We all wish we lived in a world were self defense for women wasn’t a necessary topic of discussion. Our society needs to improve in its treatment of women so that women do not have to feel threatened every time they go out in public. Although efforts to achieve such a society are ongoing, these efforts do not progress at the rate we would wish. Achieving a more equitable society is a goal we must all share, but until we get there, self defense for women will continue to be a topic of significant importance.
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At its core, self defense for women is about empowerment. From a very young age, girls are often groomed to be docile, non-combative, and non-violent. This conditioning is in conflict with male conditioning which sometimes applauds barbaric behavior. It is not easy to overcome decades of social pressure.
The first thing women must do in order to defend themselves is to give themselves permission to use violence in an instance of self protection. The beginning of self defense for women can be as simple as stating out loud, “I have a right to defend myself.”
A situation that requires you to defend yourself represents a breakdown of social norms. The functioning of society relies on the existence of an unspoken social contract of proper mutual treatment. But when that contract is violated, the victims sometimes are hesitant to respond with equal force. We are taught to respond with courtesy to insults as a means of navigating conflict.
But it’s important to recognize that when faced with an individual who cares nothing for social norms, you are not bound to obey them when obedience constitutes a personal risk to you.
Here are some things to consider as you prepare yourself mentally in case you ever need to defend yourself:
- You don’t have to be polite
- You are not weak
- You are allowed to strike back
Individuals who would cause you harm rely on your adherence to social convention as if it is an exploitable weakness. Remember that not all attackers appear as a threat from their initial appearance. Some potential attackers seem like charming individuals. It is always easier to convince somebody to perform an act than it is to force them. Individuals who mean harm to you will sometimes use charm and social convention to coerce you into doing something you don’t want to do.
These actions could be as simple as getting into a vehicle, or stepping into a closed room or stairwell. They rely on a social conditioning for conflict avoidance. They know you’re not likely to declare, “No!” out of fear of creating a scene. It is important to practice asserting yourself daily.
The next time somebody does or says something you don’t like, call them out on it. Make it an instinctive behavior that you don’t allow people to treat you in a way that you feel is inappropriate. By practicing this attitude regularly, you eliminate one of the major weapons that unscrupulous individuals can use against you.
Phrases like “the fairer sex” instill in women a perception that they are too weak physically to put up a fight in a conflict. This is not the case. Even without any formal training, a woman who fights is likely to be able to fend off an attacker.
Human beings are a product of millions of years of evolution, and there are evolutionary safety guards that allow us to survive when we feel our lives are threatened. Adrenaline can provide a surge of strength that can allow a person to overcome a much larger opponent. Do not fail to capitalize on a chance to escape or disable an attacker.
Remember that you do have a legal right to defend yourself with violence in the event of an attack. In a conflict situation, seconds are precious and hesitation is dangerous. Self defense for women means contemplating in a safe place the actual events of an attack.
Visualize an attack and walk through your response to create a muscle memory. Remember that everything about our society encourages us to manage conflict peacefully. In order to prepare yourself for a life and death situation, you must address and overcome that conditioning.
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Self defense for women begins long before any attacker makes an appearance. A physical altercation contains an inherent risk, and even a person who is highly skilled at self-defense may suffer severe injuries. It can take years of highly disciplined training to become proficient at the physical methods of self-defense.
Fortunately, it is relatively easy to adjust your overall perspective and make small adjustments that render a physical altercation highly unlikely. You cannot lose the fight you are not in, and self defense for women is primarily about keeping attackers far away.
Some ways to ensure that you won’t be the victim of an assault are:
- Be aware
- Mind your drinks
- Keep a low profile
- Go in groups
Whenever you go out in public, it’s important to project an image of awareness and confidence. Today, you see many people walking around with their faces lit up by a smart device. Staring at a cell phone creates a multitude of dangers.
First of all, some thieves are happy to steal a cell phone. Cell phones can be resold for several hundred dollars, and it is not smart to be waving around an object of such value. You probably wouldn’t walk down the street with five hundred dollars in cash in your hand. You should have the same reservations about carrying your cell phone in plain sight.
Cell phones are just one distraction that individuals routinely engage in. Books or magazines are equally problematic as they divert your attention from potential threats in your immediate vicinity. Ear phones can also be problematic as they distance you from your surround and keep you from being able to overhear conversations that may become threatening. Anything that distracts your attention from your surroundings is something a potential attacker can take advantage of to use as a cover for an assault.
Instead of hunching down and looking at a phone or a magazine, sit up and scan the room you’re in. When possible, make sure you have your back to a wall so that nobody can sneak up from behind you. Take note of people, but resist making eye-contact. Eye-contact can be misinterpreted as interest, and may draw unwanted attention.
Every time you enter a public place you should attempt to identify individuals that might potentially be dangerous, as well as individuals that might be called upon for help. If there are any police or other law officers in the area, you should take up a position close to them.
Not all assaults involve a physical confrontation. Physical altercations are loud and violent. Some assailants rely on drugging their victims and then remove them from public under the guise of helping a friend who has drunk too much. Chemical additives are easy to buy, and assailants have no difficulty dosing a woman’s drink in public.
Under no circumstances should you ever drink or eat anything that a stranger gives you. You have no idea what the contents are or the motivations of the individual. If you are at a bar or a restaurant, insist on unopened drinks, or make sure you watch the bartender prepare the drink. Once the drink is in your hand, be mindful of it. Do not let somebody distract you and add a foreign substance to your drink.
Be diligent. Assailants are highly skilled and often cover their attacks with distractions and sleight-of-hand tricks. Bumping into a victim is a common way to confuse them so that they become distracted. Sometimes assailants work in teams, where one gets your attention, and the other alters your drink, or steals your belongings.
If you are alone in a public place and you are unaware of the security of the area, you should do as little as possible to draw attention to yourself. Criminals often pick prominent areas to observe the potential marks that go walking by. They know how to recognize expensive clothing, sunglasses, cell phones, and other accessories. Designer bags and jewelry can draw the wrong sort of attention.
If you are on your way to a social gathering and want to look your best, wear a large, nondescript overcoat that hides your stylish clothing. Keep your expensive jewelry in your handbag and put it on when you are in the safety of the gathering.
Whenever possible, make sure to travel in a group of several trusted friends. It is much less likely that an assailant will try to attack or rob a large group of people. They are far more likely to go after a woman who is walking alone. However, don’t be overly confident in your group either. Good self defense for women practices like maintaining awareness and keeping a low profile should still be in effect.
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It can be exhausting to maintain the proper defensive awareness at all times. You must have safe spaces where you can go to relax and allow your energy to recharge. But just as there are safe spaces, there are also places that are especially vulnerable.
Maintain an awareness whenever you enter a vulnerable space and make sure to be extra mindful in those instances. Project awareness and confidence, maintain a low profile, and try to exit the vulnerable place as quickly as possible.
Some vulnerable places include:
- Parking lots or parking garages
- Buses, subways or trains
- Abandoned streets
A parked car is not a safe space. All that separates you from the outside world is a pane of glass that are easy for criminals to break. Although car windows are made from tempered glass, they can be broken by the right material. A ‘Ninja rock’ is the street term for a piece of broken ceramic from a spark plug. When a ninja rock is thrown at a tempered glass window, it instantly shatters.
Some people have a habit of walking to their parked car, sitting inside with the doors locked, and checking their phone. This is a very dangerous habit because if you have been followed, you are now vulnerable to attack. Don’t assume that just because you are in your car with the doors locked, you are safe. In fact, when you are in your car you are isolated from the rest of public and highly vulnerable to assault.
Parking garages are dangerous because they are low traffic areas and tend to have very poor lighting. When possible, use a valet service, or a driver. When using a valet, do not enter the car until you’ve taken a quick look in the back to make sure nobody is hiding. Always consider areas where criminals might conceal themselves and take the time to check them before you put yourself in a potentially vulnerable situation.
Elevators are common, but they are quite dangerous. They represent an enclosed space where a potential assailant is allowed to stand within very close proximity. If you enter an elevator and you don’t like the occupants, do not hesitate to leave. Your safety is worth more than the momentary feelings of the individuals in the elevator.
If you are in an elevator, make sure to stand next to the panic button which should be on the control panel. It might be labeled as a fire alarm or a general alarm, but it should be large and red. Always identify alarm buttons in the elevators you use frequently.
Public transportation can be dangerous. Whenever you use public transportation, keep your eyes out for panic alarm buttons in the vehicle or in the station. If you see something that doesn’t look right, don’t hesitate to hit the alarm. The relatively minor embarrassment of a false alarm is much easier to endure than a potential assault.
Taxis and Ubers can be very dangerous. You are essentially turning yourself over to the control of an individual you do not know. Before you enter into a taxi or an Uber, take a picture of the vehicle’s license plate and send it to a friend. Make sure that the driver sees you do this. If, for any reason, you have a bad feeling about a driver, you can refuse to enter the vehicle. Do not allow them to pressure you to get into the vehicle, and if they do so call the police immediately.
Day or night, it is dangerous to walk down an abandoned street. A street with many people is also dangerous, but assailants will be unlikely to attack where loud noises might bring about a response. On an abandoned street, help is less likely to respond to noise. Avoid walking alone when possible, and when it can’t be avoided maintain a brisk pace and get to your destination safely.
Bars or any location that might serve alcoholic beverages can be very dangerous. Some individuals become belligerent after drinking, and these transformations can happen quickly. Bars are often one of the places where you’re encouraged to receive a drink that may or may not be tainted. It is best to go out to bars in the company of trusted friends who can watch out for you.
Bathrooms are often secluded and dark. Some bathrooms are even located near exits. Dark, secluded places are ideal for assailants to attack a woman without being detected. Always use caution when going to the bathroom and have a friend come with you whenever possible.
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There are many items that you can legally carry with you in order to protect yourself against a physical assault. It is always better to avoid any fight when possible, but you should also be prepared for the worst-case scenario. Weapons can be extremely dangerous. They can exacerbate an issue, and can be used against you. Also, there are legal repercussions to consider when carrying certain weapons in certain states.
A woman might use one of the following things to defend herself in a physical altercation:
- Martial arts training
- Pepper spray
- Taser/Stun gun
Martial arts training for self defense for women requires many years of training and practice to achieve the necessary proficiency. However, it is highly recommended that all women go to at least a few classes. A walk-through of good self-protection philosophy can greatly assist your decision making in the event of an attack. Don’t feel that you have to earn the highest level of martial arts proficiency for a class to be of value. Learning how to throw a punch can be the difference between a robbery and a foiled attack.
A self-defense course will walk you through a variety of situations and help you generate the necessary awareness to avoid potentially difficult situations. A single class can help you learn how to identify the vulnerable regions of an assailant. Also, a single class can help you devise a strategy for your unique physique. If you have long nails, for example, a poke in the eye, or scratch can be a devastating attack.
It is also important to experience a staged attack. If you are grabbed from behind, you can respond with a foot stomp. Drive your heel into the top of your assailants foot. Keep directing your heel blows downward until your assailant releases you. Alternate your foot blows with fast, backward jerks of the head.
Attempt to connect the back of your skull to your assailant’s face. Try these moves at least once with a professional trainer to help develop the muscle memory so that your body might take over in the panic of an actual assault.
A screwdriver in your purse can be a very effective weapon. A screwdriver is a functional tool, and you are not going to get into trouble with security or police officers for having one on your person. Repeated downward blows with a screwdriver will quickly discourage any assailant who dares to grab you from behind.
A knife is superior to a screwdriver for slashing. Knives contain an inherent risk because they could be used against you. Also, there is the risk that you might cut yourself while opening the blade or during use. If you elect to begin to carry a knife regularly for your own protection, be sure to familiarize yourself with the knife laws of your state.
Also be aware that when you are traveling from state to state, federal knife laws apply. Other regulations may come into effect when traveling on planes, going into courtrooms, or at schools.
Usually you can carry a folding knife that is two and a half to three inches long. The problem with a knife is that many of them require two hands to open the blade. Switch blades are generally illegal. For longer blades, familiarize yourself with the concealed carry laws of your state.
Pepper spray is a defensive aerosol spray designed to incapacitate an assailant. If you elect to carry pepper spray for protection, be sure to familiarize yourself with the carry laws of your state. Pepper spray containers tend to be small, and there are restrictions on how much you can carry. You should make sure to practice with your pepper spray prior to using it in an emergency situation.
Pepper spray is a good option because it incapacitates without causing the type of damage you’d inflict by stabbing somebody with a knife or screwdriver. The problem is that the pepper spray containers are small, and if you miss you are without additional defense.
Tasers or stun guns can be legally owned by individuals for self defense in most states. Again, you might run into difficulty in places such as court, airports, and schools, so familiarize yourself with local laws.
A Taser or Stun gun is a good self-defense option. It is non lethal and relatively easy to operate, even during an attack situation. Like all the items on this list, it is important to practice with the item regularly. Maintenance and regular recharging is also critical.
A gun is a very effective weapon for self-defense; however the legal ramifications of carrying a gun are enormous. Guns are lethal, and the long-term consequences of killing an assailant are something to consider, particularly when there are non-lethal defense items available. Gun ownership statistics show that gun owners are twice as likely to be shot by their gun as they are to use it in their own defense (these statistics include the possibility of intentional self-harm).
If you elect to carry a gun as your self-defense weapon, make sure to practice with it regularly. Hand guns are not very accurate, and even law enforcement and military professionals must practice regularly in order to maintain their marksmanship. Be aware of gun safety. You do not want to miss your assailant and accidentally shoot and kill an innocent bystander. It is vital to familiarize yourself with the laws regarding gun ownership and concealed carry within your state.
Owning a gun is a devastating form of self-defense. However, statistics show that those who own guns are more likely to be hurt by their gun than use it to defend themselves. If you elect to go the route of gun ownership, be sure to take an appropriate amount of ownership and safety classes so that the gun doesn’t become a greater detriment to your life than the assailants you wish to protect yourself from.
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At the end of every day, the most important thing is that you are able to return to your loved ones safely. Self defense for women is an important thing to consider several times a year. It’s vital to run through your strategies for self-protection and remind yourself of good practice responses to emergency situations.
Remember that it’s better to avoid physical conflicts when possible. It’s never worth fighting over possessions. If somebody wishes to rob you, throw down your valuables and run away. Chances are that assailant will be satisfied with the items and elect not to pursue.
Do not look for conflict, always be aware of your surroundings, and take steps to ensure you are protected no matter what the situation. The confident projection of awareness will deter most assailants from selecting you as a victim. If you choose to carry some sort of weapon with you to protect yourself, be sure to familiarize yourself with the proper use of that weapon, and the legal requirements for carrying it. Don’t let the weapon you carry result in more trouble than a potential assailant. Above all, be careful, protect yourself, and get home safely. Your friends, family, and loved ones need you!
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