Women’s Safety: “The Fabulous Girl’s Guide to Being Fearless”
Late one night, a woman parked her car in Oregon City when a man grabbed her from behind, dragging her down the sidewalk by her hair, reported KATU Oregon News. Lucky for her, she had a legally-owned gun in her possession and pulled it out. The suspect instantly fled on seeing the weapon. If she had been unarmed, she could easily have been attacked or killed.
If something doesn’t feel right, listen to your intuition, advises personal safety expert Cathy Steinberg. The age-old principle of better safe than sorry should carry the day. One in every four women, reports the FBI, will be the victim of a crime in her lifetime. This means either you or someone you know. The keys to being safe are awareness, knowledge, and forethought.
“You have to be aware of your surroundings. Everything and everyone sharing your space must be acknowledged. Understand that you can make a difference in your personal safety as well as avoid being a victim. Know your exits and think about ways to get away should something bad happen,” Steinberg, an experienced speaker who teaches personal safety courses, declared.
In a 2011 report, the Department of Justice estimated that violent crimes are on the rise, moving from 4.9 million people victims in 2010 to 5.8 million in 2011, a jump of 22 percent. Statistically speaking, these figures translate to a high probability it will affect your life, whether robbery, domestic violence, rape or murder.
In her book, “The Fabulous Girl's Guide to Being Fearless,” Steinberg details how understanding the four levels of alert, as developed by Jeff Cooper, can train you to identify a bad situation before it is too late. Cooper encourages women to cultivate a “combat mindset” to be wary of any threat on their radar.
White Alert is when you are distracted and unsuspecting, perhaps searching for your keys or texting and not paying attention to your surroundings. This is precisely what attackers are looking for; you could easily be caught off guard and unable to get away. This level of alert makes you an easy target.
Pink Alert is when you are alert and ready for possibilities, say scanning your surroundings. You are aware that danger may be lurking around you. Your focus and confidence shows. This, says Steinberg, is the ideal state you should be in until you become aware of a concrete threat.
Orange Alert is when you have perceived that threat. Confident and focused, you are aware of every method of escape and every weapon at your disposal. You are ready to defend yourself.
Red Alert is when the threat attacks and you must act: screaming, running away and reaching for a weapon. You know you need to escape, and your objective is to save yourself.
“Awareness is key to identifying an attack,” Steinberg explained. “You must be aware of your surroundings in order to recognize when there is a problem. A person with bad intent will usually leave clues. It is all about mannerisms. He is paying extra attention to you. He is watching you too closely. He is getting too close for comfort. He shadows your moves. Every time you turn around, he is there. He is getting nervous and looking around as he approaches you. He is fidgeting with his pockets. He has a dead stare locked on to you.”
The first line of defense if you are concerned about an imminent attack is to leave the situation – find a crowded or well-lit area or get into a cab. If that is not possible, try to put a barrier, such as a car, between you and your attacker. Steinberg suggests screaming the word “fire” rather than “help” to trigger concern from the people around you.
You may be at the disadvantage in terms of size and strength; be prepared is the motto. Steinberg advocates not just mental preparation, but physical preparation, to be ready for a potential attack. Try a martial arts class (whatever style strikes your fancy). Steinberg personally has a black belt in Tae Kwan Do. You can also prep yourself with tools such as pepper spray to temporarily blind your attacker or other nonlethal devices to sting him. Be sure to check the laws of your state before purchasing anything.
“Crime does not care about your station in life, your age, your looks or your financial status,” the personal safety expert warned. “You have to be informed. You need to know what to look for and how to avoid a bad situation.”
Sometimes the warning signs can be obvious. Avoid walking through a crowd of men on the street at night or jogging alone through secluded areas. Steinberg particularly recommends being wary of situations that include a lot of men, heavy drinking and no security.
“What it boils down to is women make easy targets. They are physically weaker than men. It is easier to lash out at someone who, you feel, won’t or can’t effectively fight back. The number one motivation of a stranger attack is opportunity. They are looking for unaware, easy prey,” she maintained.
Sometimes the danger can come from a familiar face. The most dangerous attackers can be familiar, spurred by rage, anger, hatred and hurt.
“The principle of being fearless is not living without fear. It is knowing what to do when it matters most. Once you are aware, confident, and knowledgeable you tend to fear less the unknown,” Steinberg concluded.