Your age, your gender, your physical strength—none of it matters if you are not aware of your surroundings, how to prevent an attack, or how to defend yourself if you are attacked. Women (and men) fall victim to assault every day. Staying informed on tactics to prevent assault and ways to defend yourself could save your life. We have compiled a short list of reminders to help young adults living on their own stay safe.
Avoid traveling alone after dark. It sounds simple, but victims often tell themselves that walking home alone will be fine “just this once” or they are lured into a false sense of security that the areas they frequent during the day are safe at night. If you must walk anywhere alone in the dark, be aware of your surroundings. Rapists often look for victims who are distracted or seem lost. Try not to text, update social media, or make social phone calls that can wait until you are safely inside. Take a mental note of escape routes and avoid dimly lit areas as much as possible.
Fight or Flight: Be prepared to run if you need to do so. If the situation allows, many experts recommend that you flee from your assailant as quickly as possible rather than engage in a fight. In The Superwoman’s Survival Guide by Ky Furneaux, she explains, “[The] surge of adrenaline is a survival response that gives you a burst of energy so that you can get away from a threat. If your life is in immediate danger, then capitalize on the short burst of adrenaline that the fight-or-flight response provides and get out of the way.”
Fight Smarter: If you cannot escape from your attacker, focus your defense by striking the most vulnerable areas on their bodies. Aim for their eyes, nose, throat and groin. Many young adults carry weapons for defense, but Furneaux cautions that the presence of a weapon has the potential to escalate any situation. Be familiar with the items you trust for your defense so your attacker cannot take them and use them against you.
Trust Wisely. People do not make new friends by never speaking to strangers, but that does not mean you should trust someone that you have just met (even a few days prior) with your safety. Take responsibility for your own well being. Make wise decisions, like limiting your alcohol consumption and refusing beverages in open containers at parties. Again, it sounds simple—but many assaults happen in situations where one or both parties are impaired in some way. A victim under the influence of drugs or alcohol is obviously not responsible for their assault. However, choosing to remain coherent in a situation where you do not know many people will not harm anyone—and a gracious host will understand.
Consider enrolling in Roanoke County’s four-week program, Self-Defense for Women, beginning August 7. Participants will learn the Rape Aggression Defense system from certified instructors who want to help victims learn how to respond to a realistic attack with effective self-defense tactics and techniques.
The Great River Institute is also offering a free introductory seminar on Jiu Jitsu on Wednesday August 20 from 7 pm-9 pm at their Grandin Road location. This seminar will include demonstrations on dealing with emotional and physical confrontations, hostile situations and scenarios, and how to more effectively maintain a positive personal balance. Visit their website for more information.
The courageous step of reporting your assault can help prevent future attacks. In addition to law enforcement, you can reach out to Sexual Assault Response and Awareness, Inc. by calling their 24-hour hotline, 540-981-9352.