Personal Safety

This information has been provided by CHIMERA, INC., a women’s self-defense program which gives women and girls the opportunity to learn and practice both mental and physical strategies of protection on the street, at home, work or school, enabling them to become more confident and secure.

What is sexual assault?

Sexual Assault is any unwanted sexual attention. It is an act of violence and power which uses sex as a weapon. Any person may be raped regardless of age, race or economic status. Realize that you may have to deal with a would-be rapist sometime in your life. Raise your consciousness about rape so you are better prepared to deal with it whether it happens to you or someone close to you.

Who is a rapist?

There is no “typical” rapist. He can be an acquaintance, a relative, a salesman, neighbor or stranger. More than half of all rapes occur in the woman’s or assailant’s own home. 80% of rapists are people known to the victim. 94% of assailants are male; however, women have assaulted women and men.

Rapes occur day or night, in public or in isolated places. Although women who are raped fear that they will be killed, few rapists are murderers.

Precautions against rape

By being aware a woman can reduce the likelihood of becoming a victim of rape. This does not mean, however, that all rapes can be prevented or that when rape occurs it is the woman’s fault; rapists commit rape and are fully responsible for their actions.

ACQUAINTANCES

Trust your instincts. Be aware of people who crash your boundaries: they don’t listen, don’t respect your limits, have volatile anger, or do things that make you feel uncomfortable.

It’s OK to: prevent your date from entering your home, and leave early or alone. Limit your use of intoxicants so you can be clear about what is happening. Know your sexual desires and determine the extent of sexual contact you want prior to going out. You have a right to set limits. Communicate them clearly; say NO or STOP loudly and clearly.

CHILDREN

1 out of 4 girls and 1 out of 6 boys will be sexually assaulted before the age of 18. Help your children by teaching: the correct names for their body parts; that they can decide who touches them; the difference between surprises and secrets that shouldn’t be kept. Teach your child that just because a stranger knows his/her name doesn’t mean s/he has to trust a stranger; if someone grabs your child, s/he should yell YOU’RE NOT MY MOTHER/FATHER, SOMEONE HELP ME. Play what if games: What would you do if the babysitter asked you to play a secret game. Really listen to your children and believe them.

IN YOUR HOME

Secure your home with good lighting and effective locks, deadbolts are best, and locks on windows and sliding glass doors. Have a good lock on your bedroom door and a phone in the room. Plug a lamp into an automatic timing device, so a light will be on when you get home, or leave a light or a radio on before you leave in the morning.

If you rent, the landlord is legally required to provide adequate lighting in hallways and locks on doors and windows.

Be aware of places where someone could hide: laundry rooms, alcoves, lobbies, dark hallways, stairwells, bushes, alleys, parking garages.

Use only your first initial and last name on mailbox and phone book listings or add “dummy names” to create an illusion. Keep up this illusion; never reveal to a phone caller or someone at the door that you are alone.

Avoid giving out information about who is home, and how long anyone is expected to be gone. Teach children NOT to answer the door or give out information.

Require proper identification of all repair men, utility workers and delivery men. If you have ANY doubts, verify identification before admitting anyone. Call the phone number of the company the telephone operator gives you, not one he gives you.

A dog can make a good alarm system, but don’t rely on it for more than that.

IN ELEVATORS

Stay at the front of the elevator, near the side control panel that has the alarm button. On some elevators, pushing the alarm button STOPS the elevator. If someone gets on of whom you are suspicious, push other buttons so that the elevator will stop at all floors and get off. If someone suspicious is already on the elevator, stay out of it. Wait for the next one to come along.

ON PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION

Sit near the driver or conductor, or an outside seat. Stay awake and alert; notice people around you. Change seats if you are bothered by someone who sits down next to you. Don’t tell anyone where you are going or where you live, and be aware if your conversations are being overheard. If followed after getting off, head towards populated, well-lighted areas.

IN AUTOMOBILES

Lock all doors when entering and leaving. Have your keys ready as you approach, and visually check to see is anyone seems to be underneath or crouched beside it. Be wary of someone hanging around a car next to yours. Wait until he gets into a car or leaves. Before entering, check front and back seats to see if anyone is hiding there. Make sure your car’s dome light is operating.

Open windows just enough for ventilation, or to ask directions, but not enough so that someone could put a hand in. Keep purses and packages out of view, under the seat or in the trunk.

If you suspect you are being followed, blow your horn intermittently, put on your flashing hazard lights and drive to the nearest police or fire station, open gas station or all-night restaurant.

If someone bumps into the back of your car while you’re stopped or if someone flags you down, be cautious; it could be a set up. Stay in your car and wait for him to get out of his car, keep your windows up and doors locked. Tell him you will send help. If you sense any suspicious behavior, drive off, blowing the horn and flashing the lights. Get the license plate number of any vehicle acting suspiciously and report such incidents to the police immediately.

ON THE STREET

Wear clothing that allows you freedom of movement and shoes that you can run in. Arrange purse, books and packages so that you always have one hand free. Don’t wear headphones when walking or jogging. Have your keys out and in your hand, ready to use, when approaching home or car.

Walk on the outside of the sidewalk, away from building doorways or alleyways where people can hide themselves. Be aware of cars that follow, pull up, or pass you more than once. Cross to the other side of the street.

IN YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD

Be familiar with people and activities around you.

Know your neighborhood and neighbors. You don’t have to like all of them, but you should know who is a neighbor and who is a stranger.

Be a concerned citizen. Join and support neighborhood crime prevention. Report inadequate or burned out lighting, abandoned buildings and overgrown foliage to the proper authorities.

If approached…

…Be aware of your personal “space.” Rapists often “test” a potential victim by judging how she will react, passively or assertively, when her area of comfortable space is invaded. Your area of “comfortable space” can vary from a few feet to a whole block.

…Act alert and confident in public–head up, brisk walk. Practice a strong assertive look in a mirror until you look convincing.

…Avoid conversations with strangers. If you feel you have to answer, do so simply but firmly. No one needs to be closer than three feet to be heard, and no stranger should feel free to put his hands on you.

…Avoid being maneuvered into alleyways, doorways or cars. Keep moving toward your destination, and don’t get so involved in listening to what he’s saying that you aren’t aware of what he’s doing.

…Listen to your inner warning signals. Don’t tell yourself it’s only your imagination. TAKE ACTION! Change direction, cross the street, move towards a place of greater safety: people, stores, traffic, lighted areas. If someone bothers you or tries to prevent you from leaving, make eye contact and tell him LEAVE ME ALONE or GO AWAY in a loud, controlled voice. Be firm about what you want, and be as public as you can. Attract attention: if necessary, move into the street, break windows, knock over things, damage property. Grab on to a bystander and don’t let go. Yell FIRE!

If physical contact is unavoidable…

…Don’t wait to be grabbed, start YELLING. A rapist often follows the same pattern and disrupting his script might give you time to escape. Throw your books or packages into his eyes to distract him and RUN!

…Never assume that “it’s all over.” Take several deep breaths. This will speed oxygen to your brain and lungs to help you think clearly and yell loudly. Consider possible avenues of escape.

Physically resisting:

Your main objective is to get away to safety. The choice of whether or not to physically resist can only be made by you. Studies have shown that women who act quickly, assertively and use many strategies are much more likely to avoid being raped than women who only plead with an attacker, or try to talk him out of it. It is important you know that women who comply are often injured in addition to being raped.

If you decide to resist physically, your chances for escape are best if you resist immediately.

Target the attackers vulnerable areas. KICK to the kneecaps. (Your legs are longer and stronger than his arms.) Avoid being pulled/pushed into a car or doorway by bracing yourself against the object he is attempting to pull/push you into. In close, you can still kick, and you can also: ELBOW the face, STRIKE with stiffened fingers into the hollow of the throat, or SMASH the heel of your hand hard up under his nose.

Keep it up until he lets go of you. Keep yelling and run away towards a place of greater safety as soon as you are able.

The need to be prepared

PHYSICAL PRACTICE

Just knowing where to strike doesn’t mean you’ll know HOW. Take a good self-defense course and then practice what you learn.

MENTAL PRACTICE

Even good physical self-defense techniques will not help unless you are mentally prepared to use them. Anytime you are intimidated by someone, mentally see yourself successfully defending yourself against him. Create a safety plan and look for escape routes everywhere you go.

Being psychologically and physically prepared to act if you are attacked is good prevention.

If you are raped…

…Remain as calm as possible. Take a mental photograph of the rapist, notice everything: clothes, hair, scars, tattoos, his height in relation to you.

…If raped somewhere other than your own home, remember everything about the setting. Leave your own fingerprints everywhere. Hide some small personal item such as a button or an earring–anything which can prove you were there. Preserve all physical evidence and do not bathe or change clothes.

…Call the police as soon as possible. Delayed reporting makes it harder on you and more difficult to find and convict the rapist. Usually, you can file a report with the police, even if you decide later not to prosecute. Remember that most rapists are repeat offenders, and that the police and the courts can’t stop them without your help.

…A woman needs support and information whether or not she decides to report the rape to the police. Medical attention is important even if there are no injuries. Be sure to be tested for sexually transmitted diseases, HiV, and pregnancy. Most people find it helpful to talk to someone supportive about the assault.