There was a time,
not so long ago or far away, when “psychopathic predator” was not on my mental list of Things That Could Possibly Go Wrong. It never entered my awareness, so there was no way I could have expected it or prepared myself to deal with it. It was as if I was blindsided by a sucker punch I never saw coming and was knocked down flat, wondering what the hell hit me. It left me feeling very vulnerable. I questioned a lot of things, such as whether or not I could trust my own judgement and perceptions about people. I wondered what other threats were out there that I didn’t know existed, and the ones I was aware of seemed magnified. I felt like a nervous mouse in a world filled with hungry cats lurking in every shadow.
I’m happy to say I no longer feel like a mouse. As I healed from trauma and my thinking became more rational, I was able to see what the real threats were and what made me vulnerable to them, and I was determined to reduce that vulnerability. Much of it had to do with defining my personal boundaries and becoming assertive enough to defend them. Everything I did to reduce my vulnerability was something I should have done a long time ago, if I had only known. Now I was aware, and with that awareness came a sense of urgency that I chose not to ignore.
Last year I saw a flyer for a self-defense class and it got me thinking about my vulnerability in respect to becoming a victim of crime. Sure, I locked my doors and tried to avoid walking alone at night, but I realized it wasn’t enough. Because I value myself and my life, I decided to do more. I didn’t want to leave my safety up to chance any longer, simply hoping nothing bad would ever happen to me. Doing that took my power and gave it to people who definitely didn’t deserve to have it, who couldn’t care less about me and who could decide on a whim to target me or to choose someone else instead. That idea was not acceptable to me any longer. I knew I could never be invulnerable, but I wanted to do everything I could to stack the odds in my favor.
Around that time, I had a conversation with a long-time friend. I think it might be valuable to share it here. I told my friend about the measures I was taking to protect myself, and to my surprise he was dead-set against it. He said I was being negative and that I had a ‘fear-based mentality.’ I asked him what he meant, and he said that if I was thinking about the possibility of becoming a victim of crime, I would actually become one…because my negative thoughts would attract it from the universe.
He went on to say he refuses to even lock his front door, in an effort to avoid attracting crime. This seemed absolutely nuts to me, but I knew the concept of the ‘law of attraction’ had wormed its way into our collective mind: Like attracts like, we hear. Think about what you want, and those things will come into your life. Think about what you don’t want, and prepare to suffer the consequences.
I countered my friend’s argument by pointing out to him that he himself had a ‘fear-based mentality’ — he was also concerned about becoming a crime victim and was also trying to reduce the chances, but he was simply using a different tactic. His strategy was one of trying not to think about it or do anything about it so he wouldn’t turn into some invisible beacon that attracted criminals like moths to a flame.
Since then I’ve heard the same thing from a few other people, so I realize many more must feel the same way. If you feel that way, I urge you to think it over. Another way to look at it is to compare it with making financial plans for the future. Maybe you’re careful with money. You save some for unforeseen emergencies and invest some so you can have enough in retirement. Does that mean you’re attracting unexpected expenses and poverty into your life by taking steps to avoid them? No, of course not. You’re concerned about your well-being, and you’re thinking in a rational manner and taking the actions necessary to protect yourself.
OK, now on to self-defense for those who are unafraid that learning it will mean you have to use it!
First, I want to say I’m far from any kind of self-defense expert. My goal is to get you thinking about self-defense and to explore your options, for a few reasons:
- It can actually work.
- It affirms that you value yourself, which directly counters the devaluation you experienced with a psychopath.
- It will increase your confidence and diminish your feelings of vulnerability.
- Confidence is something a lot of criminals don’t like, so learning self-defense may actually reduce your chances of becoming a victim in the first place.
We can never be invulnerable to crime, unfortunately, but we can take steps to protect ourselves. What follows is a list of self-defense measures and resources for you to consider. It’s not an all-inclusive list by any means; it’s just a few ideas to get you started.
1. Learn the basic rules of keeping yourself safe. The following articles will give you some practical ideas that can reduce your risk of becoming a victim.
Safety Tips for Women From a Woman Cop — Don’t skip this one. Number one on her list: Never, ever, ever let an attacker take you to a second location. Don’t comply, no matter what, even if he has a gun. There’s a reason he wants to get you to a deserted location, and 90% of victims don’t survive to talk about it.
Street Safety — People who are described as being street smart typically do two things: They make efforts to recognize and avoid potentially dangerous situations when they can, and they leave dangerous situations they find themselves in before those situations escalate. Find out how.
This list of articles provide tips to help keep you as safe as possible while you are still in an abusive relationship, when you are preparing to leave, and after you have left: Staying Safe, from WomensLaw.org.
A quick video about the dangers of being ‘nice’ and ‘polite’: Gavin de Becker’s Safety Tip for Women
2. Take self-Defense Classes. (I’m not including martial arts here, because they take years to learn and from what I understand, they don’t always translate well to real-life self defense situations.) Taking a good self-defense class is empowering. You’ll learn how to prevent becoming a victim in the first place, and what to do if it happens anyway. If you’re a woman, take one tailored just for you.
A good class teaches simple, effective moves that you can remember in a panic situation and that will work even if you’re 5 feet tall and weigh 90 pounds. It also teaches you the mindset you need to have to defend yourself effectively. Mindset is important, because it doesn’t matter what you learn if you aren’t committed to the idea of stopping someone, which means being willing to seriously hurt them if they are trying to hurt you or kill you. The goal isn’t to hurt someone — it’s to protect yourself. But in order to do that, you’ll have to be decisive and not hold back at all. If you can, take one of the self-defense classes where you get to practice full-force on a man dressed in layers of padded gear. Pretend he’s your ex-psychopath, and really let him have it.
If there are no classes available to you or cost is a problem, read articles and books, watch videos, and practice on your own or with a friend. Be picky, because there is plenty of bad information out there. If you’re watching a video that shows you how to get out of a choke hold using 15 steps you’ll never remember, move on to something else. Ditto if they don’t teach you to ‘fight dirty.’ If your life is at stake, you need to do whatever works.
The first book I read was a good one — Fight Like a Girl…and Win: Defense Decisions for Women, by Lori Hartman Gervasi. Notice the word ‘decisions’ in the title.This book focuses on being psychologically prepared in advance for the ‘bad guy’ who might walk into your life at some point. The first chapter is about setting your boundaries, and its a theme throughout the book. The author also goes into detail throughout about levels of force — what they are and when to use each one. I recommend this book highly because it’s a great foundation for everything you learn about self-defense, plus it’s complete within itself.
9 Myths About Self-Protection — To better protect yourself from dangerous people, you need to forget these 9 dangerous myths.
I like the self-defense video below, because it keeps things simple. If you live in the UK, you can attend these classes in person: http://www.premierself-defence.co.uk/
Premier Self Defence — Debi Steven Shows Self-Defence Techniques
3. Learn about crime in your own neighborhood. I use a free service called SpotCrime that sends me an email three times a week that includes a map and listing of every crime within a mile of my home. If I didn’t get these notifications, I would never know that burglaries, robberies, and other crimes happen all around me on a fairly regular basis. Without knowing, I might believe my neighborhood is as safe as it seems to be, and not take the necessary precautions.
4. Strengthen your home security. There are many things you can do that can make yourself safer at home. I don’t know about you, but I want to relax when I come home and not have a rapist lying in wait in my bedroom closet or have a group of ultra-violent home invaders muscle their way in and wreck my life. Thinking about these things isn’t pleasant, but I’m sure the reality of them is far worse.
Learn how to make your home or apartment more secure in this excellent series of articles by a police officer who explains how to layer your defenses so a predator can’t enter. The last article talks about what to do if a determined attacker gets in anyway:
One simple thing everyone can do is this: DON’T ANSWER YOUR DOOR. Before I established this rule for myself, it seemed paranoid and weird. But home invasion is a crime I want to avoid. Usually, burglars want to break in and take your things when you’re not home. Not true for those involved in home invasions — they want you to be home. If you have a burglar alarm, they know it’s probably off when you’re there (but it shouldn’t be — have it set all the time). Why do they want you home? So they can have you show them where your valuables are and open your safe at gunpoint, and then rape you and maybe kill you. Usually they just knock on the door, and when you open it they force their way in, fast and furious, quickly overwhelming any occupants. They will also pretend to be delivering flowers or a package, or lie about needing help.
*One caveat: If someone knocks, always ask who it is through your closed door. If you ignore it completely, a regular burglar will assume that means you’re not there and then break in. If someone is at your door and it’s not a friend or someone you were expecting, talk to them through the closed door but don’t open it. This is the reality of the world we live in, at least here in the US. Simple steps can help prevent home invasion
5. Arm yourself. There are many types of weapons to choose from, some more effective than others. Whatever you choose, the important thing is learning to how use it (and having a willingness to do so). Another important consideration is finding out what’s legal where you live, and when and where you can defend yourself with it. There’s an array of defensive gadgets available, including pepper spray, collapsible batons, stun guns, tactical flashlights, and kobutans, small, handheld blunt sticks you can attach to your keychain.
Should you arm yourself with a gun? Only you can decide if it’s right for you. A gun is only to be used when there is reason to fear grave injury or death.
If you decide to go ahead with it, there’s a lot to consider. You need to find the type of gun that’s right for you, but it doesn’t end there. Owning a firearm is a serious responsibility. Learning how to keep yourself and others around you safe is the most important thing. You’ll also need to become comfortable with it and learn how to use it in defensive situations, so you’ll need to take classes and practice on a regular basis. You will also need to know the laws inside and out particular to the area you where reside. If you have children or teenagers living in your home, it takes the risks and responsibilities gun of ownership to another level.
Only you can decide the if the risks vs the benefits of having a gun are worth it to you. If you choose to own a gun and take all the necessary steps to use it safely and effectively, it can be very empowering to know it will be there if you need it.
I hope you’ll take self-defense seriously, and I also hope you’ll never need to use it. Be safe and take good care of yourself.
♥ What measures have you taken to protect yourself, if any? Have you ever needed to use self-defense tactics, and if so, what worked or didn’t work?