Self-Defense Tactics: Keeping Yourself Safe
Keeping Yourself Safe Against Would-Be Attackers
My teenager daughter and I are into running. We run whenever we get a spare moment and we are often training for marathons and other races. Because of our busy lives, we usually run late in the day, which means it is often already dark outside. I don't typically worry excessively for myself, but I do worry for my daughter. I realize how running after dark makes us more vulnerable to attacks and abductions than we otherwise would be. Women are far more likely to be abducted and/ or attacked than men. In many cases, we present easier targets. I've never allowed my fear and apprehensions to paralyze me, but I do try to be smart about my habits and have taught my children to do the same. There is no reason to purposefully elevate one's risk of harm when it can be avoided. The following are a few self-defense tips that you can use to help yourself remain as safe as possible whether you're out running or just running errands.
- Be aware of your surroundings. Are there people around you? What are they doing? Does anyone give you the creeps? Why? Walking with your head held erect and scanning the environment for possible threats is always wise. Attackers will notice those that seem to be oblivious. It is easier to catch them off-guard. Avoid talking on cell phones or texting while walking in sparsely populated areas. This also tells attackers that you've let your guard down and invites them to come after you.
- Change up your routine. If you can manage it, do not take the same route each time you go for a walk or run. Do not take the same route when you are driving home from work each day. If you mix up your routine, it will make your moves unpredictable. If you're harder to track, you present too much effort and risk to an attacker.
- If walking or running after dark try not to do it in unlit places. Choose streets or paths that are well-lit.
- Do not run or walk on the side of the street that abuts a wooded area. If both sides of the street are wooded, try running down the middle of the path.
- Wear reflective running wear after dark and clip a blinking light to your clothing so that you stand out. This will help traffic avoid you and if you happen to be attacked, it will help possible rescuers spot you more easily as well.
- Run with a dog if you have one. The bigger the dog, the better. Attackers will think twice about having to deal with you and your animal.
- Do not use your i-Pod if running after dark. If you insist on using it, keep the volume low so that it doesn't block out all the ambient noise. If you can't hear anything but music, that means that you can't hear the guy closing in behind you.
- Do not be afraid to scream. This often scares attackers off. Start screaming before they get their hands on you. Once you assess that the threat is real, scream loudly! Often times the attacker will run.
- Carry a whistle. If you're afraid your screams won't do it, blow a whistle loudly and repeatedly. This will alert people for a greater distance than your voice may carry and will startle your attacker.
- Carry a set of car keys with you and keep your fingers laced around them so that they jut out and can be used as weapons if needed. This is particularly handy when walking in a darkened parking lot or on campus. In most places carrying concealed weapons is against the law. I recall hearing a story once about an attacker that sued their intended victim for macing them and the attacker won the case! Even mace was considered a concealed weapon and because of its use, the intended crime never transpired. Therefore the only crime committed was the person who used the mace in self-defense. In my opinion, that is what's criminal. Nowhere have I heard of carrying car keys to be illegal, and what's more, if they are visibly sticking through your fingers, they are also not concealed.
- Try not to walk or run alone. Having more than one person presents a greater challenge for would-be attackers, who often act alone. If you are returning to your vehicle in a darkened area, try to have a buddy to walk with or, when available, use the valet parking service.
- If you are attacked and are in a position to fight back, go for the most sensitive, vulnerable areas such as genitals, eyes and nose. If you can stun or temporarily disable an attacker, you have a chance to run and scream for help.
- If you are abducted or attacked, you will experience a wide range of emotions such as fear, disbelief and anger. If possible, try not to be overcome by them. You'll need your powers of observation more than ever. Relying on a sense of sight, sound, smell and touch may help you to provide crucial information to the authorities later. Even the most random or seemingly innocuous details can be helpful. For example, what color, make and model was the attackers car? Can you remember even a few of the license plate numbers? What was he/ she wearing? How tall was he/ she? What color hair or eyes did they have? Did you see any scars or tattoos? What were their teeth like? What did they smell like? Were they dirty or did they smell like after shave? What did their car smell like? Did you smell cigarettes, cough drops or anything else? Did he or she say anything? What specifically did they say? Was there more than one person involved in your attack? If so, did anyone use a name or nickname? Was a weapon used? If so, what kind and can you describe it as accurately as possible?
- Run or walk with a GPS watch. If you are abducted, it may make it easier to track you.
- Always let someone know where are you going and approximately how long you will be gone. This is especially important when running or walking after dark.
- Never assume that if you are running or walking during the day that you will be safe. Especially if you are running in wooded or sparsely populated areas. Always be aware of your surroundings and let someone know your planned route.
- Keep a cell phone with you in case of emergencies and make sure it has been charged before you go out alone. Remember that when running in cold weather your batteries will die much more quickly, so try to keep the phone in a place that is close to your body for warmth or in an insulated, warming pouch.
Be careful. Be safe. Enjoy life.
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