. But the fear rose in my throat and though I turned calmly back to my jogging I chided myself for not getting my pepper spray. It was then I heard them speed up. Without even looking back I broke into the fastest run of my life and fled for a little road that turns into our property. I knew they had evil intentions and I knew they were coming for me.
I turned on our road with a million thoughts racing. I started to double guess myself and then I thought I heard shouting. I turned and stopped long enough to see the suburban swerve onto our property and the passenger, a man in orange with a beanie lean out of the window and yell at me in a loud commanding voice. I had no idea what he said but I took off again, with the sound of the vehicle coming after me.
What if the men got out? They were surely faster than I was. But then I knew my property. I turned left and found myself faced with a “Y” in the heavily forested part of our property. Suddenly I remembered on one of these trails was just a short path to a dead end. I panicked. Something I was so familiar with and knew so well escaped me for a moment. Which trail? This took a fraction of a second but after taking the trail I remembered being on the one that led home I wondered if my delay had caused the men to see which direction I had turned. I could still hear the suburban. My lungs burned as I took deep gulps of cold air. I wondered if I could even scream if I needed to. I looked to the forest and wondered if I should hide. But what if they found me? Why didn't I have pepper spray? Why wasn't I armed? What good would pepper spray do me against multiple men?
By the next turn I didn't hear the vehicle. I didn't care, I raced to our log cabin up the steps and into the house.
We never found the men. But the experience taught me a lot.
One, prevention is your best protection.
Two, never go out alone unprotected. Even on an ordinary day. There is protection in numbers or with men. Pepper spray is always good to have on hand, but being alone in any place away from home is not ideal.
Three, never push your instinct aside. I knew I should have my pepper spray. I pushed it aside. I felt dread and should have turned around back into my driveway if possible. We are built with an intuition that should be heeded.
Prevention is Your Best Protection
After this experience I was invited to a self-defense class by a Taekwondo instructor. I learned a few moves that would help me escape several grips, but most importantly I learned a new mindset.
If you ever feel you are being watched or sized up, the best thing to do is obviously seek companionship and be alert. But something I was taught to also do is act confidently. Predators look for weak prey. Confidence often makes us less likely to be a victim. This works on a lesser scale of playground bullies. They pick on the quiet, awkward, shy, uncertain ones. Body language is huge. Carry yourself with confidence and certainty. Don't look at the ground all the time. Speak audibly, look people in the eye, look around you, be alert.
There is the other extreme. I know several girls who are so careless and silly (even though they certainly are not quiet, awkward, shy or uncertain) that they set themselves up for prey. Often these girls actually are so flattered by male attention that they couldn't tell between a silly male or a predator.
Predators are looking for the right victim and an opportunity. Don't give them either. Prevention is your best protection. Don't act the victim part and don't give anyone the opportunity. Park under street lamps nearest the door if out at night. Carry your pepper spray somewhere handy and available and know where it is and how to use it. Watch people around you. Don't hesitate to inform others around you if you feel threatened.
If you are ever approached don't be afraid to say no. Let that person know you are uncomfortable and ask them to step away. My instructor actually simulated being a predator. He came to me as if off the street and asked if I would come with him to his car with some excuse. I said “No I would rather not”. My instructor had been telling me to be upfront and firm. Even with him telling me this I was failing to come across certain. “No, no, you don't understand I just need you to come along....” he moved in toward me, quite casually but surprisingly he covered a big distance. “No! I told you I don't want to. You are making me feel uncomfortable and I would like you to leave now.” I took a step back and placed my hands up to show I disliked his closeness. This made my “predator” back off.
Any common Joe is going to see that he is making you feel uncomfortable and will back off right away with these tell tale signs of discomfort. If he is a predator he now has to make a decision whether to come after you, or not.
Less Severe Situations
This also could apply not only on the street but at work or in subtler scenarios like at a party or at church. I have had girlfriends that have feared being impolite and never expressed their discomfort and placed themselves in compromised situations because of it. It is much better to come across as slightly impolite and be safe, than to keep etiquette but compromise your well being. It is also important to remember that more often than not, abductions, molestations or any serious crime is perpetrated by a family acquaintance or distant (or not so distant) family member. We still need to be reasonably guarded with people we think we “know”...like our neighbors or men from church or co-workers. Even if it is just to keep their reputation pure.
If you are unsure how to let a guy know you are uncomfortable with any forwardness on his part then you can always let your father or authority do this for you. Many men are unintentionally just being too familiar. In such a circumstance I have been given some tips by my brother. If the guy is publicly too forward do not hesitate to state publicly your discomfort. This gives him the chance to back off. And if he continues it also give the other men in the room a chance to defend you based off of your stated standards. You can do this politely.
I was once with a group of friends and had gone without my brothers. At the event was a young man who knew very little boundaries and was standing close to me, trying to get a reaction from me by his antics and being altogether too forward. Normally I would go and stand by my brother. It is amazing, even worldly men will behave themselves when your men are around. But in this case I didn't have this option so I turned to this young man and said, “ I don't like this, I would like if you stopped.” And he did. It didn't phase him. He just went and sought out another girl from the group who would tolerate him. But I was no longer in any compromised situation.
I have also had young men try to habitually write me through media. I explained that I have a standard that I do not write young men one on one and they being gentlemen were good enough to abide by my conviction and it didn't hurt our friendship in the least.
I have a girlfriend that worked behind a counter. A young man was always coming and seeing her and talking to her. She had no feelings for him in the least but felt she didn't want to be impolite so never said anything. He eventually asked her out and even then she was unable to say no. Fearing to embarrass the other person or being afraid of being impolite often leads to situations where it is far more likely that you will embarrass them or make them feel badly. Better to be firm and say no upfront.
I also did this. There was a young man I was trying to witness to at work. I could tell he “liked” me but when he gave me his phone number I was shocked... and I took it! I didn't know how to say no. I made it half way to my car and thought “Dummy, what are you doing? Now he will be expecting a call from you!” I turned around raced back up the steps and gave it back to him. Talk about awkward. It would have been much easier if I had been able to say “No thank you” in the first place.
Here are some other handy tips:
Don't wear earbuds while jogging. Keep alert.
It is never appropriate for a man (never mind his age) to ask you to be alone with him. Ever. Don't compromise for anyone.
Don't brush away your instincts. Don't be afraid of coming across rude or paranoid. If uncomfortable or uncertain if you are being followed run to a public place.
Before getting in the car whether alone or with your girlfriend, glance in the back seat for anyone before getting inside. Always lock your doors as routine. Bring a phone. And if alone or only with other girls do not pick up hitchhikers. Note the mile post and call someone if you want to help.
If you know you are being followed in a store do not hesitate to tell the manager. If by car you can go to a public gas station and tell the attendant to call the police, or you could drive straight to the police station.
Be wary of isolated parking, underground garages, or offices after business hours.
In Escalated Situations
Always remain as calm as possible, but do not be afraid to make a lot of noise if the situation escalates.
Determine your assailants intent. If he just wants your purse, be willing to give it up. Your life is worth much more than your purse.
Try to make mental notes of your assailant or their vehicle. Both I and my sister FaithAnne have been in situations where our assailants could have been caught if we had paid more attention to details. License plate numbers are a good detail to take note of. Know what first two digits belong to your county.
It's usually much better to flee than fight. But if you can't get away fight with tooth and nail. Don't play dead. And even worse, I've read advice saying to make yourself vomit on the assailant so he won't want you. Bad idea. Aim for tender and sensitive areas. Resist! Pleading and crying are statistically proven to be useless.
When it's over and you're safe, call 911. The quicker you can do this the more likely the police will be able to apprehend the assailant. Unfortunately the police are far out from where we live so in both Faith's and my situations they were unable to get to the scene quickly. But they were able to file a report.
Also be sure to talk over the events. Do not give into unreasonable fear. Learn what to do in situations. Learn how to either use weapons or defensive tactics. When victims resist and scream the rate for forced molestation drops to 50 percent. Running away shows that as few as 15 percent of women were molested. While studies indicate that violent physical force drops the number even more. In fact woman who used knives or guns in self defense were raped less than 1 percent of the time*.
*Statistics taken from “Safe, How to Protect yourself, your family and your home” by Wayne Lapierre
Don't allow the opposite gender to touch you. Even in a playful manner. Many sexual assaults start this way.
If unable to flee and you must fight remember that striking is more affective than pushing or wrestling. Better than punching is using your flat hand against an ear. You are under no obligation to concern yourself over your attackers welfare. Do not hesitate to kick and gouge sensitive areas.
Consider taking martial art defense classes and using pepper spray and firearms and always refuse to be a victim.
A Last Word
I hope that somehow this was helpful to you and would like to hear your thoughts on this topic. Both FaithAnne and I were attacked on ordinary days in familiar places without any warning. As women we are weaker and need to be prepared and equipped. My brothers have conveyed concern to me at the lack of prepared and knowledgeable girls in this area. I hope that this post was beneficial.