Real Life Tips For Women In A World That Doesn’t Do Enough To Protect Us
Advice from a women’s self defense instructor on how to safeguard yourself.
In my youth, the word “rape” just wasn’t something you heard of very much in the small towns of the sleepy South. I can still remember when we would go to sleep or go into town and leave our doors unlocked. We didn’t worry about someone coming into our home and doing unspeakable things.
April 2021 is coincidentally the 20th anniversary of Sexual Assault Awareness Month. It’s a sad world that we live in that we have to have an entire month dedicated to warning people about how sexual assaults can occur and how to prevent them. Most “awareness months” are dedicated to health concerns such as various cancers, HIV/AIDS, children’s health, rare diseases, eating disorders, PSTD, breastfeeding, and obesity. Sexual assault is so common that it shares the stage with life-changing diseases and conditions. There is no doubt that any form of sexual assault is life-altering and the fact that it still occurs today, in modern civilizations is barbaric. It is a primitive crime that should no longer exist in our society, yet it does.
How do we stop this cycle? How do we make our “NO!”s heard? We do what civilizations throughout history have always done. We fight back. I don’t mean taking to the streets yelling “Hell no, we won’t go!” or wearing female genitalia costumes. I mean that we take responsibility for ourselves.
Women have always been labeled the weaker sex, which I believe is why rape has withstood the test of time. However, within the past 100 years especially, women have shown time and time again that this just isn’t true. We have climbed mountains, swam channels, flown around the world, became prominent figures in the workforce, crossed boundaries, and created new ones, all while raising babies and re-applying our lipstick. We are a force to be reckoned with ladies, and it’s time that we show that there is no longer any room for fear of sexual assault in our world.
I have been a women’s self-defense instructor through the R.A.D. (Rape Aggression Defense) Program for the past 11 years. I opened up part of my life to ensure that women like you, me, your sister, my mother, and our daughters can protect themselves from those with evil souls. Those that seek to take a part of us and leave us broken now have more to fear because of this program and the women who participate in it. The program does more than educate about risk reduction and teach some defense moves. It empowers women and makes them realize that they can protect themselves. They can prevent abduction and sexual assault and live to tell about it.
What Can I Do to Protect Myself?
Naturally, I suggest finding a RAD class in your area as they are offered in most of the 50 states in the United States, as well as Canada, Egypt, the United Kingdom, and Switzerland, however, there are things that you can do every day to help reduce your chances of finding yourself in a situation that physical resistance is necessary. I have gone through all of the risk reduction strategies and picked out the ones that I feel are the most essential for today’s women.
Check Your Home
Home is where we are meant to feel safe and protected. However, there are those that seek to shatter that illusion by intruding into our safe space and taking a piece of our souls with them. I like to think of my home as my own personal fortress. We must make sure that our fortress, however is secure as we can make it.
- Check your drapes and shades. Make sure that they are fully covering your window and are not creating a “silhouette” effect.
- Check outdoor lighting. Motion lights are great, but if they’re not available, make sure that the area around your home is not always in darkness. If you plan to leave during the day and come home after dark, leave an outside light on to prepare for your return.
- Shrubs and bushes. Make sure that if you have either that they stay trimmed at least an inch below your windowsill. In the event a predator is using the plants as cover to hide, they would have to show the top of their head to be able to look into your window.
- Doors and locks. Check locks on windows and doors pretty regularly, especially on the ones that you don’t use often. If a lock doesn’t work properly, get it repaired asap! Criminals are experienced in finding weakly secured entrances.
- Spare Keys. Don’t leave your spare house key under your welcome mat, a fake rock, or inside the ceramic frog on your porch. These are the first places that criminals look! Instead, leave a copy with a trusted family member or neighbor (keyword: TRUSTED).
- Peepholes. Peepholes are great for looking outside to see who is knocking on the door however, make sure that it is a ONE WAY peephole. Some older models were found to be two-way and whoever was outside could see inside the house from the door. Doorbell cameras have also become quite popular as it also allows you to speak to the person at the door via intercom.
- Approaching your vehicle. As you approach your vehicle, have your keys out and in your hand. This makes entry quick and keys can also be used as a weapon if necessary. As you walk toward your vehicle, do a quick scan underneath and the areas surrounding to make sure no one is hiding around it. If you see something stuck on or tied to your vehicle, do not stop to look at it or touch it. Drive away and examine it once you are at a safe location. If something is obstructing you from entering your vehicle (such as the door handle twist-tied to another vehicle, turn around, go back inside the location, and call the police.
- Service Your Vehicle Regularly. Make sure you have more than enough gas to get where you are going in the event you have to take a detour. Ensure that your vehicle is in good working order. Nothing is scarier than being stranded in the middle of nowhere after your car breaks down.
- If You’re Being Followed. If you think you are being followed, do NOT go home. Instead, go to a crowded public place, or even better, your local police station. If you have your cell phone, call 911. Explain to the dispatcher the situation and where you plan to go. An officer can be dispatched to the location to ensure that you are safe.
- If Your Vehicle Does Break Down. If your vehicle breaks down, try to stay inside the vehicle if it is safe to do so. Call for assistance and keep windows rolled up. If you encounter someone else who is broken down and asking for assistance, go with your gut. No one will blame you for not inviting a stranger into your vehicle. I often tell them that I will call the police and have them send someone out to assist them. Their reaction usually tells a lot about the person’s character.
- Police Impersonators. If you are being pulled over, but do not feel that it is safe to do so for any reason (you’re not sure if it’s a real officer, you are in a deserted area, call 911. Tell the dispatcher your concerns. They can verify whether it is an actual officer making the stop, can let the officer know your intentions for pulling over once you get to a safer location, and give you further directions.
- Sharing Too Much. Be careful about sharing too much personal information on your vehicle. Personalized tags, stickers of your children, their names, sports they play, a parking sticker for the complex you live in, information about your profession, and even your pets can be used by predators to target certain women.
- Social Media. We share entirely too much information on social media. Beware of announcing to all of your “friends” that you are out of town on vacation. Several police officer friends of mine only post information and photos about their vacations once they have returned from their trip. Also, be careful about “checking in” to locations that you are at. This feature is a stalker’s favorite.
- Harassing Communications. Whether the harassment is coming from a phone call, e-mail, text, or via social media, the best way to handle it is to initially BLOCK the person and ignore their messages. That’s what they want after all, is your attention. If it continues or escalates, file a police report. You will then have the option to file a restraining order or sign a warrant and have the person arrested if you know the person’s identity.
- Awareness. While cell phones are fantastic for reporting emergencies, they could very well add to the chance of one happening. Ladies, put your phones DOWN in public. If you are walking into Target while scrolling through your latest Instagram photos, you are DISTRACTED. These are the types of women that predators look for, those who are not paying attention to their surroundings. Look up from your phone, take a look around you, notice people, look people in the eye. Potential attackers don’t like that. They don’t want to be noticed and they definitely don’t want you to be able to get a good look at them.
- Take Notice. If you’re in an elevator, waiting for a bus, or simply walking to your car in a parking garage, one tip when someone is close to you is to talk to them. It lets them know that you have noticed them and could make them nervous to a point where they may abandon any illicit plans that they may have had.
Date Rape is still rape. If a man goes on a date with a woman and then kills her afterward, it is not referred to as “date murder”, it’s simply murder. Date rape was a term invented to make the crime not seem so “heinous”, however it is just as despicable and vile as any other type of rape.
Remember that regardless of what a man does for you or buys for you, you do not “owe him” anything. The choice to have sexual contact is a decision made by BOTH parties. If one says no, then it’s NO. Rapists who do so while on dates tend to isolate their date, takes too many liberties with touching, and often shows a lack of respect towards their date and others.
Overall, I thoroughly believe in Malcolm X’s quote “It is criminal not to teach a man not to defend himself when he is the constant victim of brutal attacks. While it was not specifically referring to sexual attacks, it still applies. This, my friends, is what I have sought after. I hope to give every woman that I come into contact with the tools that they need that will give them a chance to defend themselves against the evils of our world.