It’s 8pm and you’re walking home from work along the seawall. Suddenly, you feel me wrap my arm around your throat from behind and start dragging you into the bushes. I’m 6’4, 220 pounds. What are you going to do?
Jian Ghomeshi, Bill Cosby, Peyton Manning… John Smith, an assailant can take any form. Celebrity, scumbag, All-American apple-pie eating ass-hat, the fact is, the next man to assault a woman has no face, or rather, has every face. There was no beginning, there will be no ending, and you have to assume that the only one who can help you is you.
As I begin my third year of husbandry and close-in on fatherhood (I should be so lucky to have little girl), I have vowed that all of the women in my life will be able to protect themselves. No, it shouldn’t be this way. But it is. The courts have been clear; abuse of women is acceptable, and so we must turn to preparedness and the most animal instincts of all: survival and self-defense.
Instincts & Avoidance
No one ever intentionally puts themselves in harm’s way and no one ever deserves to be assaulted, that's stupid. So I’m not going to bother with “how to avoid rape”. Rather, I want to speak to the first point of contact with a potential assailant, and how you may be able to deter them immediately. It really boils down to one sentence, “trust your instincts and don’t be afraid to be wrong.” First and foremost, there is no reason for a strange man to approach you in an empty parking lot…ever. If you have a bad feeling about someone, or some-place, trust that feeling. More often than not, you are right. Our bodies are highly attuned to sensing danger, and if you get the sense that something is wrong, believe yourself. The second part to this initial contact, is don’t be afraid to call them out right away, "Are you following me?" "Leave me alone!", any forceful and loud comment directed at them is a good start, or, if they invade your personal space, don’t be afraid to make the first move.
Psychological research has shown that rapists have thought a long time about their actions before ever deciding to act upon them, and that they have a plan in mind, however informal. If things do not go according to plan, many will stop and flee, no matter their own size nor the size of their victim. Being the first to make a move not only gives you the element of surprise, it gives you the assumption of power in the ‘relationship’. If it turns out they actually really did just want to borrow your cell phone to make a call to BCAA because they locked their keys in their car, tough shit, they should’ve known better than to approach a lone woman in a dark parking lot. No one would ever hold that against you as no man should ever put a woman in that position.
I know lots of men and women that can take a punch and keep coming forward. I don’t know anyone who can take a punch to the throat and not drop like a sack of potatoes. Assume two things: 1) Your assailant is going to be bigger and stronger than you 2) You’re not going to see the attack coming. These are two extremely important points to keep in mind because they will guide you in how you will get away.
First and foremost, fight like hell, and do not stop fighting. The more unpleasant you make it, the less likely the attacker is to proceed. Many people believe that it is best not to resist, and if you relent, you are less likely to get hurt. Bullshit. They aren’t a bear, and the last thing you should do is play dead. Human males, unlike inhuman bears, have many weak areas, at least one of which will be available to you, no matter in what position you find yourself.
If your assailant has grabbed you or is very close, you can target their eyes with your fingers, nose with the palm of your hand, or stomp the top of their foot (if they have you from behind). If they are further away and you are trying to create more distance, you can punch their throat or kick them in the knees or shins or groin. When describing this, it almost sounds laughable, but when you are faced with the panic that comes from being overpowered, you need to know where your opportunities lay, and you need your response to be automatic and decisive. The only way to achieve this is regular practice.
This video has a couple helpful escape tactics
YouTube videos are a good start, but real training and regular practice and instruction is better.
While you may want to, the point of these techniques is not to kick the piss out of your assailant, rather, it is to create space to allow you to get away. But this is only the first step. I cannot stress enough the importance of reporting these incidences or near incidences to your local police department. Whether it happened an hour ago or 10 years ago, it is important to report it for a number of reasons, not the least of which is to get them off the street. Reporting these incidents also gives others a warning to be aware, it gives you an outlet to discuss what happened (critical for psychological well-being), and it brings the issue more and more into the public eye, in the hopes that we as a society stop accepting this as a part of womanhood.
While knowledge is a good first step, practice is the most important part. If you have never hit anyone or anything, the concept may understandably freak you out. This is why putting theory into practice is critical. You need to be ready, willing, and comfortable with using these techniques. Your life may just depend on it.