By: Rob Weinhold
According to the USDOJ and CDC, nearly 2 million women are physically assaulted annually in the United States and 15%-20% percent of all American women report a sexual attack or rape at some time in their lives. And, because many sexual assaults go unreported, it remains clear that many more women are assaulted than law enforcement is able to report. The purpose of this blog is to provide some top-line advice to women regarding their personal safety, particularly during the holidays when there are many more women frequenting malls and other public places.
15%-20% percent of all American women report a sexual attack or rape at some time in their lives.
And now, a few words of advice which could save your life:
1. Be keenly aware of your surroundings – keep your eyes and ears open; women who are observant and change their behavioral or travel patterns due to signs of danger are less likely to be attacked as their attacker loses the element of surprise.
2. Walk or shop with others; there is safety in numbers as most attackers will look for isolated, vulnerable victims.
3. Walk in well-lit areas near entrances or exits from commercial establishments; this will increase your visibility to others and decrease your chances of becoming a victim.
4. Have your keys in your hand with your finger on your vehicle’s alarm system while walking through parking lots. Many attackers will look for an opportunity to attack while their victim is distracted by fumbling around with keys, talking on the phone or listening to music on headphones.
5. Limit the number of packages you carry to your vehicle as not having any free hands may invite an attacker who sees opportunity – you may need to defend yourself so be as mobile and agile as possible.
6. Be very leery of cargo vans, customized vans or large trucks that are parked next to yours; many attackers will observe a woman get out of their car, wait to park next to their parked vehicle then strike upon their return. A large vehicle restricts vision and it takes less than a few seconds to open a side door and pull a person inside.
Be very leery of cargo vans, customized vans or large trucks.
7. Make eye contact with a person that makes you nervous; attackers look for weak, vulnerable women. Additionally, attackers don’t want victims who will be able to identify them. The way you carry yourself (confident and assertive) may well deter a suspect who is about to strike – use your voice and tell someone to “stop” – noise is a deterrent and alerts others around you. Always try to notice unique features about a person (scars, marks tattoos, etc.) in case there is a need to identify later.
8. Use elevators over stairwells or isolated walkways – stairwells are a haven for victimization. Get off of an elevator if you feel uncomfortable and wait for the next car, if necessary.
9. Dress appropriately – wearing heels or other tight fitting clothing will restrict your movement and ability struggle or run if there is a need to get away quickly.
10. Don’t be overly empathetic and compassionate to others as criminal behavior patterns indicate that suspects will try to lure unsuspecting, trusting women into positions of vulnerability (e.g. help carry packages to car, engaging in needless, prolonged conversation, etc.).
11. Don’t judge a book by its cover – many well-dressed, well-mannered and clean-cut suspects are out there looking for women to victimize. They are successful because the victims think they are “normal” people just needing help.
12. If an attacker is armed and is demanding property, give it to them and let them get away. If they are trying to abduct you, do everything you can to make noise, fight and run so as to not let the attacker get you under control and take you to another location. Your chances of survival lower dramatically if you end-up under the complete control of an attacker and are taken to another location.
13. If an attacker is armed with a gun, run away in a serpentine (zigzag) manner to get away if you can. While there is always a risk of being shot, your chances of survival are much better at the point of attack versus being abducted and taken to another location. If you must attack, strike the attacker aggressively in vulnerable areas – eyes, groins, throat, knees, etc. You are fighting for your life. Your goal is to get away and you must do everything possible to achieve that outcome.
14. Contact the nearest security or store personnel to escort you to your vehicle; security personnel don’t mind this as that is what they are there for. Even though most locations are now under video surveillance, this alone is not enough to protect you or ward-off attackers.
15. Trust your instincts – if you feel nervous or scared, it is with good reason. Take the extra time to take precautions and follow the advice outlined.
Trust your instincts.
These are just a few simple tips, there are many more as not one word of advice is a guarantee as every situation is different. The most important concept is to trust your instincts and be proactive in protecting yourself.