My biggest running nightmare became reality.
4 miles into my long run Sunday afternoon, I stopped to use the restroom and was assaulted by a man hiding in a stall.
I fought for my life screaming (“Not today, M**F**er!”), clawing his face, punching back, and desperately trying to escape his grip.
I was able to lock him in the bathroom until the police arrived.
Thankfully, I had just taken a self-defense class offered at my work and used all of it.
My face is stitched, my body is bruised, but my spirit is intact.
That was Kelly Herron’s story.
The scrambled red lines from the picture above came from her GPS picking up the back and forth struggle.
And the scary part is:
It can happen to anyone.
So that’s what inspired us to write an article on safety tips for women. How do you know what to do when you’re faced with danger?
Maybe you’ve experienced the nervous, sinking feeling of walking alone, fearing what’s around the corner.
There’s also a good chance you’ve felt your heart drop when you thought you were being followed. Or maybe you’re an assault survivor yourself, and you live with the possibility of it happening again.
Because at some point in our lives, most women ask ourselves:
Would I be able to fight back if I were attacked?
1. Be Aware of Your Surroundings
Attackers prey on unsuspecting and vulnerable targets.
This means if you’ve got your earphones in or you’re texting – then you’re easier to sneak up on. So pay attention to what’s going on around you. Criminals don’t see everyone as equal targets.
They look for someone who will give them the least amount of trouble.
So watch where you’re going and keep your head up. Don’t wear headphones because your ears are a valuable resource in knowing what’s going on around you.
Also, avoid sitting in your car distracted with your phone.
If you think someone is following you, cross the street or step into a store. And if you’re driving and someone is following you, then drive to the police station or a public area.
2. Don’t Fall for the Ted Bundy Effect
Often times, the best safety tips for women can be learned from predators. And by that I mean, learning what not to do.
So let’s talk about Ted Bundy.
He described himself as “the most cold-hearted son of a bitch you’ll ever meet.”
During the spring and summer of 1974, police in the Pacific Northwest were in a panic.
Women on college campuses across Washington and Oregon were disappearing at an alarming rate. And law enforcement still hadn’t caught the person behind the brutal attacks.
In just six months, six women had already gone missing.
Panic in the area reached an all-time high when Janice Ann Ott and Denise Marie Naslund disappeared in broad daylight from a crowded beach.
But the authorities were about to be onto their first big break:
On the day both girls disappeared, several other women remembered getting approached by a man. The man had tried to lure them to his car.
“He was an attractive young man,” they said, “who had his arm in a sling.”
You see, Ted Bundy had developed a technique:
He would approach women while wearing an arm sling or appearing otherwise disabled.
He would pretend to be struggling with something – maybe a briefcase or struggling to pick something up off the ground – until a woman offered her help.
As soon as the woman bent down to help him, he would hit them so hard against the back of their head that it knocked them unconscious.
Ted Bundy preyed on the sympathetic and kind-nature of women. So when it comes to safety, you have to fight your kind-hearted instincts.
Never roll down your window for a stranger – unless it’s a small crack in times of necessity. Don’t take pity on the man with a broken arm, trying to put his groceries in the car.
Don’t help the “crippled” person to their vehicle. Instead, offer to go grab the security officer to help them. Or ask several others to help you with the task. There’s safety in numbers.
So one of the best safety tips for women I can possibly give you is this:
You have to be aware of predatory behaviors that so many people fall victim to.
The Ted Bundy victims learned the lesson the hard way and it cost them their lives.
3. Trust Your Gut Feeling
It’s not uncommon for women who are assault survivors to admit to having a gut feeling that something just wasn’t right.
“I had a weird feeling that going out with Adam wasn’t the best idea, but I thought I was being paranoid.”
“I thought he was a little creepy, but I didn’t want to hurt his feelings.”
Don’t discount your gut feelings. If something just doesn’t feel right, it’s because it probably isn’t.
4. Don’t Let Your Plan Depend on an Attacker Getting Close
Most self-defense experts agree that your first line of defense is making distance.
So while the go guarded self-defense ring and the Smith & Wesson Tactical pen are great tools – the first line of defense is space.
You don’t want to get tangled up with someone who might be stronger and more experienced than you.
Consider using weapons like pepper spray, bear spray, or getting a concealed carry permit in your state.
These are all things that work at a distance.
In one of London’s recent terror attacks, pubgoers kept a knife-wielding attacker at bay with pint glasses, beer bottles, and furniture. It might not kill or even debilitate an attacker, but it can keep them away long enough for you to run to safety.
5. Get Loud
As soon as someone grabs you or it’s clear that escape isn’t possible, yell as loud as you possibly can.
Push them if they’re close and bolt out your loudest scream for help.
This technique does two things:
1. It shows that you aren’t an easy target
2. It signals for help and brings attention to the situation
Don’t be afraid to tell someone not to come closer if they’re approaching you. As you can tell, these safety tips for women focus on preventing the attacker from getting close.
So don’t be afraid to yell if they keep coming forward. Might you be embarrassed if it turns out that you misunderstood their intentions?
Sure, but it’s better to have a little embarrassment and walk away with your life, than to take a chance that cost so many other people theirs.
6. Know Your Strengths & Their Weaknesses
Your elbow is the strongest point on your body. So if they get close enough, use it.
Here are the five weakest points on the human body:
Eyes, nose, throat, groin, and knees.
If you’re being attacked:
- Poke them HARD in the eyes
- Punch them in the nose
- Hit them in the throat
- Kick their knee back as hard as you can
- Or kick them in the groin
Here’s a visualization of weak areas to target if you’re in a dangerous situation:
7. Don’t Ignore the Red Flags
The truth is, most attackers don’t start with brutal force.
They start by coaxing a woman into a private area and forcing her to relinquish her control.
In The Gift of Fear, Author Gavin De Becker calls these signals Pre-Incident Indicators (P.I.N.S)
Gavin says that not only will your survival instincts help you avoid harmful situations, but you can also figure out someone’s intent by knowing what to watch out for.
Here are a few examples of the P.I.N.S. Gavin talks about in his book on personal safety tips for women.
- Forced Teaming — When someone tries to pretend they have something in common or are in the same predicament as you. (“I know how much of a pain it is to lug groceries in during this weather, let me help.”)
- Charm – Being polite and nice to manipulate you. (“I can’t let you carry all these bags by yourself. You could use a hand.”)
- Too Many Details – If someone is lying, they tend to add excessive details to make them seem more credible. (“I’m going to your floor anyway. I’m meeting a friend, but I’m running late – I got caught in traffic, so we need to hurry. Come on, you must have a hungry cat waiting for this cat food.”)
- Typecasting – An insult to get you to talk to someone you otherwise wouldn’t. (“There’s such a thing as being too proud. Now stop being silly and hand me a bag.”)
- Loan Sharking – Giving unsolicited help and expecting favors in return. (“I’ve carried your groceries up four flights of stairs; just let me put them on the counter.”)
- Unsolicited Promise — A promise to do (or not to do) something when no such promise was asked for; this usually means the promise will be broken. (“You can leave the door open, I’ll make sure to close it when I get done putting the bags down.”)
- Discounting the word “no” — Refusing to accept rejection.
Gavin De Becker talks about how this exact incident happened to a woman who repeatedly told a strange man she didn’t need his help.
He ignored every “no” and she gave in. Once he took control of the situation, he repeatedly raped her for three hours.
The book also emphasizes that “no” is enough. No further explanation is needed.
8. Be Car Smart
This wouldn’t be a proper list of safety tips for women if I didn’t mention your car.
Why? Because how many of us sit in our car and text on our phone – unaware of our surroundings?
Here’s the deal:
Sitting in your car for extended periods of time will give predators the chance to make their move.
Instead, here’s what you do:
Have your keys in your hand before you leave the building. Wait until you’re close to your car before you unlock it. If you unlock it from across the parking lot, someone can easily hop in and hide without you noticing.
Once you’re in, lock the doors and start driving. If a suspicious car is parked on the driver’s side of your car, get in on the passenger’s side instead.
9. Don’t Let Them Relocate You
Do whatever you possibly can to prevent from getting taken to another location.
Predators want to get you away from people and move you to an area where they’re less likely to get caught.
Even if someone threatens to kill you if you run or scream – do it anyway. The predator probably won’t attack you with several witnesses around.
Why? Because his plan was to have a quiet, uninterrupted assault, not to be arrested.
If he points a gun at you, run in a zigzag pattern.
In the unlikely situation that he does shoot, the chances of you being hit are slim. Plus, the chances of being hit in a vital organ are even slimmer.
Research has shown that if someone intends to move you to another area, then they also intend to kill you.
10. Have a Toolkit
Carry items on you that will help you out in a scary situation.
Here are a few of the top rated personal defense equipment on Amazon:
Pepper Spray Gun
The best safety tips for women are all about prevention, so you should prepare yourself with the right tools.
11. Don’t Leave Things Lying Around the Yard
…that someone could use to access your home.
If you’re working on your house or in the yard, make sure to put any tools away.
Also, take the ladder in at night. It’s a pain at first, but it’s one less thing someone could use to gain entry into your house.
12. Keep the Bushes Trimmed
Don’t give someone a place to hide and stalk – or ambush you – when you’re least expecting it.
Better yet, consider planting thorny bushes underneath your windows so that they would stick someone who got too close.
(This is helpful for warding off peeping Toms too)
13. Use Wooden Dowels
Don’t make it easy for someone to just slide open a door or window to let themselves in.
Wooden dowels are cheap, and they’re easy to move in the case of an emergency where you need to escape.
They’re great for preventing your doors from being opened more than an inch so no one can fit through.
14. Be Alert on Vacation
People on vacation are prime targets for attackers.
Think about it: you’re in a new area – a place you aren’t familiar with – and the attacker has the upper hand.
Keep your hotel room locked.
Don’t let anyone in your room that you don’t know. If someone says they work for the hotel, call the front desk to make sure.
Never leave an extra room key lying around for someone to grab when housekeeping isn’t looking. If you’re traveling alone – keep it private.
15. Stay Safe Online
Some people post everything online – from what they ate for lunch to what they’re doing this weekend.
Keep your personal information personal.
Don’t give someone (and millions of other people) access to your schedule by posting anything and everything you’re doing.
Always think twice.
Let me us know in the comments: What’s your best safety tips for women?
Thanks for reading.