Being the victim of an assault is certainly one of the biggest fears that many of us have. While the chances of being attacked by a stranger is actually pretty slim, it still pays to look after yourself and do what you can to lessen the chances of it happening to you. Surely the best way to do this is to find out how attackers choose their targets. A group of rapists and date rapists were interviewed in prison to find out what they look for in a potential victim.
The research found that these attackers looked for certain things – whether it was your hairstyle, clothing, or location before deciding whether you are ‘worth’ attacking:
1] The first thing men look for in a potential victim is hairstyle. They are most likely to go after a woman with a ponytail, bun, braid, or other hairstyle that can easily be grabbed. They are also likely to go after a woman with long hair. Women with short hair are not common targets.
2] The second thing men look for is clothing. They will look for women who’s clothing is easy to remove quickly. Many of them carry scissors around to cut clothing.
3] They also look for women using their cell phone, searching through their purse, or doing other activities while walking because they are off guard and can be easily overpowered.
The three most common places for women to be abducted from are:
1] Grocery store parking lots.
2] Office parking lots/garages.
3] Public restrooms.
The attackers revealed that they would be looking to grab a woman and then quickly move them to a second location where they don’t have to worry about being caught. Putting up any kind of a fight is likely to discourage your attacker – spending time battling you increases their chances of being caught.
The research also revealed that the men would not pick on a woman who was carrying an umbrella or something else that could be used as a weapon from a distance in their hands. It is pretty common for women to reach for a set of keys to use as a weapon, but the men said this is unlikely to discourage the attack, as keys need to be used up close. Generally speaking, the best way to avoid being attacked is to make the men see that you are not worth it.
Defending yourself is not just about physically fighting back, but also involves being able to assess situations for risk:
1] Always be aware of your surroundings, take someone with you if you can and if you see any odd behavior, don’t dismiss it, go with your instincts. You may feel little silly at the time, but you’d feel much worse if the guy really was trouble.
2] As women, we are always trying to be sympathetic: STOP IT! It may get you raped, or killed. Ted Bundy, the serial killer, was a good-looking, well educated man, who ALWAYS played on the sympathies of unsuspecting women. He walked with a cane, or a limp, and often asked “for help” into his vehicle or with his vehicle, which is when he abducted his next victim.
3] ALWAYS take the elevator instead of the stairs. (Stairwells are horrible places to be alone and the perfect crime spot).
As already mentioned, parking lots are among the favored spots for attackers – so here are some extra tips to keep you safe:
1] Be aware: look around your car as someone may be hiding at the passenger side, peek into your car, inside the passenger side floor, and in the back seat. ( DO THIS TOO BEFORE RIDING A TAXI CAB) .
2] If you are parked next to a big van, enter your car from the passenger door. Most serial killers attack their victims by pulling them into their vans while the women are attempting to get into their cars.
3] Look at the car parked on the driver’s side of your vehicle and the passenger side. If a male is sitting alone in the seat nearest your car, you may want to walk back into the mall, or work, and get a guard/policeman to walk you back out. IT IS ALWAYS BETTER TO BE SAFE THAN SORRY. (And better paranoid than dead.)
4] Women have a tendency to get into their cars after shopping, eating, working, etc., and just sit (doing their checkbook, or making a list, etc. DON’T DO THIS! The predator will be watching you, and this is the perfect opportunity for him to get in on the passenger side, put a gun to your head, and tell you where to go. AS SOON AS YOU CLOSE the DOORS, LEAVE.
Often a little psychology is enough to discourage an attacker – so showing them that you are not worth the effort is usually your first line of defense:
1] If someone is following behind you on a street or in a garage or with you in an elevator or stairwell, look them in the face and ask them a question, like what time is it, or make general small talk: can’t believe it is so cold out here, we’re in for a bad winter. Now that you’ve seen their faces and could identify them in a line- up, you lose appeal as a target.
2] If someone is coming toward you, hold out your hands in front of you and yell Stop or Stay back! Most of the rapists this man talked to said they’d leave a woman alone if she yelled or showed that she would not be afraid to fight back. Again, they are looking for an EASY target.
3] If you carry pepper spray (this instructor was a huge advocate of it and carries it with him wherever he goes,) yelling I HAVE PEPPER SPRAY and holding it out will be a deterrent.
However, if you are grabbed it is time to fight back – and then try to escape:
1] If someone grabs you, you can’t beat them with strength but you can do it by outsmarting them. If you are grabbed around the waist from behind, pinch the attacker either under the arm between the elbow and armpit or in the upper inner thigh – HARD. One woman in a class this guy taught told him she used the underarm pinch on a guy who was trying to date rape her and was so upset she broke through the skin and tore out muscle strands the guy needed stitches. Try pinching yourself in those places as hard as you can stand it; it really hurts.
2] After the initial hit, always go for the groin. I know from a particularly unfortunate experience that if you slap a guy’s parts it is extremely painful. You might think that you’ll anger the guy and make him want to hurt you more, but the thing these rapists told our instructor is that they want a woman who will not cause him a lot of trouble. Start causing trouble, and he’s out of there.
3] When the guy puts his hands up to you, grab his first two fingers and bend them back as far as possible with as much pressure pushing down on them as possible. The instructor did it to me without using much pressure, and I ended up on my knees and both knuckles cracked audibly.
4] Tip from Tae Kwon Do: The elbow is the strongest point on your body. If you are close enough to use it, do it.
What about guns?
If a robber asks you to hand over your wallet or purse don’t pass it to them, but instead throw it away from you. Chances are they will go towards the money which will give you the chance to run in the opposite direction.