How safe are you? If government statistics are any indication, there’s reason to feel somewhat secure.
The latest U.S. Department of Justice crime figures show personal crimes — which include rape, sexual assault, robbery, and aggravated and simple assault — are at their lowest levels on record. Property crimes — which include burglary, car theft, and theft — have stabilized after years of decline.
Yet this is no time to be complacent. Many criminals prey on people who are off guard, say crime and self-defense specialists who talked with WebMD. Criminals look for people who are not paying attention to their surroundings, and then use the element of surprise to their advantage.
Victims From All Walks of Life
“Criminals don’t want to get caught,” says Tony Farrenkopf, PhD, a clinical and forensic brain and limbs to act defensively. It is more than just a few martial arts moves. It is a way of life.
“Security has to be habitual,” says Jordan. “If you allow yourself to get into a lax way of thinking when it pertains to your security, it is very difficult to change that pattern when you find yourself [in not-so-safe situations].”
To clarify his point, Jordan points to security alarms that people have in their homes but do not turn on. The hardware does nothing to thwart burglars if it is not used.
People have an internal alarm as well. It usually tells them they are walking into a bad situation. Yet many ignore it because they have a false sense of security or are in denial that crime can happen to them.
5 Ways to Avoid Danger
To fine-tune your personal alarm, crime experts make the following suggestions:
- Trust yourself. Many times, your eye contact with people who look at you. O’Neil says that signals the would-be offender that you are in charge and aware that they are there.
- Understand that alcohol or drugs can cloud judgment. Certain substances can certainly dull your senses and slow down your reaction time to danger. They can also lower other people’s inhibitions and make them more aggressive or belligerent. It is for this reason that Silber says certain places like bars and pubs may present some danger, particularly if they’re crowded. He also says mutual drinking can increase chances of rape or sexual assault among people who know each other.
How to Defend Yourself
Taking steps to prevent crime can help lower chances of an attack, but there are no guarantees of complete safety. For this reason, it’s a good idea to have several plans on how to defend yourself and your property.
“Think through what you will do,” urges Robert McCrie, PhD, professor of security management at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City. “Will you willingly give up your wallet or your purse, and if you’re willing to do that, isn’t it a good idea to make a photocopy of all my ID and credit cards and keep it in a safe place? Or will you keep it? What will you do then?”
Some of the plans will depend upon a person’s age, sex, and personal fitness, but McCrie reminds us that even highly-trained FBI agents can get caught off guard and have no qualms about escape as their primary plan.
Fight or Flee?
There is some debate over whether fleeing or fighting back will provide the least risk. Silber, however, says it’s best to err on the conservative side, which is to run away if possible.
If escape is not an option, Farrenkopf suggests firm resistance, particularly in cases of rape or sexual assault. With people you know, he urges being clear about saying “No” to physically fit?” asks Nelson. “Could you run? Could you kick them? Could you last a little bit in a battle?” Remember, you don’t have to win the fight against an attacker. You just need to be able to survive it. Nelson says people who fight back may have more chance of injury, but they have better chances of survival. “You might get a black eye or a broken arm, but if you don’t get raped, the black eye and the broken arm is going to heal far quicker than the trauma of being raped,” he says.
For more information about how to defend yourself and avoid crime, check out classes that are often available at schools, local community centers, local martial arts facilities, and hospitals. McCrie also recommends checking out books on self-defense and talking with your local crime prevention officer.
With our thoughts and actions focused on crime prevention and protection, we can hopefully do our best to make our part of the world a safer place to live.