Thanks to shows like NYPD Blue and Law & Order New York has a perception of being particularly unsafe and this thought sometimes keeps my mother up at night. Though those shows are highly dramatized, bad things do happen here. Last week a 30-year old woman got the crap beaten out of her at Social, a popular Midtown after-work bar destination. After she declined an offer to dance with a man, the guy followed her into the bathroom and beat her into a bloody pulp. Yikes!
Safety is not to be taken lightly, which is why the folks at New York Jiu Jitsu offer a free Rape Prevention Seminar once a month for women to learn easy ways to defend themselves. I was fortunate to attend this class on a couple of occasions, including yesterday. In the hour-long class a kick-ass double-degree black belt named Francine taught us how to respond to three different types of attacks:
1. The subway creeper that gets too frisky
2. A relative/friend that assaults you (also a date rape scenario)
3. You are pinned to the ground and rape is imminent
The defensive strategies taught were straightforward techniques that can be applied by anyone, regardless of size or physical ability. I urge you to take a self-defense course to actually practice different strategies because written explanations are pretty ineffective. However, I think the key to self-defense is to stay out of compromising situations in the first place. Here are some tips on how to do this:
– Trust your instincts. If you think walking down a dark alley at 3 a.m. is a bad idea you are probably right. Spend $5 on the cab and peace of mind. If a shady dude is following you a little too close for comfort, then stop in a bodega until he carries his business elsewhere.
– Walk with purpose. Shoulders back, head high. People that slouch convey a lack of assertiveness that is attractive for attackers. It is much easier for an attacker to assume a sloucher/ slow walker will be less likely to defend herself than someone walking with intensity. Plus, nothing is prettier than a woman with confidence!
– Lose the distractions. iPods. Phones. Bluetooth. If your music is blaring you are much less likely to notice some creep about to attack you. If you insist on listening to music, lower the volume or only use one ear bud. Everyone today thinks they are good multitaskers. You aren’t. If you are walking and texting, not only are you pissing me off if I’m trying to walk behind you, but you are also making yourself incredibly vulnerable.
– Wear a purse with a cross-body strap. With gym bags and such this isn’t always possible, but you should try to carry your wallet and cell phone as close to your body as possible. Shoulder bags are easy to swipe and run away with, whereas cross-body strap bags require much more effort for an attacker. They’re pretty trendy now, too.
– Don’t flaunt your possessions. There is no need to walk down the street brandishing your jewelry, camera or wallet. If you need to count your dolla bills then step into a store.
– Have situational awareness. Take in your surroundings. Take note of the guy outside smoking his cigarette and if he starts moving towards you. Notice the crowd by you before withdrawing money from the ATM. This is not to say you should walk around in a constant state of fear, but take stock of the world around you and if something feels or looks amiss then do something about it.
– If you are approached by someone, draw attention to the situation. Scream “NO.” This is a pretty universally understood word that conveys you are receiving unwanted attention. An attacker is often deterred by someone that is vocal because they are harder to subdue.
The good news is that New York is still relatively safe, evidenced by the fact that it is consistently ranked in top ten safest cities in America. Apologies for the Mom-ish post, but I find stories like the aforementioned completely devastating and encourage you to learn more self-defense than Will Smith taught Ashley in Fresh Prince. Please feel free to leave any other safety tips in the comments section!