The statistics for rape alone in England and Wales are really shocking with approximately 85,000 women and 12,000 men raped every year. That equates to 11 rapes every hour. The Ministry of Justice combined with the Office for National statistics and the Home Office, released those figures as part of An Overview of Sexual Offending in England and Wales in 2013. The document also stated that 1 in 5 women aged 16-59 had experienced some form of sexual violence since the age of 16.
So how do we prepare ourselves to help us prevent anything like this happening to us, to our friends, to our family, to our children?
We start by making self-protection a greater priority. Just because we cannot imagine or perceive a threat doesn’t mean that one doesn’t exists – the statistics prove that it is far more prolific than many care to admit to themselves.
The more informed you are, the better prepared you will be in the event you are targeted by a predator. The aim of this article is simply to empower women and men with the knowledge to prepare them for some of the unexpected. It is important whenever faced with a perpetrator not to let your fear escalate so that you can make as many of the right moves to help you out of the situation safely as you can. So here are ten things to help you prepare and prevent yourself from becoming a statistic:
1. Mentally Prepare YourselfUltimately, denial can cost you your life in some circumstances. So open yourself up to the possibility of danger in case the unthinkable happens. Preparing for a violent attack is just the same as knowing to ring 999 if someone is stealing something from you or if you spot a fire. We instinctively know what to do when faced with some dangers so why, with the statistics where they are, are we not all ready to react to attempted rape? So the first step to preparation is to mentally prepare yourself by thinking about what you would do if someone tried to rape you. That extends to kidnap, rob and murder you as well. You never expect your house to set alight but it can, you never expect to be awoken by burglars and have to phone the police but that can happen and you know the steps. Forcing yourself to think about that scenario means you will be less likely to become frozen by fear and unable to defend yourself.
2. Have a PlanYou do not need a black belt in a martial art to protect yourself. Of course against some odds a martial art would come in useful but there are measures you can take without changing your whole lifestyle. There are short self-defence courses, workshops, DVDs and plenty of material on YouTube. Make sure you use credible sources but try and watch and absorb as much as you can. In that split second when someone attacks you their single intention is to overpower you and all they will be thinking about is their actions. They will assume that you will fight back with your arms or try and pull away, presuming that you do not freeze. So the moment you don’t freeze and you have a few planned moves of your own to throw at your attacker the more likely you are to get away from them.
3. Listen to Your IntuitionThat feeling that something is a little off is your first warning sign if you are lucky enough to pick up on something. All animals are born with survival skills but as humans also have the ability to add judgment and everyday experience to our base intuition. It is judgement that can sometimes get in the way because we assume we are overthinking thing and that there is a rational explanation for everything. Listening to our gut feels illogical so we shrug it off as paranoia. So trust your intuition. Don’t second guess yourself because sometimes that fear and worry is just your instincts doing what they are supposed to and warning you of the possibility that you could become a victim of a serious crime.
4. Take in Your SurroundingsFirstly do not glue yourself to your phone or IPod when you are alone in a public place. Talking on your phone and listening to your IPod takes your attention away from your surroundings. You need to read the landscape around you so that you spot if someone is following you and can cross the street or walk into a busy place. If those options are unavailable then you should turn and look the individual in the face and ask them what time it is. This shows them that you are not afraid and that you are aware of them. It makes them think that you stand your ground and are more likely to fight back if attacked.
You also take some of their power away because they can no longer sneak up on you from behind and by turning and looking at them you can now identify them. Getting a good profile of a predator is something they want to avoid you doing because it means they are taking more risks.
5. Be Car SmartCar parks and parked cars in general are high risk areas especially when they are poorly lit which is why predators target them. The first step towards being prepared is to have your keys in your hand as you leave a building. Keys are also a natural weapon if you just slide a few keys between your fingers. Make sure you are close to your car before you unlock it to prevent anyone slipping into the back of it. Then once you are inside make sure you lock your doors and start driving – don’t dawdle. Think about any vans parked close to the car and try and park your car in as open a place as possible – no dark corners. The safest option would be to never be alone when going to your car but we know this is not always possible. If in doubt ask someone to walk you to your car, you have absolutely nothing to lose by asking for a little added security.
6. Recognise Signs of Dangerous and Controlling BehaviourOn the whole there is a very small portion of society that want to harm you and those people can give off clear signals. The majority of attackers also do not start with brutal force – they build to it. They will try and coax women into secluded areas and force them to relinquish control. There are a number of pre-Incident Indicators (P.I.N.S.) that you can look out for:
Forced Teaming — When someone tries to pretend he has something in common or is in the same predicament as you when it isn’t true
Charm – Putting on a show and being polite and nice in order to manipulate someone – it will feel just that little bit over the top or less genuine
Too Many Details – When someone is lying they add excessive details in a bid to make themselves sound more credible
Typecasting – An insult that also compliments to get you to talk to someone you otherwise wouldn’t.
Loan Sharking – Giving unsolicited help and expecting something in return like entry into your house to put your bags down that he (or she) has helped carry up the stairs.
Unsolicited Promise — A promise to do (or not to do) something when you never asked for said promise. Those promises will usually be broken
Discounting the word “no” — Refusing to accept rejection.
Just think about their behaviour and ask yourself if it feels out of the ordinary or uncomfortable. They are a stranger – are they making or convincing you to do something that you would never normally even consider?
7. Know Your Strengths & His WeaknessesThe elbow is the strongest point of the body so if you get close to it that is your best weapon to use. If you are taken to the ground then use your legs to kick free from your attacker. Your attacker has four weakest points:
If you strike low and take out the knee with a sharp side kick you will usually catch them by surprise because they will be expecting you to flail and attack with your arms.
If you are grabbed around the waist from behind, pinch your attacker hard under their arms, in between the elbow and armpit or in the upper inner thigh. You can literally pull the muscle away from the bone in these areas if you grab it with all you have – now is not the time to hold back. They have attacked you and for all you know you are fighting for your life so go in hard while you have the opportunity to do so.
If you are taken down quickly and do not have the chance to fight, go for his balls, then PULL, TWIST, YANK. The act of rape will now be very difficult for him to carry out.
8. You Have The Right to FightNever be afraid of fighting if you feel threatened in any way. It is your right. A decent man would never approach a woman in a vulnerable, poorly lit or intimidating area. The statistics show that women who don’t resist are more likely to be assaulted and sustain more serious injuries than women who fight back. This is often misrepresented and leads women unsure about what is the safest thing to do when terrified. So I am telling you now: when under attack, you strike first, your strike hard and you strike fast. You do not give mercy because you are not the one who started this and you do not want it to escalate so they can carry out their plans. Your goal is to incapacitate your attacker so you can pull away, raise the alarm (scream, shout, at the top of your voice) and get yourself to safety whether that is a house, a public space or getting the police on the phone as you get as far away from the attacker as you can.
9. Prevent Date RapeTragically most women are actually assaulted by someone they know. 40% of the time it will also happen in the victims own home. It sounds really scary but trust your closest friends with your drinks if you go to the toilet, but don’t trust the guy you have dated twice already. Just limit the chances anyone has of getting access to your drink. The lines get fuzzy when things become intimate. Never be afraid to say “no” or stop during any intimate encounter. You do not need a reason. A decent guy will just stop and listen, check to see if you are alright. If he doesn’t stop then he has crossed the line and it is now sexual assault.
Firstly, say “please don’t rape me” because this will snap him out of the moment if he just has no impulse control or doesn’t think you mean it. Hopefully, that will shake him into the reality of the situation and he will stop. If he continues then he is a threat and you must treat him as such and fight back with everything you have. There is absolutely no possibility of it being a “misunderstanding” – “no” means “no” – always has and always will.
10. Talk About Rape – Raise AwarenessIf anything ever does happen, even if it is only attempted you report it and you tell your friends and family all about it. There are a minority of women who report rape when it was not committed but the overwhelming majority are authentic and worse still they are never reported for fear of the process that follows. There should be no doubting a woman who states the word rape – you would really let a minority put all women in danger? We need to change social awareness of sexual assault as a problem and say with a unified voice that it is never ever tolerated. It can and does ruin women’s and men’s lives – let us not forget the thousands of male victims and the thousands more too afraid or too ashamed to report what has happened to them. Awareness of the issue is paramount to making everyone safer and giving predators less opportunities in a vigilant and supportive landscape.
Hopefully, you will be that bit more aware when you are out with friends, walking to your car after work or taking your dogs for a walk in future. You are never 100% safe – if you are a woman you will always be a potential target to someone. BUT, that doesn’t make you a victim and as you have read there are plenty of things you can do to protect yourself and I very much hope you take them all onboard and stay safe and happy for the entirety of your life.