Self Defense Tactics In The Summertime (Or Anytime)

The warm weather of summer brings people out for a multitude of activities.  Shopping at the malls, trips to the lake, vacations to places you haven’t been before, and a multitude of other activities.  Good people out having good fun.  Unfortunately, good weather also brings out more of the criminal element of society.  The incidence rate of personal assault, muggings, rape, and robbery against individuals also goes up as the weather improves and outdoor activities increase during the summer.

An expert in self-defense, who had a female friend attacked and raped one night while leaving work, started a women’s group and began teaching self-defense tactics on how to prevent and protect themselves in the event of physical and/or sexual assault.   He and other self-defense experts interviewed a number of rapists and date rapists in prison on what they look for when they are prowling for a victim and the following are some interesting facts they discovered.  A number of the observations and self-defense tactics discussed in the following paragraphs apply equally as well to men as women.

The number one thing men look for in a potential rape victim is hairstyle.  They are most likely to go after a woman with a ponytail, bun, braid, or other hairstyle that can easily be grabbed.  They are also likely to go after a woman with long hair.  Women with short hair are not common targets. The second thing men look for is clothing.  They will look for a woman who's clothing is easy to remove quickly.

The number one outfit they look for is overalls because many of them carry scissors with them to cut clothing and on overalls the straps can be easily cut. They also look for women talking on cell phones, searching through their purse, or doing other activities while walking because they are off guard and can be easily overpowered.

The time of day men are most likely to attack and rape a woman is in the early morning, between 5 and 8:30 a.m.  The number one place women are abducted from/attacked is grocery store parking lots.  Number two is office complex parking lots/garages.  Number three is public restrooms. The motive of these attackers in preferring these locations is that they are looking to grab a woman and quickly move her to a second location where they feel their chances of getting caught are greatly reduced.

Only two percent said they carried weapons because rape carries a 3-5 year sentence, but rape with a weapon is 15-20 years.  If you put up any kind of a fight at all, they get discouraged because it only takes a minute or two for them to realize that going after you isn't worth it because it will be time consuming.  These men said they would not choose women who have umbrellas, or other similar objects that can be used from a distance, in their hands.  Keys are not a deterrent because you have to get really close to the attacker to use them as a weapon.  So, the idea is to convince these attackers you're not worth it.  Several defense mechanisms this self-defense expert teaches are:

If someone is following behind you on a street or in a garage or with you in an elevator or stairwell, look them in the face and ask them a question like “What time is it?” or make small talk such as “I can't believe it is so hot, we're in for a hot summer.”  Now that you've seen their face and could identify them in a lineup, you lose appeal as a target.

If someone is coming toward you, hold out your hands in front of you and yell, “Stop or Stay back!” Most of the rapists the self defense expert talked to said they'd leave a woman alone if she yelled or showed that she would not be afraid to fight back.  Again, they are looking for an EASY target.  If you carry pepper spray (this instructor was a huge advocate of it and carries it with him wherever he goes) yelling, “I have pepper spray!” and holding it out will be a deterrent.

If someone grabs you, most women can't deter or stop a male with strength alone, but you can by outsmarting them.  If they grab your wrist, pull your wrist back so your hand is in a waving position (palm facing forward) and twist it toward yourself and pull your arm away.  It is hard to hold onto wrist bones that are moving in that way.  A heavier person then stumbles toward you and causes you to stumble backwards, so you can use that momentum to your advantage and backhand them with your knuckles in the forehead, nose, or teeth.

If you are grabbed around the waist from behind, pinch the attacker either under the arm between the elbow and armpit or in the upper inner thigh - HARD.  One woman in a class this instructor taught old him she used the underarm pinch on a guy who was trying to date rape her and was so upset she broke through the skin and tore out muscle strands - the guy needed stitches. Try pinching yourself in those places as hard as you can stand it; it hurts.

After the initial hit, always go for the groin. Striking a man’s genitals is extremely painful.  You might think that you'll anger the attacker and make him want to hurt you more, but the thing these rapists told the self-defense instructor is that they want a woman who will not cause a lot of trouble.  Start causing trouble, and he's out of there.

When the attacker puts his hands up to you, grab his first two fingers and bend them back as far as possible with as much pressure pushing down on them as possible.  This may very well bring the attacker to his knees.

Of course the things we always hear still apply.  Always be aware of your surroundings, take someone with you if you can and if you see any odd behavior, don't dismiss it, and go with your instincts.  You may feel a little silly at the time, but you'd feel much worse if the guy really was trouble.

Thanks to Jean Shingledecker, School of Industrial Engineering, University of Oklahoma for information contributed for this newsletter.