It has been said about self defense training that fully half of what we learn is
preventive, and we practice it in hopes of never having to use the other half.
All activities (driving a car, filling the bathtub, walking through the parking lot at night) entail
some risk. We all have different attitudes toward risk. At one end of the scale is refusing to
engage in an activity by exaggerating the risk involved. At the other end is engaging in very
risky activities while refusing to take any precautions. Neither of these attitudes are useful for
living an empowered life. What is useful is to accurately assess the risks involved, take
whatever precautions make sense, and live as fully as possible.
We would like to hear your comments on which of these guidelines you follow and whether
they make sense in your cultural/gender context. Following these guidelines will not guarantee
your safety, but will minimize your availability to an assailant.
Listen to and act on your intuition. It's better to be safe and risk a little embarrassment,
than stay in an uncomfortable situation that may be unsafe.
If you are in danger or being attacked and want to get help, yell "Call 911!" or give
specific directions to onlookers; for example: "You! Get the police!" or "Walk me to the
store on the corner, I'm being followed."
Have your keys ready when approaching your car or building.
Vary your routine: drive or walk different routes every day.
If you suspect that someone is following you, by foot or in a car, don't go home (or they
will know where you live). Go to a trusted neighbor or to a public place to call police, or
directly to police station.
Do not label keys with your name or any identification.
Don't talk about your social life or vacation plans where strangers can overhear you.
Be very careful using outside ATMs at night or in unfamiliar surroundings.
When on the street, walk facing oncoming traffic. It will be harder for someone to pull
you into a car and abduct you.
Tell someone where you'll be and what time you're supposed to return, or if you will be
with someone you don't know well.
Try to not overload yourself with packages. If you must have your hands full, visualize
how you would respond if approached, how you would get your hands free, etc.
Do not wear music headphones while walking or jogging.
Do not read while walking or standing on the street.
If you wear a purse with a shoulder strap, be prepared to let it go if snatched. Otherwise
you may be hurt if the mugger knocks you down and drags you. while fleeing with your
If someone asks you for directions, and if you choose to reply, remain at least two arms
Clogs, high heels, and tight skirts are hard to run and fight in. Capes, scarves, and long
necklaces are easy to grab. Modify your fashion style, or wear comfortable clothing when
walking alone (change into dress-up clothes later), or think through how you would fight
in your dress-up clothes (for example, kicking off your high heels or hiking your skirt up
around your hips before starting to run or kick)
Avoid being on the street alone if you are upset or under the influence of drugs or alcohol,
or have someone go with you.
When dropping someone off at their home, make sure they are safely inside before driving
away. Have them do the same for you.