Open Thread: What Are Your Best Self-Defense Tips?

Hiyah, originally uploaded to Flickr by DRSPIEGEL14.Self defense is not the most fun subject, but it’s been on my mind a bit and I thought it would be a good topic to talk about. As I’ve been getting back into running, I finally got a Road ID (which is every bit as awesome as I thought it was when I first heard about it). If you missed the post, it’s a simple bracelet you wear on your wrist that has your name and some “in case of emergency” contact numbers. I was telling a male friend about my Road ID, and he was incredulous about it — “That’s such a dark way to go through life, always worried about being attacked!” He continued to chide me about it, and after thinking a second or two I said, “Dude. You’re saying this because you’re a guy. This is kind of what it’s like for chicks all the time — you always have to be aware of your surroundings, and make sure you’re parking in a well-lit spot, and have your keys out before you get to your apartment, and so forth.” (Pictured: Hiyah, originally uploaded to Flickr by DRSPIEGEL14.)

Maybe my parents were extra dark and overprotective to raise me that way. I remember when I first moved to New York (in 1997!!) they advised me to “never get on an elevator with a man, alone.” That one seemed a little crazy and hard to follow anyway (if a guy got on mid-ride, was I supposed to get out of the elevator and wait for the next car?), but that rule totally went out the window when I went to my first sample sale. Sketchy freight elevator to go up to a warehouse-type loft? Well, I thought, as long as there’s a good sale behind it it’s fine. After all, the fashion editors I worked for heard about it by fax — what could possibly go wrong?

Dumb decisions like that aside, I’ve mostly practiced the “constant vigilence” method of self-defense. I’ve also taken a self-defense class (albeit a while ago). That said, these are some of my top tips — readers, what are your best tips for self-defense?

  • Don’t tune out and listen to music if it’s late at night or you’re in an unfamiliar area.
  • Be aware of desolate areas that you encounter often, and do what you can to minimize your exposure.  For example, if your office building has two exits, one near a 24-hour deli and the other near a parking garage, use the one near the deli if you’re leaving at a time when foot traffic is low. Similarly, the most direct path from the subway stop to my apartment takes me past a parking lot, a parking garage, and two buildings under construction — so I go the slightly longer route so I’m near shops and restaurants.
  • If you’re home alone and someone you don’t know (or aren’t expecting) rings your buzzer, query who it is, and possibly even pretend to be on the phone when answering the door.  (I’m sure I do a great job of faking a conversation with my mother — but hopefully it’s enough to deter someone.)
  • If you have to go to a desolate or sketchy area, tell someone before you go.  For example, one of my old cases required me to take numerous trips to the file archives, a labyrinthine and unpopulated floor — it seemed like a great setting for a murder mystery.  I always emailed a friend before I went!
  • If you ever get a funny feeling about something, trust your gut.  Don’t worry about etiquette (e.g., is it rude to stop walking and turn around?) — just do it.  Then cross the street or get somewhere that feels safe.
  • If you drive and expect to be out past dark somewhere, do your best to park close to a parking light.  If you can, check the undercarriage of the car as you approach.
  • You should have your keys in hand as you approach your car or front door — no fumbling in your purse!  Something a friend told me years ago is to take one key and put it between your second and third finger and make a fist around the rest of the keys — it becomes a great weapon if needed.
  • In general, don’t make yourself a target.  My engagement ring isn’t huge, but I turn it around so the diamond is against my palm when I’m on the subway; I do the same if I’m wearing any of my cocktail rings.  I do play with my Android on the subway, though, which I probably shouldn’t do.

If you’re actually attacked…

  • SHOUT.  If you don’t know what to shout, try “BACK OFF.” Something else that I’ve heard you should shout is “I DON’T KNOW YOU.” If you have time to see something kind of awesome, watch this woman shout down a man who flashed his penis at her on the subway (close your door first — her language is, um, NSFW.)
  • Kick the side of their knee if you can — you don’t have to get too close to do this.
  • If they’re already close… Go for the eyes.  Put your thumbs over his eyes and start pushing, as hard as you can. If you can’t do that, claw and scratch as best you can.
  • If you can, memorize details about your attacker’s face — you want to be able to identify him later.

Lifehacker had an excellent article on self-defense with a lot of videos that show specific moves — such as “how to maximize damage” and how to get out of common holds.  I highly recommend you read it.

Ok, readers, those are my tips — what are yours?  How often do you think of self defense?

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  1. One of the best things I’ve done recently is get a remote for my home alarm. It has a panic button on it, so if something happens between me getting out of my car and into my house, I can press it. I keep it next to my bed at night too in case someone breaks in.

  2. I always remember the “Don’t let them take you to a second location.” I think it was from an Oprah show years ago. I hope I never need that information, but I’ll always remember it.

    • My karate instructor always repeated that and had a story that drove it home: one of his students, a woman, was leaving Target when a man stole her car with her inside. He smacked her and shoved her toward the floorboards of her car. She was crouching there when she remembered not to go to a second location, so she kicked and screamed and clawed until the man shoved her out of the car, he decided she wasn’t worth it. Deciding to be “too much trouble” may have saved her life.

    • just Karen :

      With the “don’t let them take you to a second location,” the point that brought it home for me was that even if someone has a gun pointed at you, they are unlikely to use it on you in a parking lot, on the street, etc… and even if they do shoot at you as you run away, they are unlikely to hit you and even less likely for it to be lethal. Wherever they want to take you, the situation will only get worse. This makes sense to me, but I have no idea if it came from a reliable source…

      • for me, id rather die of a bullet than wherever they are taking me, so thats a chance i would take

  3. Timely! I’m getting ready to take that trip to South America where I’ll be solo for part of the time. I’ve done a lot of solo traveling and here’s what I’ve learned:

    – Don’t look lost. EVER. Even if you don’t know where you are and think you’re lost, stay calm and find a well-lit place to duck into to compose yourself. The second I think I’m not where I intended to be, I get what I call my “hard face” on and start walking purposefully, looking straight ahead.
    – As a corrolary to the above: don’t get lost. Plan your day. Stay aware. As women, we can’t always afford to just “wander the streets” of a charming city, at least not without knowing how to get out of said streets.
    – I live in a walking neighborhood of an urban big city, and I always walk home with what I call “key claws” – one key between my fingers, hand in a fist.
    – I’ll definitely cross the street or turn around/”pull over” if a man is behind me. Cross the street if a man is walking toward me.
    – I have a baseball bat next to my bed. Entry points to my place are noisy, plus I have a dog who barkes at strangers (particularly men), so there is little risk of someone getting into my bedroom without me knowing.

    Now, a question: sometimes when I travel, I wear a fake wedding band on my left ring finger, as if to suggest I have a husband and he could be right around the corner, so don’t mess with me, potential attackers! My married friend, however, who also has 2 young kids, says she always takes her wedding band OFF when she travels with her girlfriends because if she gets kidnapped, she doesn’t want them to know she has a family.

    Any thoughts on either of those choices?

    • Agree with all of these.

      And here’s a former police officer’s perspective on the wisdom of using a baseball bat as a weapon against an intruder (if you absolutely are forced into a position of having to do so), particularly as opposed to a Taser or firearm:

      • AnonInfinity :

        I loved this article. I’m way to scared to have a gun in the house, so I sleep with a bat right beside the bed with the handle within reach (i.e., propped up against the wall). I’ve already identified a spot in my bedroom and one in my bathroom that I could crouch and use the element of surprise to jump up and clock someone over the head with it as they come into the room.

    • Maddie Ross :

      Do not do the “key claws” or otherwise intertwine your fingers in your keys. The idea in everyone’s head is that you will use them like Wolverine on an attacker but in reality, they can do more harm to you by grabbing your hand with the keys in between and hurting you thus keeping you from fighting back.

      I agree with the post above to have your keys out of your purse before you walk into the parking lot, but do not put them between your fingers. More harm than good.

    • Anonymous :

      I wear a fake band when traveling in an effort to drive off unwanted attention. If you truly fear the kidnapping/ransom situation, (1) maybe time to rethink that location! and (2) maybe taking off the ring couldn’t hurt. Something tells me taking it off is of limited value though…

    • I have traveled internationally extensively, in first, second and third world countries and all continents except south America. Both alone, with girlfriends and with my partner.

      When I have been married, I wear a band when I travel. When I have been single, I sometimes do and sometime don’t. But it was always a “fake for travel” very plain not expensive and not expensive-looking band. The last thing I need is someone believing I have any money (either for ransom purposes or so that my price negotiations are not as sucessful as I would like).

      I never considered that appearing married would increase the chances of ransom requests. (If that’s really a concern, and you have/want to go there, what about kipnap insurance?) I prefer to wear a ring in some locations even when I am single to avoid unwanted attention, most of which is probably harmless, but: (a) it is annoying, and (b) it could become harmful. I would say the pro of wearing a ring to avoid unwanted attention is, for me, more important than the con that it indicates I have a family who wants me released. First, I *do* have a family that wants me released and I want to be released. Second, even if I were not married, I would still have a family who wants me released and with whom my kidnappers would be in contact.

    • Wearing a wedding band / taking it off may have limited application, depending upon where you travel. Different countries and societies have different traditions for indicating marriage (in a lot of countries, the wedding ring is worn on the right hand instead of the left hand). Ultimately, you may not be projecting the image you think you are.

      It is more important to make sure that you are not wearing flashy jewelry, including fake flashy jewelry. This applies just as much to your earrings (diamond studs, anyone? how many men do you think can tell the difference between diamond and CZ from a distance? Sometimes replacing with fakes does not add to your safety…), necklaces, bracelets, etc.

  4. I second previous commenters who said:

    1) try to stay sufficiently aware that no one threatening ever gets close enough to touch (often victims forget their physical self-defense tips in the moment – I certainly forgot.) I don’t carry pepper spray because I should never be close enough to use it and I don’t want it used against me.

    2) look bitchy. keep your phone and keys handy.

    3) resolve ahead of time to *really hurt* someone. This takes mental practice. You need to be mentally ready to inflict serious damage, because we’re conditioned not to.

  5. anonymous :

    I often have to take the Manhattan subway 2 a.m. and walk home a couple of blocks. I’m never happy about it, but I live in a pretty safe area with 24-hour convenience stores and doorman buildings and in any event, I can’t afford to take cabs. My tips:

    If you’re on the street late at night, pointedly turn your head every few minutes, to signal that you are surveying your surroundings and cannot be taken by surprise.

    Walk in the middle of the street in the opposing direction of traffic if necessary. Don’t stay on the sidewalk where someone could pull you into a car.

    Look like someone they don’t want to f__ with. This is hard if you’re scared. Fake it.

    Scream first, apologize later. (Never done it, but wouldn’t hesitate.)

    Men ought to know why women on the street late at night are super-cautious and not get offended if they cross the street. The ones who pretend to be upset are more often than not trying to start something.

    Don’t wear high heels. Wear footwear that you could run in.

    • ohmydarlin :

      I have a “don’t f__k with me” face that I put on!

    • Agree on the above, my similar advice:

      Walk through the most open, well lit and populated path to your destination.
      Mentally prepare for how you would respond to a threatening situation
      Visualize getting to your destination safely
      Be tough and no-nonsense in your demeanor
      Change your path to avoid situations that don’t seem right to you – no justification needed
      Be completely alert
      If someone is following you go to a public place and call for a ride – don’t let them follow you home and see where you live
      If you need to review a map, safest to go to the bathroom and look at it so no-one can tell you are unsure

      • anonymous :

        Agreed, and if you leave someone’s home and don’t feel safe return. Get them to call you a cab or escort you to safety even if you have to borrow money from them to do it.

        I know two people, one man, the other a woman, who were mugged because they didn’t use basic commonsense or rely on their instincts. Fortunately, all they lost was money.

        If you walked into Central Park were followed by people who you thought wanted to mug you and got someone to escort you back to the perimeter would you tempt fate by walking back five minutes later?

        If you left a party and someone crossed the street after you twice, wouldn’t you:

        1) Get out of there like a bat out of hell;
        2) Return to the apartment or duck into a doorman building;
        3) At least not let the mugger get right behind you?

        But of course fear acts on us in different ways.

  6. Anastasia :

    Along these lines, how do you all feel about keeping guns in your house? In a general sense, assuming no young children, and forgetting about specific state laws. My dad keeps guns, but they were always locked away in his gun safe when my siblings and I were young.

    My husband is adamant that he wants a pistol when we move to a single-family house (as opposed to an apartment with interior hallways and a 24-hour concierge). He wants to keep it in the nightstand, with the ammo but not loaded. I’m not sure whether I’m ok with this. I’ve heard that guns are as likely to injure their owners as an intruder, but the Oklahoma mom protecting herself and her baby with the 12 guage and a pistol last month got me thinking.

    • You may find this perspective interesting:

      Quora has a lot of other fairly thoughtful discussions about firearms and self defense as well.

      • Anastasia :

        Thanks for that link! I like the baseball bat. Much less potential for accidental grave bodily harm than a gun, and I already have one in the closet. :)

        My husband is a good shot — we’re a long way from “enthusiasts,” but we shoot more often than most city-dwellers (mostly with my gun-loving dad) and can both handle guns safely. Still, I’m not sure I like the idea of having a gun next to my bed. And for all DH’s assurances that he’ll teach our future children gun safety from birth, if there are children in the house, the guns will obviously be in a locked gun safe.

    • The big question for me would be, is your husband willing to put in the time (initial training plus fairly frequent practices) to use a handgun safely and effectively?

      • This. Times a bajillion.

      • THIS – but you should, too. The last thing you need is to say “Ugh, I never want to touch the thing,” get into a situation where you do reach for it – and not know how to use it at all.

      • Mountain Girl :

        And are you willing to put in the time necessary as well. There would be nothing more frightening than knowing there was a firearm in the nightstand but not knowing how to use it (if you were alone of DH was injured, etc.) If you are going to have a firearm in your house you BOTH need to know how to use it.

        DH is in law enforcement. When we got married I despised guns but living with an officer they are all over the house. He trained me to use it and we do practice at the firing range so that my skills stay up to par. Make sure you know how to use it.

    • I am in a similar situation–we don’t currently have any firearms in the house, but would seriously consider it once we are in a single-family house. DH is very comfortable with guns, I am not opposed and would take a course (any reccs for DC area?), plus I imagine we would go shooting more often if we actually owned a gun. So, I’m curious to see the responses.

    • I have a revolver and a shotgun and took classes for both. Most ranges now have special “ladies” classes that have only women in them. Each class is 3-5 hours and I took the beginning and intermediate for each type of firearm. I also spend some time at the range each year maintaining my skills and practicing.

      I don’t conceal carry, it’s just too awkward for me. But I do keep the guns accessible in the house. (No kids). After two women in the nearby Big City were attacked in their sleep (raped and one murdered) my SO went from “Omg I can’t live with a gun in the house” to “How do I use that thing?”

      I live in a safe little suburan area and I know all my neighbors and walk my dogs daily. Sometimes in the dark. I bought a little stun gun/flashlight off Amazon. Mostly I use the flashlight but the stun gun does make a fairly satisfying “sizzle” sound when I hit the button so it should startle someone. Like I said, I know all my neighbors and would be comfortable running up to any of their doors if I thought I was in danger.

      If you are going to get a gun go take a class..or 3. Don’t buy anything until you’ve fired it a number of times and are comfortable. And plan on taking an annual brush up class and 1x-2x a year of practice.

    • I have taken a few of the NRA’s introductory classes after a scary incident with an acquaintance who tried to force his way into my house several years ago. I am still not comfortable enough with guns to buy one and keep it in my house, but after that encounter, I know I would need something more than a baseball bat or taser to fend off someone determined to do me harm if he did get in the house.

      The biggest thing I’ve learned so far – guns are a lot of work. You need to clean them regularly, which involves taking them apart and putting them back together. Even the expensive ones are not 100% reliable and if they are dirty or put together incorrectly, they might not work when you most need them to.

      Personally, I would need to be handling the gun at least weekly (cleaning, practice shooting) to feel confident that it would provide security in an emergency, and I’m just not that ready to commit to that yet.

  7. anon for this :

    I’m glad this topic was brought up because it’s been weighing heavily on my mind lately. I work on a university campus and twice in the last month, a transient has broken into our building. The first time, he was asking three of us really weird questions and making several of us uneasy. He was carrying a giant duffel bag and even though he wasn’t being violent, the whole situation felt … not right. Two of my male coworkers escorted the gentlemen out. Neither thought it was necessary to call the campus police. I told them both I was going to call, and I could tell they thought I was being slightly paranoid, but agreed that it wouldn’t be a bad idea, just in case. The second time this guy showed up, he made it all the way to the second floor of our building, where he started verbally harassing two female workers. Somehow one of the women managed to trick him into leaving her office so she could lock the door and call the police. The same male colleague escorted the gentleman out of the building again. In hindsight, he admits this wasn’t the smartest thing to do. The disturbing part is that several of my coworkers saw this stranger walking through the building and blew it off, saying, “Oh, I thought it might be a professor!” (Because professors usually carry duffel bags the size of a small child?!)

    The whole situation was frightening and thankfully our managers are taking it seriously. They lined up a safety training session last week. All but three men skipped the session. I overheard several saying that all that training stuff is just common sense, blah blah blah. The two guys who were with me when the first incident happened were among the people who skipped — and it wasn’t because they had meetings. They just didn’t want to go. :( Well, geniuses, you should’ve attended because you failed the first rule of common sense, which is to trust your instincts when strangers start walking through your building!

    I was livid, frankly. After I had time to cool down, I let my boss know that I was upset about the lack of participation and felt that the campus safety officers actually had some really valuable information about situational awareness, overcoming fear in weird situations and feeling OK about acting rather than standing by and hoping for the best. I wasn’t even going to mention the male/female thing, but my manager was pretty adamant about knowing as many details as possible about who wasn’t participating. I didn’t name any names, except to mention the men who DID take it seriously enough to attend. So, management is looking into getting more training, in addition to looking into other security precautions.

    I hate being a rat, but I’m more than OK with putting community safety before politeness. It must be nice to be *so sure* of your brute strength that you don’t have to stress out about what you might do if an intruder became violent …

    • Sorry to hear about this situation. Their lack of concern has already put you and your coworkers in jeopardy. I applaud your “rat”titude!

    • University Counsel :

      I am counsel to a university. One of my clients is our campus’s Chief of Police. Please do not hesitate to call them if there is a next time. Not only is that their job, but they are happy to help you, do a good job, and may need to know about this guy’s activity in your building to stop activity he may be doing somewhere else on campus.

      Don’t be shy.

    • That sounds shockingly similar to this situation

      and I can’t believe anyone in your building is so insensitive as to make light of it. You are right for taking it seriously.

  8. A Navy SEAL told me to use an upward palm thrust to the base of the nose. That will shut most folks down for the day. Also, try a sharp punch to the area directly below the collarbone or boxing the attacker’s ears.

    Some other tips to keep in mind:
    1) The elbow is the sharpest (and strongest) point on the body. Use it whenever you can–and with force.
    2) Most bystanders will react/respond when they feel in danger themselves. Instead of yelling “help” or “rape,” yell “FIRE” to catch the attention of people nearby.
    3) I second the point about avoiding being taken to a second location. Your chance of getting away unscathed is greater if you fight like hell to avoid being taken.
    4) Be aware of your movements. Try to avoid moving in predictable lines throughout your day (run random errands on your way home from work, mix up your weekend running route, etc.)

    Remember–the best defense is an awesome offense! Cheers!

  9. I took a Judo-based self-defense class a few years ago that taught us some pretty effective yet simple techniques:

    1. Hard to explain, but if you are grabbed face-forward, twist your arm around his from the inside out (clockwise for right, counterclockwise for left) quickly. It will cause him to lose grip because his arm can’t bend that way. It has worked every time I’ve practiced it! This also works with your legs if you are being dragged–just start twisting and rolling.

    2. We talked about the key technique, but another option is punching or slapping the Adam’s apple. You can pretty easily cause someone to pass out that way.

    3. We were taught an awesome maneuver for a running attack from head-on, but it will be hard to explain here. When he reaches you, very quickly tuck your forearms around his elbows and fall backwards. Simultaneously tuck in your knees to make contact between your feet and his stomach/chest. Fling him over you backwards as you somersault. This was an awesome one to practice!

  10. Anon for now :

    I need the hive’s career advice. This is not related to law or high finance.

    I am one of the high functioning individuals who need a change of scenery every 3-4 years. I’ve been in my current job for 4 and am starting to feel restless despite overt success, promotion to middle management, and inclusion into my boss’ succession plan. Without going into more detail, the latter requires me to give a long-term commitment to stay where I am. I am the most suitable candidate; the boss counts on me and our relationship is close and honest. However, I dislike most of the rest of the components of the environment and feel that the best course of action for me personally would be to get out. I do managerial tasks well, but it’s the technical leadership and customer relationship where I am strongest.
    I work for a large company and an internal move would be possible and even desirable; however, I need to disclose any such plans to the boss early on, i.e. make it clear that I am looking, and renege on my verbal commitment. It is hard to do this to a person that I like and respect; I am also afraid that this may taint my record with the company.
    All the workplace advice I’ve read says to put my needs first because no one but myself is really committed to… myself. However, I have never had a boss/mentor as good as this one and while this person is mature and understanding, I would feel bad letting them down.

    Your thoughts?

    • Seattleite :

      If you are in a position that doesn’t suit you *personally,* you are unlikely to perform at your best. Ultimately, that’s bad for the company. We don’t owe it to anyone to stay with companies that aren’t good fits, any more than we should stay with boyfriends who are nice guys but just not doing it for us.

      Just own it. “I feel like I’m letting you down, but I cannot in good conscience commit to XX years at this company/this job description.” Maybe it will open discussion as to how a succession plan could be tailored to your strengths, if you’re open to staying with the company.

  11. Sydney Bristow :

    I totally agree with the trust your guy advice. Recently I was sitting across from someone who was robbed as I was sitting there. My spidey sense was tingling and I turned the volume on my iPod all the way down so I could try to hear what was going on. A guy had walked up to stand in front of the guy across from me and I just had a bad feeling and it became clear that the standing guy was harassing the sitting guy. I have no idea if there was a weapon involved because the attacker was facing away from me. It happened pretty quickly but I was on alert and turned out to be right.

    I took a self-defense class for a term in college and the thing we regularly worked on was yelling. Make a ton of noise. Draw attention to yourself.

  12. Am I in the silent box? :

    Ladies, unrelated threadjack:

    I just came out of a meeting with 5 men (three business, one in-house counsel, one external counsel). I could NOT get a word in edgewise. I know it’s harder to do in big groups, but really, it felt very based on gender. I noticed that when I started to talk at the same time as someone, whoever was talking just kept right on talking. But when two of the others started at the same time, one or the other gave way pretty quickly. Also, more than once I raised an idea or a concern, and soon enough, it became someone else’s idea or concern (sometimes a good negotiation tactic, but here it just felt crummy).

    Any suggestions? What would NGDGCO say? I feel so disheartened!

    • It sounds like a gender thing, but not in the way you are thinking. You say when you started talking at the same time, whoever was talking just kept talking. But when two of the others started at the same time “one or the other gave way” You just allowed yourself to be the one to give way, everytime. Next time, just keep talking, or say “Excuse me Jim, I’m going to address this issue for a minute and then we can move to your point.”

  13. I wear a headlamp when I walk alone at night. It makes me look totally crazy, but I think that’s a good thing. : )

    • Also Anon :

      My sister is a big advocate of “make yourself seem as crazy as possible” if you feel uneasy in a situation, especially walking alone. Nobody knows how the unhinged might react.

  14. I want a J Crew coat :

    Desperately want to snag a J Crew Metro coat for $130… only problem is I don’t know my size. I recently tried on either a Metro or a Lady day in store (can’t remember which) in a size 6. It looked too big and felt too big. I definitely need a petite size (I am about 5’4), but my questions is: should I get a 6P or an 8P? Reviews I’ve read so far seem to suggest to size up, but most petite blogs deal with girls who are 00/0/2 P and I am definitely not that. Please mind hive, help… I want a beautiful coat for myself that fits. :'(

    • I am 5’4″, 115 lbs., and I have the Lady Day in a 4 (not 4P). It is none too loose, though I can get it on over a sweater with little trouble, and over a suit jacket if I give up on moving my arms. If I could do it over again, I might get a 6; I think the advice to size up is a good idea. In particular, it’s pretty tight across the shoulders and chest, so if these are bigger areas for you, definitely size up. If you’re pear-shaped (as I am), maybe get your normal size. Hope this helps!

    • J crew petite coats seem to have very short arms. I’m 5’2 and wear the regular coats – the petite coats don’t fit right on me.

  15. What are people’s thoughts on pepper spray? I go jogging in the early morning when not many people are out, and sometimes wonder if that would make me feel safer.

    • Get training on how to use the spray properly, so that you don’t get it blown back into your own face and you know the proper distance. I would advise learning how to use a small stick (yawara stick, kubotan) for self defense as well, since it is easy to learn and many pepper sprays can act like small sticks in your hand.

    • I’m not sure about pepper spray, but I would think twice about listening to music on your run even though I know that may be incredibly boring.

  16. anonymous :

    I took a RAD (Rape Aggression Defense) class while in school several years ago and was very happy with it. After several practice sessions, each student was “attacked” by an instructor (a male campus police officer) wearing padding so we could fight back with full force. Each student got two tries, and the second time the guy snuck up behind you and did various things to intimidate you. It was terrifying, but I am convinced I am now much less likely to freeze up in an emergency situation. If you don’t have time for ongoing martial arts classes, RAD is much more substantial than a single-session program.

  17. Anonymous :

    Don’t assume someone is safe because he is a classmate/fellow lawyer/fellow doctor, etc. Bad things happened between students in my college and in my law school. Remember, Ted Bundy was a law student.

    • This.

      Most attackers are people you know. Random violence is very uncommon. Acquaintance-violence is very common. As Kat says, constant vigilance.

    • I had a classmate ask me for drinks and then suggested sharing a bottle of wine back at his place. He must have thought I was insane!

  18. FallenAngela :

    Hi Ladies –
    I’m a long-time Corporette reader. I usually just peruse the comments (I learn so much for you chicks! Thanks!); however, felt compelled to chime in on this topic. My mother is a domestic violence investigator so she is constantly giving me self defense information. Her advice basically reiterates what’s been written so far, but there was one tip that has stuck with me. It’s a morbid one, but I think it’s important. She told me that if you feel like you won’t survive (or at a minimum, you will lose the struggle against your attacker and end up critically injured, unconscious, or unable to remember what has happened due to head injury) grab clumps of hair, get flesh under your nails and draw blood so that there is DNA on the scene. I hope no one is ever in that situation, but in my mother’s line of work (domestic violence, where unfortunately women return to their attackers time and time again) it’s an important message.
    And screw being polite! Take care of yourselves. Stay safe everyone.

  19. This is all great advice. I live in the suburbs so the only time I really find myself nervous these days is when I take my dog out at night if my husband isn’t home to do so. I always feel vulnerable in that situation and try to be super aware of my surroundings.

  20. I’ll add one I haven’t seen yet (sorry if it was already posted).

    When we took a quick self defense class in my sorority, they told us we should yell “FIRE” if we’re attacked and able.

    “Help” or other calls like that are likely NOT to get any reaction/assistance. However – FIRE affects everyone.

  21. LurkerHere :

    Longtime lurker here! First off, I’d like to say that Corporette really helped me a lot by giving me great interview tips for my first “real” job out of university (Marketing Analyst for a small IT firm), and gives me great reads during my coffee breaks.

    All good points here, I’ll share my two cents:
    The constant vigilance and keeping loved ones notified is a great way to prevent most things that could happen to you. Same goes for common sense measures such as hiding your valuables from plain sight (e.g. don’t read on your expensive iPad in a shady part of town, or, as Kat mentioned, hide your diamons palm-side down if possible), not listening to music/or otherwise be distracted in a shady/unfamiliar/deserted part of town.

    As for the when the preventative stuff unfortunately does not work and you get stuck in a situation where you are attacked – KEEP CALM. Make a lot of noise, and target key points which (for most women, who weigh less and are shorter than men, this is more effective) will give you time to escape. These points include, windpipe, arch of the foot, groin/crotch, eyes, palm of hand thrust into the nose upwards, the space between the ribs & sternum, between the eyes and the soft tissue of the stomach. My friend who is a level 3 blackbelt in taekwondo told me hitting these spots (even for those most self-defense challenged) will at least cause the attacker to pause in surprise, giving you time to escape or scream for help.

  22. This post strikes quite close to home with me, because my husband was attacked 2 weeks ago while walking to work. Two guys grabbed his shoulder (presumably to stop him while 3-4 of their buddies caught up). Without consciously thinking about it, he very quickly punched one in the face and swept the other’s legs out from under him. This provided just enough hesitation from the two of them that he was able to run like mad and get away. His experience taught me a few things:

    1. Constant vigilance (like everyone has said!)

    2. Sometimes you just have to surprise the attacker for a moment by fighting back, even if it’s not inflicting a huge injury. He said later that he didn’t think his punch or kick was hard enough to actually hurt someone badly, they just didn’t expect that he would fight back.

    3. Being able to run quickly for at least a couple of blocks is so important. This is not a get-in-shape lecture, but one of the first things he said to me was that he was glad he is in good shape.

    After he punched, kicked, and ran, the guys did not even attempt to follow him. I presume they went away to look for easier targets.

  23. If you are attacked while other people are around apparently the most effective technique is to call upon one specific person for help. E.g. “hey, you in the red pullover, help me / call the police”. People are often unsure when to react (especially in situations like verbal fights that could happen between a couple as well as between an aggressor and you) and sadly, most think that somebody else is going to help you anyway. By “naming” somebody specific this person usually feels responsible for the situation and will be way more likely to help you. Plus, oftentimes, attackers are confused by this action/scared off and will abandon.

  24. I think my “don’t mess with me” face looks like a woman who’s trying to be tough caus she’s scared. I put on a self-confident face that says I’m totally at ease. I was pickpocketed once in Venice and put my hand in my pocket when I felt something weird there in Djibouti, & pulled out a dude’s hand with my cash in it! My travel companions took it from there–pretty funny, really. Another time, in the mid-sized city where I did my PhD, I had an assignment to write a description of, and then a longer research paper on, part of the city. I chose a “scary” street I’d biked through for months. People opened up to talk to me easily because they knew me by sight. Really, with all the places I’ve lived (Berlin at 3:00 a.m., anyone?), I credit acting like I could handle it for the not having anything worse happen to me than the two incidents above.

    At home, I’ve always lived alone. Never was as fearful as when I had a toddler. Used to have nightmares re him being stuck in our apt with my unconscious/dead body for days, and the effects that trauma would have on him. Thank heavens he learned how to open a can of beans! He’s 9 now and has been told that if anyone is in our house trying to bad things to me, he should go to a neighbors.

  25. One addition to what I said before. I heard about a self defense technique that really intrigued me: use the attackers energy against him. Concretely, e.g. if he is pushing you against a wall, instead of pushing against him (which he is expecting and usually anyway not going to be very successful given the difference in muscle mass…) grab him and actually pull him towards the wall (just not on you). Given that the attacker expects the opposite reaction and uses all his force in this example he would hit the wall hard which gives you time to escape.
    (Maybe this is not the best example, but any situation of pushing or punching or whatever can basically be reverted like this.)
    I don’t remember the name of this type of self defense – would be great if someone could help out!

    • These are common techniques in judo/aikido/jujitsu/most other martial arts but not ones that I would expect a novice to employ in a panic situation. I would call the concept kazushi “offbalancing”.

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