We live in a dangerous world. If you have any doubts about that, just listen to the news on any given day. While we are living in a time and place in which women have all the opportunities and rights that men have (at least in theory), we still have to face the fact that most women are simply not as physically large or strong as the men who may target them.
So, as a woman walking alone, you have to be smart, alert, and vigilant. In a country in which a sexual assault occurs every 98 seconds,* your safety (or your life) may depend on it.
Here are 7 things every woman should do to prevent or thwart an attack.
Dress appropriately. This is not about being provocative, or “blaming the victim.” It is all about ensuring freedom of movement. When you know you will be walking alone at night, you want to choose clothing you can easily run in. A tight skirt and high heels will leave you completely unable to bolt at top speed should that be necessary. Also, avoid any article of clothing that an assailant can easily grab and hold onto.
Don’t listen to music (or talk on the phone). Earbuds prevent you from hearing everything that is happening around you, and music or conversation is distracting. There is no way to fully pay attention to your surroundings when your mind is focused on enjoying your favorite musical artist or listening to your friend’s problems at work. So, keep your ears open and your mind alert to your surroundings until you are safely locked inside your home or car.
Noise is your friend. Carry an air horn or a whistle, and keep it at the ready. A very loud unexpected noise will startle your attacker. Even if it doesn’t stop him completely and scare him away, it can give you a momentary edge in which to break free from his grasp and run.
Carry a very bright tactical flashlight. The light-sensitive pigment in your eyes that is responsible for adjusting the eye to different light levels is slow to react. If you shine a very bright light at your attacker, it can take up to 30 seconds for him to be able to see you again clearly. A strobing light is even better as it further delays the eye’s adjustment. While your assailant is off balance, you can try to get away.
Carry pepper spray or mace. You may only have seconds to get the upper hand in this situation and you must use them. Florida law allows the use of chemical sprays in self-defense. Keep one in your purse or pocket and be ready to use it if someone is threatening you.
Take a taxi or an Uber. If you have the slightest doubts about where you will be walking, then don’t do it. Use a taxi or car service. Your safety is certainly worth more than the cost of a ride.
Take a course in self-defense. Let professionals teach you skills that you can use if you are attacked. Hopefully you will never need them, but if you do, you will be thankful you have them! An additional benefit of these classes is that they will give you more confidence. A person who projects confidence and self-assurance is less likely to be targeted than someone who projects fear and vulnerability.
*Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics, National Crime Victimization Survey, 2010-2014 (2015).