As the world constantly evolves, there are those who attempt to live solely by their own ideals of justice and equality. And while significant social progress has been made, there’s a point at which reality comes knocking and idealistic thinking won’t save your life.
The concept of victim-blaming is one that can sprout in different contexts: religious radicalism, outdated cultural values, flawed legal systems, etc. There is, however, a line of thought within the feminist movement aimed at removing any attention from the victims of rape, by solely focusing on exposing the actions of the perpetrator. Family members, women, friends, and even public figures have been shamed for suggesting there’s a proactive role women can take to avoid becoming victims. Is this shaming contributing to saving lives or is it actually detrimental to the safety of women in our society?
Making Something Illegal Doesn’t Stop It from Happening
Violence against women is already illegal and is punishable with jail time, felony charges that will forever stain their records and hinder employability, and even ousting from society. But these crimes still happen. And if the criminals aren’t afraid of prison, they certainly won’t be afraid of our outrage and social media posts. If these criminals don’t follow the law, then they certainly won’t follow our moral compass. And let me assure you, there’s no shortage of badly intentioned people in this world.
If criminals don’t fear prison, they certainly don’t fear our outrage and social media posts.
Feminists Think Self-Defense Is Victim-Blaming
Miss USA Nia Sanchez came under fire way back in 2014 for stating that she took ownership of her own safety by becoming a black belt in martial arts. Not surprisingly, she was accused of making the narrative about the victim and not the attacker, thus “hindering” the ability of women to be who they want to be, without fear of violence.
That mindset is pure fantasy. Every living being on this planet can be subject to predation, and our female biology doesn’t give us leverage in a fight against a man. Our bodies are made differently and don’t possess the same degree of physical strength, which is a factor that puts us at greater risk of being targeted by someone with bad intentions.
I needed to take ownership of my personal safety and my life.
I’m an independent woman, and I live without fear, without the need for protection. There’s nothing more empowering than that. I feel empowered because I looked around and realized that this world is far from perfect and that I needed to take ownership of my personal safety and my life — so I did.
Start Taking Responsibility for Your Own Safety
Avoid trusting your usual concept of common sense and public safety. That’s a sheltered, mental comfort zone, which will rapidly change as you go through life and experience true human nature.
Our first instinct is to preserve life, and we assume that it’s the same instinct of those around us. This assumption leads us to trust others, and can perhaps even make us feel guilty for suspecting others, but ultimately, it’s better to be cautious and prepared than to be naive and sorry.
You’re not a bad person for choosing to defend your life.
You’re not a bad person for choosing to defend your life. Your attacker is already in a state of alertness, action, and speed. You don’t have to be constantly in a state of heightened awareness and preparedness, but you need to be able to tune into it if the situation demands that from you.
1. Be prudent and cautious.
Always measure your actions a degree or two higher than what you currently believe to be common sense. Don’t get drunk in public. Don’t get intoxicated. Don’t accept drinks from strangers. Don’t leave your drink unattended. You’re not being progressive by refusing to acknowledge the danger, and if there’s someone with twisted intentions in the same location, they’re probably studying your behavior attentively.
2. Be assertive and direct.
Don’t be afraid to be direct and sometimes even rude. Don’t be afraid to tell others when you’re uncomfortable with someone’s behavior or if you’re fearing for your safety. Do let family and friends know where you’re going and avoid going out alone at night. This is the same advice I would give to a man or anyone I cared about. Your life is precious and should be fiercely defended.
3. Carry a weapon (if you want).
The idea of leaving the house with a weapon may seem unsettling for some because they don’t want to believe that they might get caught up in the possibility of needing to stop a threat by means of deadly force. Famous last words: “Oh, but I’m sure it won’t happen to me.” The lack of firearm safety training and experience with handling a weapon could also be factors that unnerve women looking into carrying.
Firearm safety training and gaining experience will build your confidence in carrying.
The thing to keep in mind is that your attacker already has advantages over you — the surprise element and the intent. They have likely been observing you and planning the most efficient way to victimize you. They’re considering things such as passersby, your level of spacial awareness, your outfit, whether you have headphones on that could conceal the sound of their approach, your hairstyle (ponytails are a quick way to immobilize you), your footwear to determine if you’re capable of running far if you manage to escape, etc.
4. Cultivate situational awareness.
Situational awareness is the habit of being attentive to your environment and what’s going on around you. When you enter a place, scan the crowd, the possible exits, the cameras, and any suspicious activity. Know how to focus your hearing and your vision, and how to be aware of your surroundings. If someone is observing you, make eye contact with them so that they know you’re onto them. Most criminals would prefer not to attack a victim who is aware of their presence and expecting it. Have in your possession not only one type of weapon, but two or three, and know the pros and cons of each one, along with how to use them.
5. Start training.
Practice. Go to the gym. Get stronger. Learn martial arts. Do this for your own self-esteem, sense of safety, and confidence that you will be able to stand your ground in any circumstance and not fall easy prey. This confident vibe is also effective at keeping attackers away.
A confident vibe is also effective at keeping attackers away.
Our nature is wired to do good and expect good. Even if you have completed several physical and tactical trainings, your mind and the choices you make are the most powerful weapons you can wield — the ability to stay calm during a threatening event, to act swiftly to defend your life and the lives of others, and to exercise good judgment in every situation. Sometimes kitty key-chains and rape whistles just won’t cut it.
6. Tasers are legal and dangerous (to your attacker).
Local laws vary so it’s important to ensure you’re familiar with the restrictions in your area. Tasers can be a great option as they’re legal in most places, but like every weapon, you must know how to use it and its drawbacks. You should also have a contingency plan in case you’re forcefully disarmed.
Closing Thoughts: Take Pride in Defending Yourself
Feminism is about caring for and empowering women. I write this article sincerely as a woman who survived (but not without scars) for 20 years in one of the world’s most dangerous cities. I learned my lesson the hard way, and I don’t wish that upon you. Don’t let anyone take you down easily. Put up a fight. You can do it, and you might have to do it. Those prompting you to deny danger aren’t your friends. Those prompting you to be safe and prepared, are.
You can do your part to make it hard on anyone who chooses violence against you. We’re taught that on the road we must not only be mindful of our driving, but also of the actions of other potentially dangerous drivers who share that road. There’s no shame in being cautious and aware. No shame in fighting back. There’s zero shame in standing up for innocent lives.
The first step on this journey is simply committing to the continuing sharpening of your mind.