Simply... A Survival Kit


new internationalist
issue 187 - September 1988

[image, unknown] a survival kit

Illustrations: Korky Paul

Somebody wants to attack you. How you react could make the difference between
life and death. What do you do? Because each person has their own immediate response
and each incident is unique, there can be no hard and fast rules. Just a few helpful tips...

Trust your instincts

[image, unknown] Your instincts are your best tools for self-defence so trust them. If you feel uneasy about someone walking behind you, cross the road - taking the opportunity to observe and assess how suspicious the person looks. If they cross too, then cross again. If they follow suit, then cross again. By now you know you are not being paranoid. If you feel you can out-run them to a well-lit, populated place, do so. If not keep an even pace and lengthen your stride. Too obviously walking faster could precipitate an attack. Never be afraid to cry for help or knock on people's doors. Best to shout 'fire' - this will bring an immediate response from people who will want to know what is going on and see whether their own property is at risk.

[image, unknown]
Look confident

Muggers and thugs go for easy victims. If you already seem weak and afraid you are automatically at greater risk. Walk tall, try and act confidently and decisively - however you may feel inside. If someone asks the time look them in the eye and give the time - any time - without glancing at your watch. If asked the way look at your inquirer as you answer. Do not turn around and point the way. This may be just the move required to get you off your guard. If you just can't turn on the confidence maybe you should consider assertiveness training and jogging - and avoid wearing high heels late at night.

[image, unknown]
Escape or befriend

Most of the fights that men and boys get into could be easily avoided. But macho pride gets in the way of intelligent behaviour. Many males are too afraid of being dubbed cowards to walk away from a potential fight. Be honest with yourself. By standing your ground are you being reasonable or are you just using this pathetic strategy to try and prove something to yourself? If you really can't get away from a person who is threatening you try and show him that you are 'on side'. Speak to him in his language. Joke with him to defuse the tension. Maybe even buy him a drink... then back off.

Get physical

[image, unknown] Sometimes you may be forced to fight. If your attacker is the same age and sex, then scuffle, wrestle and try not to cause too much damage. However if you are a woman and your attacker is a man (or is armed) you cannot afford this soft approach. Strike as hard and effectively as you can to put your attacker out of action. Do not be afraid to injure. Half-hearted attempts will only cause aggravation. Even if you are old, disabled or pregnant there are many things you can do. It takes very little strength to scratch the eyes (keys are useful for this) or jab the base of the throat with a finger. A rolled up newspaper - or better still an umbrella - can deal a powerful blow to the groin. Grabbing and twisting of genitals is also highly effective. Self-defence classes are a must for women - and the best offer assertiveness training as well.

Put him off

[image, unknown] Rapists have been put off by women telling them they have AIDS, VD or even that they are menstruating. Throwing an epileptic-type fit, fainting or urinating can also help. Some women have avoided penetration - and therefore the risk of pregnancy and disease - by taking a sexually active role themselves. One rapist gave up his attack when his target told him she had terminal cancer of the womb. Another was totally thrown and had to abandon his plan when the woman he intended to rape turned to him with tears of pity in her eyes and gave his arm a gentle squeeze.

Scream and shout

[image, unknown] Make a lot of noise - both at the moment of attack and afterwards. If you are subject to physical abuse by your partner leave a window open at night so that the neighbours can hear the blows and screams. Talk about it to other people. Use support networks. If you are an abused child use phone help-lines, talk to a teacher or a relative. If raped, memorize physical details about your attacker and report the incident - painful though it may be for you it may save others going through a similar ordeal.

[image, unknown]
Talk and joke

Someone is holding you hostage. You must impress upon them that you are a human being - not an object on which to vent anger and frustration. You must work at building up a special relationship; by showing more trust and sympathy than fear you may appeal to their better nature. Your captor could be as disturbed and scared as you are in which case calm authoritativeness on your part might even secure your release. Showing a sense of humour - however difficult in the circumstances - could also be a life-saver.

[image, unknown]
Protest and protect

Finally you can prevent violence occurring by making your environment safer. Demand adequate street lighting, police patrolling, late night public transport, crisis lines, women's refuges and free self-defence classes. If you have spare time volunteer to help crisis lines. Campaign to make rape illegal within marriage if it is not already so in your country. Do not use or encourage the use of pornography. Teach children their bodies are their own. Take seriously any cries for help you might hear. And do not allow police to give you dismissive fob-offs when you report incidents of violence.

Information for this section comes from Self Defence for Women by Diana Warren Holland, Denise Rossell Jones,
Rachel Stewart and Women Against Rape and Women, Men and Rape by Raymond Wyer.

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