The best self defense is to make yourself aware.
There are a million ways to defend yourself. There are a million people telling you how to do it. I’m not trying to be either of those. What I do want to do is help you become aware of some really basic self awareness/situational awareness things you can do to help you increase your safety when you’re out and about with or without the kids. I know, as moms, we tend to get tunnel vision when we’re with the kids and are just trying to get through this next shopping trip without any tantrums and getting at least 30% of what we meant to go in for. However, our main priority is to make sure we and the children are safe – everything else is secondary. These comments aren’t meant to judge, they are meant to make you aware of how our everyday habits can put us in danger.
Note: There was a comment on social media awhile back that this article was condescending to women because it put the burden of protection on them, instead of on the person causing the harm. So I assume he meant that it was okay for me to not pay attention to what I was doing when I walk out of a store and bury my head in my cellphone and just walk into traffic because the burden to keep me safe is on the driver, not me. Sorry – but I would never want to put that burden on another individual when I can keep myself safe by looking up and paying attention to what is around me.
And in a perfect world, no one would ever want to harm another individual. But it isn’t a perfect world, and you cannot forfeit your safety in hopes that the person approaching you in the dark alley you decided to walk down, who surprised you because you were too focused on your cell phone to pay attention to what was around you, will be a good person. YOU must take responsibility to be as safe for yourself and your chidlren as you can be. This doesn’t mean that you allow a bad person to hurt you – it means you do everything in your power to protect from it.
10 Basic Safety Tips for Women
1. Be Aware of Your Surroundings
Typically known as “situational awareness”, make it a habit to know what’s going on around you. When you walk into a room, look to your left and right to see who is lingering at the door, find your exits, look to see who is there. When you walk out of a door, immediately look to your left and right to see if anyone is lingering, look behind you often to make sure someone’s not following you. You don’t have to be paranoid..you just need to be aware.
Bad dudes are just waiting for that woman who hasn’t a clue as to what is going on around her because she’s going to be the easiest mark.
2. Get Off Your Phone
Is that phone call or text to your best friend about the Walmart chick you saw wearing nude colored leggings REALLY as important as your safety? That call/text can wait until you are in your car safely (with the doors locked). Not only are you able to be aware of your surroundings by any human threat, but you can pay attention to the traffic around you and not get run over. If you’ve got the kids in tow as well, you aren’t giving them your undivided attention in a potentially dangerous situation.
Keep your phone handy to call for help, but don’t be so tied to it that you can’t be aware of what’s going on around you the moments you need to be the most aware.
Quick Tip #1 – It may seem a complete antithesis of #2, but having a phone to call for help is a must in our day and age. If you’re stuck on the side of the road with no one to help, you could be stuck for awhile without help, or at the mercy of whomever you decide to rely upon because you can’t get help. You can also have GPS to get you out of a neighborhood you ought not to be in if you’re lost.
Tell someone where you are going and where you are.
3. Don’t Leave Your Purse Unattended
Before you glaze over at this, hear me out. Not only are you going to lose your cash and your credit cards if someone grabs your purse, but your personal safety is at risk because they now have your home address. This extends the danger time to well past the moment he or she walked by your shopping cart or restaurant chair and nicked your bag when you weren’t paying attention to the next time you’re away at a soccer game, and they break in while you’re gone. Or…while you’re there. And if not them, someone they know looking for an easy mark.
Quick Tip #1: Get a carabiner from the sporting goods section – looks like this:
Use it to wrap your shoulder strap through a shopping cart a few time (because the safety strap is probably being used for your child), then use the clip to attach the looped end to the cart. It’s a quick snap in, and easy lever to remove when you’re ready to go. You can also do this in a restaurant as well. Just make sure your carabiner isn’t weak, but you don’t have to get an industrial size one. You can even get cute ones in shapes of hearts or houses or dog bones, etc. (but make sure they aren’t super light weight). You can store the carabiner on the strap, and it will only take you about 12 seconds to strap your bag to the cart or chair. 12 seconds. That’s a micro-fraction of the time that you stand looking at what flavor of yogurt to buy.
Quick Tip #2 – Consider not carrying a purse (I know – super radical, and odd coming from someone who believes in carrying a day bag), but in all situations, do you absolutely need to carry in a purse to the store? Is your wallet so huge that you can’t tuck it into your pocket ? Do you really need your lipstick and brush and makeup bag and all the other stuff for quick runs into Target? There may be times when leaving it in the trunk locked up is a better idea. Just consider it. I carry my wallet and my car keys on my body. I do not keep them in my day bag. That way, if ever I walk off and forget my bag, someone happens to cut the strap and steal it, my money, my identity and my means of escape are on me, not with them. I hear your argument that your clothes don’t have pockets, etc. To me, safety is infinitely more important than fashion (and coincidentally, my husband agrees!)
Quick Tip #3 – Don’t leave your purse in plain site in your car. Car jackings/burglaries are on the rise, and many times it’s just a hit and run – knock out the glass, reach in to grab a purse and run. Keep your purse out of plain site instead of leaving it on the car seat next to you.
4. Lock the Door Behind You
Make it an absolute rule of thumb that when you get into your car, lock the door immediately (if nothing else, just use the remote you’ve already got in your hand to lock up, too). When you come in from outside, lock the door immediately. When you go into a bathroom stall – lock first THEN find a place to put your bag. Too often bad guys don’t get you when you’re going INTO the building or car, but will wait until you think you’re safe and relax your guard, and then open that door and you’re stuck.
Don’t let the perceived ‘safety’ of your car or house keep you from actually being safe.
5. Speak Up
Do not be afraid to speak to someone to ask them to not come closer if approaching you in a parking lot. Do not be afraid to yell for help if they don’t stop. Do not be afraid to speak loudly to someone so that you can get the attention of others nearby. Do not be afraid to let your wishes be known that you do not want to be harmed. Might you be embarrassed if it turns out that you misunderstood the situation? What’s a few minutes embarrassment when you read a situation incorrectly and ask for help compared to a situation where you stood and froze, too scared to say something because you didn’t want to embarrass yourself and were harmed.
Scream, yell, command – use your voice!
6. Park Safely
When parking, choose spots that are well-lit, amongst other cars, and as close to the main entrances of a building as you can (not so you can be lazy, so that you spend less time in the car park as possible). Lock your car quickly, but keep your keys handy in case you have to get back in. Be aware of someone loitering near your car (do not approach), and always check in and around your car before entering. When loading your trunk, do so as quickly as you can and always keep aware on your surroundings of someone approaching.
Keep your keys handy and do not fumble in your purse for them.
7. Answer the Door
Typically, we’ve been told, “If you’re home alone and someone knocks, don’t answer – they’ll go away.” Recent events, though, are showing that more and more, burglars are doing home invasions assuming that if no one answers, it’s safe to go in. Locally, we’ve been told by our police department to answer with a call for who it is, and let them know you’re on the phone or won’t be answering the door or other ways to let the person know you aren’t going to be opening the door. Never actually answer the door even for a service person you are expecting until you’ve been able to confirm that they are actually who they say they are.
Do not invite a predator in.
8. Trust Your Instincts
Trust your gut. If you feel something weird about a situation, get out of it. If you have a sense of dread about walking into a dark area, don’t – find some light. If a person is giving you cause to be concerned, excuse yourself from the conversation or cross the street to get away from them. I’m not talking about paranoia, I’m talking about that instinct that we tend to push aside – the hair raising on the back of your neck, goosebumps on your arms…all telling you to flee!
9. Learn how to Use Your Gun
Do not go out and buy a pretty little gun, put it in a purse and never touch it again. When the time comes to use it, will you be able to draw it safely? Know how to get it off safety? Know how to aim and shoot? Know how to take care of a jam? Know how to reload? Get out to a range and learn to shoot your weapon. Learn how to handle it safely. Practice drawing and dry firing (if your gun works well, or get snap caps to use). Practice with your husband acting as an attacker so that you can practice how you’ll react (just don’t get mad at him if he’s good at it!) Practice safely, but practice. Knowing how to use your gun effectively and safely will allow you to have another layer of defense between you and an attacker. Too many times, people who don’t know how to handle their weapons end up with said weapon turned against them. Don’t be that woman.
If you’re going to have a gun, learn how to use it.
10. Don’t Make Yourself a Target
Wearing flashy jewelry (you have something valuable to steal), wearing restrictive clothing (unable to run or defend yourself), carrying more than you can manage, not paying attention to what’s going on around you, leaving valuables in plain site, leaving your garage open, flashing money (best not to show everything in your wallet when trying to pay) are all ways to make yourself a target.
Hold yourself confidently, act wisely, don’t be a target.
Being proactive to keep yourself safe is your best self-defense move.
Last thoughts: Consider Taking a class
Whether it’s a personal self defense class or something a little more involved like a martial art or Krav Maga, take a class from your local Y or attend a seminar by the local police force. They can show you a few moves to help you defend yourself, if necessary. When I took mine, our instructor emphasized – go for the soft spots. Use your fingers in their eyes, your hands/elbows/knees/feet in their crotch, your fingers in their throat – bite their noses and ears. Do anything you can to get a window of opportunity to run away.
That is your goal – get away and get help.