Womans’ Day

WOSAF (WOmen SAFety) with SITCON (SITuation CONtrol) Measures

Come March 8th, and there is a lot of hullabaloo about WOMANS’ DAY; and as an Annual Event, perfunctorily, organizations do lip service and organize an event and pack their bags for the next day. Really …

Be Prepared . Be Alert . Be Safe .

Let me share some tips herein, for everyone to ensure safety.

The one rule you should remember is that hard objects should be smashed against bone, while pointed objects used to pierce into soft tissue.

You should have your keys in hand as you approach your car or front door – no fumbling in your purse!  Something a friend told me years ago is to take one key and put it between your second and third finger and make a fist around the rest of the keys, it becomes a great weapon if needed.

If you are ever thrown into the trunk of a car, kick out the back tail lights and stick your arm out the hole and start waving like crazy. The driver won’t see you but everybody else will. This has saved lives.

If you are parked next to a big van, enter your car from the passenger door. Most serial killers attack their victims by pulling them into their vans while the women are attempting to get into their cars.

ALWAYS take the elevator instead of the stairs. Avoid drawing unwelcome attention to yourself.

It is a fallacy that women are not strong. For example, it takes only 12 pounds per square inch of pressure to dislocate someone’s knee; even a child of 10 years can generate over 50 pounds of force. The knee is the easiest place to kick. If you are caught in a clinch or held down either from the front or back, your heel can generate a lot of strength. So if you hit your heel on the attacker’s instep with all your body weight, he will collapse. Never punch a person with your fist on his face because if his mouth is open you’ll get hurt by his teeth. Instead, use the heel of your hand. Use your fingers to gouge the eyes. Slap a person with the cupped palm on the ears.

Though there is no reason one can’t live or travel alone, the fact is that it is always safer for single women in India to live or travel with at least 1 or 2 other people. Often if you have a male companion, you are usually also less likely to be sexually harassed and/or molested. (We are not saying this is how it should be! It curbs women’s rights to freedom of movement and is fundamentally sexist. But it is a safety precaution that works to some degree in India.)

If you are traveling on assignment, or have moved to a new town or city for work , ask your company or organization to ensure your safety by making the arrangements for your stay through their local contacts. Or ask them for known and reliable contacts through whom you can make your arrangements. In the hotel, make sure your door has a latch or chain on the INSIDE, and once you are in your room always keep the door locked and chained. Always carry a portable door-stop and use it at night irrespective, or use some object like a door stopper. If it is a room on the ground level or 1st floor, make sure the windows have grills. Do not leave your balcony door open while sleeping at night. When ordering food etc. do not leave the door open, and yell for the service person to walk in. Have them knock and take your items from the door.

In budgeting your travel or rent expenses make safety your no.1 priority.  The lower the cost the bigger the risk with safety.  Hence it may seem like a good, cheap deal on a  rented house, apartment, hotel/ guide/ transportation/ tour package, BUT the more obscure it is – the bigger the risk with safety.  You are better off with a known place. Also something that other SINGLE WOMEN you personally know have used and recommended. (Remember it is not the same for a male tourist).

Never accept food and drinks from complete strangers (especially on buses, trains and in hotels), even if they seem friendly or are very insistent (and they can be, heaping you with phrases like “Indian hospitality” or “the guest is god”).  There have been cases where food and drinks were laced with drugs, and the tourists were then robbed and or sexually assaulted. Visit bars and restaurants which have more customers (that way your food is also fresher) and whatever you drink, insist on a sealed bottle (check the seal carefully).

Avoid all body contact with men you have just met or even if you have known them over a few days. Do not give hugs and don’t shake hands. Use the conventional ‘namaste’ instead.

Your eye contact with strange men should be brief and never intimate.  Don’t make direct eye contact and smile simultaneously.  In a culture where the sexes still remain hugely segregated, these can often be misinterpreted. Be friendly with your words; but be very careful with your body language.

If you are living in upscale hotels, you can dress as you wish.  But if you are living in low budget hotels, or are in public areas, the market, villages etc., wear baggy clothing and try to ensure your arms and legs are covered. This is only helps avoid unwanted local male attention. It has nothing to do with rape as women fully clothed, too, have been raped.

Avoid all travels at night. Never get into a cab or auto that has more than one man sitting in there. Sit near the door and if other men get in at any point, get out immediately. Never ever hitch a ride or accept a ride with a stranger no matter how friendly he seems. During train journeys mindfully gauge the people who are with you in your cubicle, and if you feel uncomfortable stay on your guard; don’t go to sleep. If you need to find your way somewhere, ask for directions. But never follow someone who says, “Follow me, I will show you.” Follow the directions and keep checking with others you meet en route to see if you are on the right path. Never agree to meet people you barely know at a house or hotel they invite you to. If you must meet and talk, ask them to meet you in some café of your choosing. Go and leave alone.

Set your boundaries with your body language. Usually men who are looking for an opportunity for an apparently ‘careless’ brush or uninvited physical contact, will test your boundaries first, for e.g. sitting too close. Or touching your hand. Indian women often get frightened and flustered and are unable to speak up. While foreign women are often concerned about seeming unfriendly, racist or snooty. But the rule of safety is the same for women no matter where they are in the world: IF YOU ARE UNCOMFORTABLE, IT IS NOT O.K.  Set your boundaries assertively. Move away or remove your hand. If they persist, tell them firmly using very straight language, “Please sit in that seat. I don’t like people touching me. Never appear hesitant or apologetic.

Avoid intensely crowded places – like buses and festivals. That is where men take the opportunity to molest women. Also, be very careful about a direct, angry confrontation in these kinds of situations, for mobs in India are notoriously unpredictable. A lot of Indian women often don’t complain because the crowd begins to blame them. In a festival try to stay on the edges of the crowds. In a bus or market place, loudly but firmly and politely say “What are you doing?” And remember guilt works better than anger.

The Golden Rule of Safety for Women where ever you are:

+ Be alert to your environment and the people around you at all times.

+ Listen to your gut instinct and don’t second guess it. (It is better to be wrong and safe than wrong and sorry!) And act on your observations and instincts intelligently.

+ If held from behind don’t struggle forward, you’ll only exhaust yourself. Instead throw yourself backwards to surprise your attacker or stomp on the lower leg or foot. The elbow is the strongest point on your body. If you are close enough to use it, do!

+ If a robber asks for your wallet and/or purse, DO NOT HAND IT TO HIM. Toss it away from you …. Chances are that he is more interested in your wallet and/or purse than you, and he will go for the wallet/purse.

+ Keep Eyes and Ears Open, Hands Free. Make Eye Contact.

THROUGH A RAPIST’S EYES” (PLEASE TAKE TIME TO READ THIS)

A group of rapists and date rapists in prison were interviewed on what they look for in a potential victim (profiling) and here are some interesting facts:

** The first thing men look for in a potential victim is hairstyle. They are most likely to go after a woman with a ponytail, bun! , braid, or other hairstyle that can easily be grabbed. They are also likely to go after a woman with long hair. Women with short hair are not common targets.

** The second thing men look for is clothing. They will look for women who’s clothing is easy to remove quickly. Many of them carry scissors around to cut clothing.

** They also look for women using their cell phone, searching through their purse or doing other activities while walking because they are off guard and can be easily overpowered.

** The number one place women are abducted from / attacked at is grocery store parking lots. Number two is office parking lots/garages. Number three is public restrooms.

** The thing about these men is that they are looking to grab a woman and quickly move her to a second location where they don’t have to worry about getting caught.

** If you put up any kind of a fight at all, they get discouraged because it only takes a minute or two for them to realize that going after you isn’t worth it because it will be time-consuming.

** These men said they would not pick on women who have umbrellas, or other similar objects that can be used from a distance, in their hands.

** Keys are not a deterrent because you have to get really close to the attacker to use them as a weapon. So, the idea is to convince these guys you’re not worth it.

POINTS THAT WE SHOULD REMEMBER:

1] If someone is following behind you on a street or in a garage or with you in an elevator or stairwell, look them in the face and ask them a question, like what time is it, or make general small talk: can’t believe it is so cold out here, we’re in for a bad winter. Now that you’ve seen their faces and could identify them in a line- up, you lose appeal as a target.

2] If someone is coming toward you, hold out your hands in front of you and yell ‘Stop or Stay back!’ Most of the rapists said they’d leave a woman alone if she yelled or showed that she would not be afraid to fight back. Again, they are looking for an EASY target.

3] If you carry pepper spray, yelling I HAVE PEPPER SPRAY and holding it out will be a deterrent.

4] If someone grabs you, you can’t beat them with strength but you can do it by outsmarting them. If you are grabbed around the waist from behind, pinch the attacker either under the arm between the elbow and armpit or in the upper inner thigh – HARD. One woman used the underarm pinch on a guy who was trying to date rape her and was so upset she broke through the skin and tore out muscle strands the guy needed stitches. Try pinching yourself in those places as hard as you can stand it; it really hurts.

5] After the initial hit, always go for the groin. I know from a particularly unfortunate experience that if you slap a guy’s parts it is extremely painful. You might think that you’ll anger the guy and make him want to hurt you more, but the thing these rapists told that they want a woman who will not cause him a lot of trouble. Start causing trouble, and he’s out of there.

6] When the guy puts his hands up to you, grab his first two fingers and bend them back as far as possible with as much pressure pushing down on them as possible.

7] Of course the things we always hear still apply. Always be aware of your surroundings, take someone with you if you can and if you see any odd behaviour, don’t dismiss it, go with your instincts. You may feel little silly at the time, but you’d feel much worse if the guy really was trouble.

FINALLY, PLEASE REMEMBER THESE AS WELL ….

1. Tip from Tae Kwon Do: The elbow is the strongest point on your body. If you are close enough to use it, do it.

2. If a robber asks for your wallet and/or purse, DO NOT HAND IT TO HIM. Toss it away from you…. chances are that he is more interested in your wallet and/or purse than you and he will go for the wallet/purse. RUN LIKE MAD IN THE OTHER DIRECTION!

3. If you are ever thrown into the trunk of a car: Kick out the back tail lights and stick your arm out the hole and start waving like crazy. The driver won’t see you but everybody else will. This has saved lives.

4. Women have a tendency to get into their cars after hopping, eating, working, etc., and just sit (doing their cheque book, or making a list, etc. DON’T DO THIS! The predator will be watching you, and this is the perfect opportunity for him to get in on the passenger side, put a gun to your head, and tell you where to go. AS SOON AS YOU CLOSE the DOORS, LEAVE.

5. A few notes about getting into your car in a parking lot, or parking garage:

a. Be aware: look around your car as someone may be hiding at the passenger side , peek into your car, inside the passenger side floor, and in the back seat. (DO THIS TOO BEFORE RIDING A TAXI CAB) .

b. If you are parked next to a big van, enter your car from the passenger door. Most serial killers attack their victims by pulling them into their vans while the women are attempting to get into their cars.

c. Look at the car parked on the driver’s side of your vehicle, and the passenger side. If a male is sitting alone in the seat nearest your car, you may want to walk back into the mall, or work, and get a guard/policeman to walk you back out. IT IS ALWAYS BETTER TO BE SAFE THAN SORRY. (And better paranoid than dead.)

6. ALWAYS take the elevator instead of the stairs. (Stairwells are horrible places to be alone and the perfect crime spot).

7. If the predator has a gun and you are not under his control, ALWAYS RUN! The predator will only hit you (a running target) 4 in 100 times; And even then, it most likely WILL NOT be a vital organ. RUN!

8. As women, we are always trying to be sympathetic: STOP IT! It may get you raped, or killed. Ted Bundy, the serial killer, was a good-looking, well educated man, who ALWAYS played on the sympathies of unsuspecting women. He walked with a cane, or a limp, and often asked “for help” into his vehicle or with his vehicle, which is when he abducted his next victim.

Be Alert. Be Aware. Be Safe.

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