Protecting Yourself From An Attack
Noble McIntyre on September 17, 2013
You might have read the alarming news in recent weeks about a string of rapes or attempted rapes that have occurred over the past few months in the northeast quadrant of Oklahoma City. Some of these incidents might have been avoidable, specifically where women willingly followed a would-be attacker to a secluded area. However, the fact that these incidents are happening with such frequency should be a wake-up call to everyone to remain vigilant and be protective of our personal safety. Although you’ve probably heard some of these suggestions before, it’s never a bad time to get a reminder of some smart practices when it comes to self-protection.
Please note, however, that the suggestions below are specific to attacks by strangers. Statistically, the majority of rapes are perpetrated by someone who the victim knows. These strategies are for avoiding a stranger attack. However, there is lots of information out there on how to prevent date rape and acquaintance rape, that’s worth reading, too.
- If you can avoid walking alone at night, do so. There is safety in numbers. Even if it’s just walking to your car in a darkened parking lot, if you can walk with a buddy or have a security escort, it’s best to do that. If you’re parking your car and you know that you’ll need to return to it in the dark, try to park under or near a streetlamp or in the best-lit area you can find.
- If you are threatened, scream. Loudly. Often. Sometimes, an attacker might say that if you’re quiet, you won’t get hurt. Don’t believe him. Do whatever you can to draw attention to yourself and call for help. Also, if you think you’re able to fight back physically, try your best. Studies have shown that when women fight back in these situations, even if it doesn’t successfully thwart the attack, doing so is beneficial to their long-term emotional recovery.
- Don’t carry a weapon like pepper spray. The hazard with pepper spray or mace is that the attacker can turn it on the victim and it can be used as part of the attack, rather than to prevent it.
- Try to stick to areas where there are other pedestrians. Bad guys don’t want witnesses. If you have the choice of walking down a busier street or cutting through the park at night, choose the street. Also, a path with bushes or trees gives attackers good hiding spots where they can lie in wait. If you cross an open parking lot, (1) he can’t hide so easily, and (2) you can see someone approaching from a distance, as opposed to being caught off-guard by someone jumping out from behind.
- Look like you’ve got attitude. If you have your head up and look purposeful, you send the message that you won’t be an easily intimidated victim. Use that to your best advantage. Also, don’t wear headphones—they make you less aware of your surroundings and, even if you think you can hear everything that’s going on, you won’t pick up on small noises that might be important for your safety.
- Run to the closest people you can find. If there’s a lighted business or home, go there. Even if they won’t let you in, the attacker won’t want to be seen and will likely take off.
- Run! Even if the attacker has a weapon, try your hardest to break free and just start running. If he has a gun, run in a crooked line. Even a great marksman would have a hard time hitting a moving target.
- Your mobile phone won’t save you. If you’re attacked, don’t waste time trying to make a call. Screaming and running comes first. Even if you were to get a call to 911 and be coherent enough for them to understand you, most attacks take less than five minutes, so by the time the police arrive, your attacker will be long gone.
And, perhaps the single most important factor in avoiding an attack: be aware. Observe your surroundings at all times. Always be on the lookout for someone who could be following you or watching you too closely, and always be aware of where you might flee if the need arises. If you sense that someone is following you, don’t hesitate to turn and look at him. If you confront the situation, the potential attacker might be scared off by the possibility of being recognized and will search for an easier target.
Remember, if you are attacked, it’s not your fault. Get help immediately by going to the nearest hospital or police station.
If you’re a victim of a sexual assault, call the “Get Help” hotline at (800) 656-HOPE or contact your local rape crisis center.