An Ohio woman was beaten and robbed last Saturday while walking back to her Akron home, according to a report in Cleveland.com. The 37-year-old female victim suffered minor injuries when she was attacked by a man and two women at about 4 a.m.
One of the robbers asked her for a dollar — but the victim said she didn’t have one. The robbers then punched the victim, knocked her to the ground, and continued beating her, police said.
“The last thing a predator wants to do is fight with somebody.”
Perhaps this seems like a random, isolated case. But violence against women in America is on the rise. As many as one in five women will experience sexual assault, according to a survey from the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.
All women alone at night need to be especially careful and aware of their surroundings — and do their best to instead travel in pairs or groups. Every woman has had that scare at least once: Alone in the dark walking to the car, she suddenly perceives a shadow or movement lurking nearby, then fumbles for the car keys, saying a prayer that all will be well.
But the stereotype of a random man hiding in the bushes and assaulting a woman isn’t what happens most of the time. More often, the rapist is a man whom the woman knows casually — either as a neighbor or a work colleague.
Smart Steps to Take
More than half of all rapes occur inside the victim’s home, where the man has gained access under the pretense of stopping by for a quick visit or needing help. If someone stops by and you don’t know him that well — it’s best to leave the talking to the porch, with one foot in the door. Or stay behind a locked screen door.
Although no plan is foolproof, women can take effective steps to prevent assault. For starters, one’s attitude goes a long way to deter predators. “Always walk with a purpose and walk with confidence,” said Mike Austin, a retired police officer and owner of Never Surrender Self-Defense in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.
“The last thing a predator wants to do is fight with somebody. A predator wants to come in and take the easiest target possible.” He draws a comparison to the animal kingdom: When a lion hunts for food, he looks for the weakest, isolated animal. “Lions don’t attack other lions,” he explained.
So even if you’re lost, don’t walk like you’re lost. Don’t allow yourself to be distracted by your phone or your music. Stay alert.
Be aware that your emotions can betray you, said B. D. Foley, a former CIA operative and author of “CIA Street Smarts for Women.” He worked to recruit others overseas during his career, and said the same skills he used as a spy apply to predators. Women who are feeling angry, lonely, curious, or hurt become prime targets for predators.
If a woman is at a bar, for example, and she makes it known she’s feeling angry or upset, a predator could take advantage of her emotions to convince her to do something she wouldn’t do when her mind was clear. “We all feel anger, curiosity, and loneliness” from time to time, he said — but it’s best not to go out alone when experiencing those emotions.
Austin also recommended watching for red flags. Does a man stand too close? Is he pushing for more alcohol to be served? Is he suggesting you leave to be alone with him?
It’s also wise to keep in mind that “the profile of a predator is an alpha male,” Austin told LifeZette. That means the business owner, the celebrity, the sports star (think Stanford swimmer star-turned-rapist Brock Turner).
It’s best to avoid dark alleys and walking home alone — but if you work the night shift at a company or business, there’s no way to get around a long, dark walk to your car. “Avoid chokepoints,” Foley said, referring to the places you must pass through to reach your destination, such as a building exit. Instead, find alternative exit points and “vary your times and your routes.”
If you’re not willing to bear the responsibility of a gun, sticking to pepper spray might be a better idea.
If you’re walking down the street and don’t feel safe, duck into a store and stand with your back to the wall so nobody can sneak up on you, Austin said.
Then there’s technology. Numerous products are now on the market to keep women safe. You can carry a sound grenade on your key chain, which emits a high-pitched wail like a car alarm when activated. Apps such as SafeTrek and React Mobile can send your GPS location to a preprogrammed contact or tap you directly into a call to the police.
Pepper spray continues to be a good option for women’s safety. Austin sells almost all these safety tools at his business and recommends that women “use the [tool] that [they] feel most comfortable with and are willing to use.”
Women who pack firearms have to be willing to use the gun in case of an emergency. So if you’re not willing to bear the responsibility of a gun, sticking to pepper spray might be a better idea.
Just make sure you “know where it is and how to use it,” Austin said. “When an attack happens, you will not have time to dig down to the bottom of your purse to find it.”