Target Hardening (Part 2) - Special Considerations For Women

This post follows on from the previous post on Target Hardening (Part 1) but covers issues that predominantly (though not exclusively) effect women. It would probably be beneficial to read Part 1 first then return to this post, it’ll make more sense that way.

Victims Of Sexual Abuse/Assault

Victims of sexual abuse, especially during childhood, or somebody that has been seriously sexually assaulted, sometimes want to make themselves less attractive; the rationale being that if the abusers find them less sexually attractive then they’re more likely to be left alone. This can manifest itself by dressing down, taking less care of personal grooming and hygiene, or bad diet leading to weight increase. Ironically, this can actually have the opposite effect as an experienced sexual predator will recognise these signals and will know that this is a person who less likely to fight back and less likely to report matters to the police.

As discussed in Part 1, having an air of confidence lowers your chances of being selected by any predator, be it a sexual predator or a mugger! The same principles apply. If the predator thinks you’ll fight back, maybe leave identifying marks on him (such as bruises or scratches), or that you’re more likely to scream and draw attention (witnesses), then it lowers your value as a target. Taking care of your appearance, your grooming, your personal hygiene and health are all signs of confidence. So the irony here is, a more attractive lady who takes a pride in her appearance is less likely to be attacked than an unattractive lady. Lets face it ladies, you know you feel better when you’re looking your best. And that feeling better transmits confidence!

I’m not suggesting that if you take a pride in your appearance and look good, then nothing will ever happen to you, there are too many random factors. It’s all about lowering the odds!

Shouting For “Help”

Should you be attacked, it’s a good idea to actually shout the word “HELP”. The reason being is that if people mistake your situation for a domestic where a man is assaulting his wife/partner, they may be more reluctant to get involved. This is NOT because people think it’s ok, or she must have deserved it, or even because it’s none of their business. Most normal men hate to see another man beating up a lady. Most of us consider this to be the ultimate in cowardice.

Woman being stalkedThe reason people are reluctant to become involved is because so many times people have stepped in to help a lady in a domestic, then she closes ranks with the guy who’s just been beating her and together they turn on the third party who has intervened to help her. I did hear of one case where a black couple where having a row and the man was hitting the woman. A white guy stepped in to help the lady; they closed ranks and he ended up being charged with racist assault. And the lady that he was trying to protect testified against him! So ladies, if you want help, make it clear that you want help! Whether it’s a domestic with your partner, sexual assault by a stranger, or a mugger; if it is appropriate to do so, shout loudly and clearly the word “HELP”.

Obviously the dynamic between the different types of assault are very different and a domestic argument which turns violent can be very public whereas a mugger will take care not to have witness around. Nevertheless, should you resist a mugger and just shout and scream, it could be mistaken at first glance for a domestic and a potential helper/witness might just walk away so as not to get involved. A clear call for “help” lets everybody know that you want them to get involved and that it is relatively safe (in that you won’t turn on them and testify against them) for them to get involved.

Don’t Get In The Car

One of the terrifying and dangerous scenarios of all for anybody, especially women, is if somebody pulls a weapon and demands that you to get into their car. Under no circumstances whatever should you do so.

Firstly, ask yourself why does he want you to get into their car?

The reason is that the current location is not fully safe for him! The location is his biggest weakness and therefore your biggest strength. Going back to Part 1, the predator wants to be able to carry on hunting in the future. This is not just a question of their physical dominance, it also means they have to take into account the chances of getting caught. The current location is where they are most likely to be caught, challenged by a third party, or just have witnesses that can give vital information to the police. This why he wants to remove you from that location to another location that is safe and secure for him. Where he can do what he wants without interruption.

These are your real nasty’s; the rapists, torturers and serial killers. If you get in that car and get taken his safe location, there is every chance that you could end up being murdered.

So what do you do, especially if he has a weapon and you know that you have no chance of overpowering them?

Well again, remembering that their main concern is getting caught. So should he cut you or shoot you, then drag you into his car, then his car will be absolutely covered with forensic evidence (blood), which is not easy to clean out. So he is not going to want to use that weapon on you at that time if they can help it. It is mainly to intimidate you into compliance. He is more likely to use any weapons at the other end.

The other thing is, should he shoot or stab you and then make his escape; it is a dangerous situation for you, but there is a chance that you might get medical attention. I did hear the statistic some years ago (which I can’t verify) that if you are shot once, you have an 80% chance of surviving. If you get into his car (even without injury at that time), I’d suggest that your chances of surviving are negligible! So as much as it is a high risk strategy to refuse to get into the car, it’s an even higher risk strategy to actually get in.

Now there are 2 main strategies that you can use here. One is to feign compliance to lull him into a false sense of security, then strike as hard as you can to a vital point and escape. If you don’t think that is possible, then the other is simply shout and scream as loud as you can. This will hopefully bring witnesses very quickly. As mentioned above, should your attacker then shoot/stab you, he is unlikely to want you in his car providing loads of forensic evidence. Also, the longer he struggles and wrestles with you to get you into his car, the longer there is for a witness to arrive. Even if a witness only gets the make and colour of his car, that’s the net seriously tightened around him.

I know that this all sounds bleak, but again I refer you to Part 1 where I talk about awareness and not going into dark and lonely places. Nobody is likely to try to force you into his car in busy well lit road.

Don’t Run Away From Danger, Run To Safety

As kids, if we’re in trouble with our parents, many of us will go to our bedroom. If we’re at school and being bullied, we don’t always go to the teacher as we then get accused of being a “tell-tale” and the bullying can actually get worse, even if its more to do with exclusion and verbal abuse than actual physical assault. So what do we do . . . . we find somewhere to hide. We try to get away from danger. But it’s still not really safe if we are followed or found.

This instinct stays with us even as adults. So imagine a scenario where you’re been for a night out and you’re retuning to your car. You notice somebody following you. You automatically run to your car where you perceive you’ll be safe. However, you fumble with you keys due to the adrenaline cruising through your body, you open the door, you get in, you pull the door shut, you fumble putting your keys in the ignition and turn it on, you’re just about to put it in gear when your door is opened and you’re grabbed. Too late. It actually takes more time than you realise to get into your car. Time which you don’t have unless you have a very big head start. And you’re not likely to have a big head start as the predator is not likely to start chasing you until he’s already fairly close to you.

If your car is not available, you might just run and look for somewhere to hide. It’s instinctive. But, unless you know the place really really well, you’ll have to select your hiding place very very quickly with hardly any thought or planning. That means your hiding place probably isn’t very good and there’s a good chance that you might be found.

Rather than thinking of running away from danger, think of running to safety.

Run to the nearest well lit, crowded area that you can. Remember they don’t want to get caught, they don’t want witnesses. You can run to a shop, a pub, a factory or even just to a group of people. Shout for help. When you have to go home at night and you’re walking, try where possible to plan your route where there will be safe places. If however, that is not possible and you are away from any pubs/businesses that you could run to and their is nobody around to help, look for a house to run to and knock loudly on the door shouting for help (especially if the lights or on). It may be that you’ve run to the house of an elderly person who won’t be able to help you fight of a would be attacker, but the attacker doesn’t know that either. And besides, they’re still a witness!

So; there is a lot to think about. It’s all well and good to read this post and think that’s good . . . . . then forget about it.
I’d suggest that when you’re out for any reason, especially at night, make it a little exercise to identify safe places to run to. Especially if it’s route you take often, that way should anything happen you won’t even have to think about where to run to for safety. As a martial artist you may be thinking that running away is not what you train for and yes, it will go against the grain a bit. But if you’re interested in real self-protection, this is how you should be thinking (and teaching). The actual physical fighting side of things should be the last resort!



Multiply your effectiveness with more impact for less effort and where to hit for best effect.

Bonus: Historical look at Bassai Dai, one of Karate’s most pivotal katas




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