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Home Invasion

Sick At Heart - Attacks Against Women All Around the World

Pink sariThe relentless barrage of articles about women being attacked - most recently in India, in Egypt, in Pakistan - makes me sick at heart. What is it about certain cultures, certain men and certain circumstances that make attacks on women not only routine but defendable? Something has GOT to change.

There are movements that are starting to get momentum that offer "safety in numbers" like the Pink Sari Revolution but you can't have a crowd following you everywhere. And it is difficult to protect yourself, even in a group, when there is an attacking group of men - often armed police - coming at you with mal intent.

I would like to make this a forum for comments. The question is: How can women in the global community best protect themselves (aside from always packing a gun which is not always possible) from any form of attack, whether on the street or in their homes?


Personal Safety Plan – Be Prepared to Defend Yourself

Violence against women April is sexual assault awareness month, and we cannot turn our backs on the shocking numbers that the Bureau of Justice Statistics has reported for 2008.  In the United States alone, an estimated 222,000 rapes or sexual assaults of individuals 12 or older had occurred, and these are the cases that were reported.  Even more startling is that studies indicate 18% percent of women in this country will be raped over the course of their lifetimes.

This information is a frightening wake-up call, and every woman and girl must meet reality head on and devise a personal safety plan that she can incorporate into her daily routine.  Several components are required to make a personal safety plan effective, which includes both physical and emotional decisions based on the comfort zone of the individual. Attitude, common sense, survival instinct and the motivation to fight back are all critical factors that need to be addressed on a very personal level.  There also has to be a firm conviction that developing an individual safety plan is as critical as having a disaster emergency kit in place. This belief is not only essential, it is crucial.

Even now in the 21st century there is still doubt that a woman could actually defend herself and are rarely thought of as Xena the Warrior Princess welding a powerful weapon to combat the evil Xena_narrowweb__300x520,0 forces of the world.  That’s a man’s job right?  Women are the weaker sex, soft and feminine and not strong enough to defend herself if confronted with a potentially dangerous situation – NOT!  Women have the power within them to be strong and in control, empowered to take on whatever challenges they are faced with head on without losing their femininity.  The perception that women need to rely on a man to save the day whenever she is in trouble is ludicrous.  Unfortunately, Superman is not going to sweep down and fight the bad guys and whisk the girl away to safety.  In reality, women and girls need to become more proactive in making personal safety a part of their everyday lives. 

The first step in developing a personal protection plan is to imagine different scenarios that may place you in threatening circumstances.  Play out in your mind what would you do in the event if someone attacked you while walking to your car with your hands full of packages while looking for your keys.  If you enjoy jogging or running solo and a predator jumps at you from behind, will you be ready to react?

 

The Women’s Self Defense Federation offers a very informative article on how to avoid predators which can be found at http://aaa-selfdefense.com/avoiding-predators, and all women and girls should make the time to read it.  Here are some common sense guidelines regarding how a woman’s mindset can help prevent her from becoming a victim:

·    Always walk with confidence and with a purpose: Stand straight with your shoulders and Woman walking with confidence your head held high.  Don’t exude a “shrinking violet” posture with shlumpy shoulders and a lack of confidence.  Predators seek out potential victims who look timid and vulnerable.

·    Always be aware of your surroundings.  Your instinctual radar should be up at all times.  Avoid multi-tasking and distractions while walking from point A to point B, i.e. talking on the cell phone while fumbling for your keys in your purse. 

·    If someone gets into your personal space or is following you, look that person straight in the eye and ask “what do you want?”  Predators don’t like it when someone looks directly at them because they can now be identified.

·    If you must go to a grocery store or shopping mall at dark, park as close to the entrance as Woman in parking lot you can and always in a lighted area.  Do not park next to a van or a vehicle with someone in it with the engine running.  When leaving your car, make sure the doors are locked.  When coming out of the store, make sure you have your keys out and ready.  While loading the car with packages, put your purse in first and always look around you while placing the rest of the bags in your vehicle.  Once you are in your car, lock the doors immediately and turn on the engine.  Don’t sit there for any length of time because even if your doors are locked, it doesn’t stop a predator with a gun at your window.  Get in the car, lock the door and take off immediately.

·    Avoid walking solo in dark, isolated areas and choose a path that is well lit and trafficked.  If you must walk a dark and isolated route, carry a flashlight, a personal alarm, a charged cell phone and a personal protection device such as a pepper spray, Mace, stun gun or TASER at ALL TIMES.  Non-lethal personal protection products are affordable, compact and very effective in protecting an individual from being attacked by a predator.  These devices are very easy to use and require very little or no training and are legal within most of the 50 states.

·    If you are confronted with a potential assault, scream as loud as you can or set off your personal alarm to attract attention. Yell “I HAVE PEPPER SPRAY!!”  and start running in the opposite direction as fast as you can.   If you have a pepper spray on hand, don’t be afraid to use it.  Pepper spray is made from hot cayenne peppers. The active ingredient is called oleoresin capsicum (OC) which is derived from chilis and most effective when sprayed in the eyes of a predator.  The immediate result is severe burning of the eyes, tearing and pain, which can last up to 35-40 minutes.  Some sprays also include an indelible dye to mark the attacker. Pepper spray

·   Another effective personal defense tool is Mace, which is an irritant similar to tear gas.  Unlike pepper spray, however, Mace will not have any effect on predators that are on drugs or alcohol.  Mace® is also the brand name for personal defense and security products.

·   TASERs are more expensive than a pepper spray or Mace product, but this personal defense device is one of the most powerful non-lethal tools a civilian can own that is legal in all states except Hawaii, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Wisconsin and the District of Columbia.  Check local state laws on any restrictions regarding the use or possession of a Taser.  Tasers can incapacitate an attacker up to 15 feet away and can also act as a stun gun upon body contact.  The Taser is very easy to operate with a simple point and shoot mechanism with a laser light that will guarantee an accurate aim at the predator.

·   It is important that you learn more about these personal defense products and choose the one that you are comfortable with so that you are not afraid to use it when necessary. 

Women self defense ·   Learn some basic self defense techniques that are easy to remember but effective enough to escape a predator’s attack.  Self defense classes are relatively inexpensive and there are organizations who offer free self defense workshops for women and girls.  There is a great website that all young women should visit, which makes available a 20 minute long video that teaches girls how to fight back against sexual assault and abduction. Since 2006 Just Yell Fire has empowered 1 million girls in 44 countries with getaway skills and the right to live without fear of being a victim of sexual assault.

Date rape drugs are becoming a very popular method of disorienting an individual so that she will not have the ability to defend herself against a sexual assault.  The three most popular date rape drugs are Rohypnol, GHB, and Ketamine.  Rohypnol

 

These drugs are powerful, dissolve quickly in liquids and take effect within 15 to 30 minutes of ingestion.  If you are going out to a club, a party or even to dinner with someone you don’t know very well, you need to take these precautions to avoid becoming a victim of these date rape drugs:

· Don’t take drinks from people you don’t know 

· Open your own beverage container

· Never leave your drink unattended.

· If a drink tastes funny, pour it out.

· Don’t drink from punch bowls.

· If you feel drunk and you had no alcohol, get help immediately

· Never leave a social situation with a stranger or even an acquaintance that you don’t know very well.

 

The rule of thumb is when you are out with friends or on a date, keep your wits about you, have a charged cell phone handy, and don’t drink too much alcohol.  It is also a good idea to ALWAYS tell a friend or family member where you are going and check in from time to time.

Assault doesn’t always have to happen outside your home, and the major cause of injury to women each year is from domestic violence.  According to the American Institute of Domestic Violence, http://www.aidv-usa.com 5.3 million women are abused each year in the United States.  If you are a victim of domestic violence, do you have a safety plan in place to prepare an escape from an intimate partner’s violent episode? Do you have resources such as trusted neighbors, friends or family members who can offer you and your children a safe haven from your abuser? Visit http://www.aardvarc.org/dv/plan.shtml for more information on a step-by-step Domestic Violence Safety Plan along with a link to download a “Family Disaster Plan” worksheet.

Home invasion in the United States is also a very harsh reality and according to a United States Department of Justice report:Home invasion

  • 38 percent of assaults and 60 percent of rapes occur during home invasions
  • One in five homes undergoes a home invasion or break-in
  • There are more than 8,000 home invasions every day in North America
  • 50 percent of home invasions involve the use of a weapon; the most common weapons used are knives or other cutting instruments
  • In 48 percent of home invasions, victims sustain physical injuries
  • Victims age 60 or older make up 17 percent of home invasion victims
  • In 68 percent of home invasions, victims and the accused are strangers; in 11 percent of these cases, victims and the accused are friends, business associates, or family

Here are some recommended tips to help you prepare and defend against the threat of home invasion:

  • If your home uses hollow wooden doors rather than doors with solid cores, invest in some heavy duty locks.
  • Install security devices in windows such as alarm systems or bars.  These devices can be relatively inexpensive, and you do not have to spend a zillion dollars to secure your home.
  • Lock all entry ways such as doors and windows at all times.
  • If your front door does not have a peephole, have one installed.  Your investment will be about $30 which is worth having the ability to see who is at your door before opening it.
  • If you have some extra money to spend, install an alarm system such as ADT.  Do your homework and shop for the best deals to keep costs low.
  • It is highly recommended that you install surveillance cameras inside and outside of your home.  However, this equipment can be extremely pricey, and there are less expensive options such as dummy cameras that will give the illusion your property is being monitored.
  • If you live in a house, ALWAYS keep the front, sides and back of the property well lit when it is dark. 
  • When entering your home garage, be especially aware that no one has followed you in. Once you have determined you are alone, immediately close the garage door behind you. If someone has followed you into your garage, lock your car doors and back out immediately and drive away as fast as you can to safety. 

 

  • If you live in an apartment complex or dorm, always make sure no one follows you into the building.  Proceed to your apartment quickly and lock the door behind you. 

 

  • If your apartment, condo or dorm complex offers underground parking, try to park as close to the exit as possible in a well lit area.  Before getting out of your car, do a quick scan of your surroundings to make sure there is no suspicious activity at play.

  • Keep a personal protection device such as a pepper spray, Mace, stun gun or TASER close to reach inside and outside of your home.

 

  • If you notice any suspicious individuals in your neighborhood, alert neighbors or Neighborhood Watch groups.  If your community has an outside security company assigned to patrol your area, call them immediately to report any unusual activity.  

  • Have a discussion with your family regarding home invasions, preventative measures and escape plans in the event they become necessary. 

A well defined personal safety plan is an option that can no longer be ignored. The veracity of living in a world full of economic duress, raging unemployment, relentless foreclosures, and social apathy from too much online networking and very little human interaction clearly defines that society is becoming an increasingly hostile environment to live in.  Television shows it, the newspapers report it and statistics prove it.  We must stop sticking our heads in the sand like frightened ostriches and deal head on that it ain’t pretty out there.  We need to accept it but understand that we DO have the power to prevent the chance of ever falling victim to a ruthless crime. Women and girls must have the strength and the determination to fight back against violence without fear, embarrassment or guilt.  You don’t have to be Supergirl to defend yourself and win – awareness, preparedness, and a personal protection device will help you stay in control when circumstance puts you in a precarious situation. Strong_woman

 


Sexual Assault on Campus: Female Students Need to Get Serious About Safety

Lillian's evening economic class was about to wrap up, and she was looking forward to getting back to her dorm.  It's been a long day of classes, and all Lillian wanted to do is get a good night's sleep.  She walked out the door with some other students, and they quickly went their own way.  The winter night air was colder than usual, and Lillian wrapped her coat tighter around her body.  The campus seemed endless as she walked toward where her car was parked. Lillian thought she heard footsteps behind her, and she looked over her shoulder and spotted two men in dark clothing keeping up with her pace.  Lillian's heart sped up a beat, and she knew she was in trouble.  It was dark and deserted at such a late hour, and there was no one around to hear her scream for help.  Lillian started running as fast as she could and when she finally reached her car, she franically fumbled for her keys in her bag.  Unfortunately, one of the men grabbed the keys out of her hand and the other one punched Lillian unconscious.  They dragged her into her own car and drove away.  Lillian was found the next day in a wooded area near the campus, bloody, beaten, raped and robbed but still alive.  The predators took her car, her purse and her capacity to ever live without the horror of what had happened to her.  Lillian recovered physically, but psychologically she was never the same and lived in fear every day.  Lillian reported the crime, but without an accurate description of the men who attacked her, there was little the police could do to bring these fiends to justice.  Her school didn't do much to help and failed to provide Lillian with any post-traumatic counseling and guidance.  Lillian felt let down and wondered why she even bothered to tell anyone about the assault.  She felt alone and scared.

Lillian is one of the one in five women who will experience a sexual assault while attending college, and most of the crimes will be commited by someone they know.  Lillian didn't know her attackers but in many cases, the victim knows the assailant. Statistics reveal that college-age women are 4 times likely to be sexually assaulted and 1 out of every 6 American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime (14.8% completed rape; 2.8% attempted rape). (RAINN.org).  Non-profit organizations such as RAINN (Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network) has educated over 1,000,000 students in all 50 states, DC, Puerto Rico, and Canada about preventing and recovering from sexual assault.  These programs are critical in the fight to prevent violence against women on campus and help those who are victims.

Many students feel they are invincible to anything bad happening to them, but this attitude must change through education and awareness. Here are some common-sense safety tips that all students, on and off campus should follow:

  • Avoid walking in dark, deserted areas and use a high-traffic and well lit path whenever traveling on foot.
  • Always travel in a group at all possible, especially at night.  When going to a party or going out to party, have a trusted friend or friends accompany you.  Never leave a party or bar alone or with someone you don't know.
  • Never leave drinks unaccompanied and do not let anyone get a drink from you.  Date Rape drugs are extremely popular these days ,and they work very quickly to render the victim unconscious.
  • Be aware of your surroundings at all times and avoid being distracted while walking to your destination.  Keep a safe distance away from strangers who ask for the time (and they are wearing a watch) or request to use your cell phone to make an emergency call. 
  • Carry a personal protection device such as a pepper spray or stun gun to have a fighting chance to stop a violent attack.
  • Personal Alarms are affordable, portable and are great tools that will draw attention to yourself and scare away a predator in an attempted assault.
  • When leaving your dorm or apartment, make sure all windows and doors are locked. Inexpensive door and window alarms are available to help protect your home from break ins.
  • When entering your dorm or apartment building, check to make sure no one has followed you inside.  Once you are inside your apartment or dorm, turn on the light and quickly scan your surroundings to make sure nothing is out of place or suspicious. 
  • Make sure you check the area around, under and inside your vehicle to make sure there is no one hiding and waiting to attack.  Be cautious of vans parked next to your car, particularly on the driver's side. 
  • Always carry a charged cell phone that is turned on and ready to dial 911 if necessary.
  • If you are confronted by a potential attacker, start SCREAMING at the top of your lungs, "GET OUT OF HERE!" "FIRE!"  or anything else that will draw attention.
  • Check for local self defense classes that will teach you the tools and techniques to defend yourself against a violent attack.

It is also important for parents to investigate crime statistics on college campuses that your child may be attending.  Below are some more resources to able collect as much information as you need to help keep your child safe:

COLLEGE SAFETY
Security On Campus - an organization focused on campus safety issues

U.S. Department of Education college crime statistics, check out your school here.

Security On Campus police guide for date rape on campus


STUDENT TRAVEL SAFETY
U.S. State Department country facts good for travelers or for reports and papers

U.S. State Department tips for traveling students

U.S. Government Publication tips for women traveling alone

U.S.Transportation Security Administration Travel security issues and a downloadable list of Permitted & Prohibited Items for airline travel.

U.S. State Department Bureau of Consular Affairs American Citizens Services offers government issued international travel safety advisories.

VICTIM RESOURCE

www.rainn.org, hotline number is 1-800-656-HOPE