What is Self-Defense and Why Is It Important?
Self-defense is “the act of defending one’s person when physically attacked, as by countering blows or overcoming an assailant” (Dictionary.com). Learning self-defense is an easy way to make sure you are able to effectively protect yourself in almost any situation.
One of my favorite things about self-defense is that absolutely anyone can learn it. No matter if you are a black belt in karate or a self-defense novice, there are simple moves you can learn to better defend yourself. There are also easy proactive measures you can take to help keep yourself safe.
Women as Targets
As a woman, I understand how important it is to know self-defense. Unfortunately, in modern-day society, women are often seen as easy targets. Many people view them as being both more trusting and easier to subdue than men.
According to the National Organization for Women,
Young women, low-income women and some minorities are disproportionately victims of domestic violence and rape. Women ages 20-24 are at greatest risk of nonfatal domestic violence, and women age 24 and under suffer from the highest rates of rape. The Justice Department estimates that one in five women will experience rape or attempted rape during their college years, and that less than five percent of these rapes will be reported.
In addition, according to NISVS (National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey), “Most female victims of rape (79.6 percent) experienced their first rape before the age of 25 and almost half (42.2 percent) experienced their first rape before age 18.” Not only are women highly targeted in crimes of sexual assault such as rape, but they also make up the majority of victims in cases of stalking, human trafficking, harassment, sexual coercion, and more.
Being a young woman myself, these statistics were not only extremely heartbreaking to read but were also incredibly frightening. However, I’m not telling you these facts to scare you. I simply want to illustrate the importance of knowing self-defense and taking proactive measures. Hopefully, you will never be put in a situation where self-defense is needed, but as the saying goes, you should hope for the best but always prepare for the worst. It is much better to learn self-defense and never have to use it than to find yourself in a situation where you need it but don’t know any self-defense.
To help you stay safe, I’ve included some ways to proactively protect yourself, self-defense exercises, safety tips, and victim support information.
Ways to Proactively Protect Yourself
1. Always Let Someone Know Where You’re Going
- Whether you’re going somewhere alone, staying out late at night, or visiting an unfamiliar place, make sure to tell at least one person your plans. It can be a roommate, friend, parent, sibling, or anyone else you trust. Make sure to tell them where you will be and what time you expect to be back by.
- To some, this may seem a bit excessive but simple actions like these can help save lives and keep you safe. This way, if anything were to happen to you, at least one person would know that you are missing, roughly how long you’ve been missing, and what your last location was.
- If you want to be extra safe, there are multiple apps you can download that allow you to share your phone’s exact location with a trusted party. These apps include Google Maps, Find My Friends, Find My Family, Glympse, Life360 Family Locator, Family Locator & Safety, and more.
2. Carry Safety Gear
- Buy protective gear such as pepper spray or mace and carry it on your keychain. Make sure to learn how to properly use it in order to avoid accidentally spraying someone or panicking in an emergency.
- In addition to pepper spray, you can also buy a wide variety of other self-defense items. The kind of item you buy will depend on the level of protection you want. For basic protection, you can buy items such as a safety whistle, personal alarm, or mini flashlight that has strobing or blinding capabilities. For more advanced protection, you can buy items such as a tactical knife, tactical pen, stun gun, taser, self-defense keychain weapon, or expandable keychain baton.
- The legality and use restrictions concerning various self-defense and personal protection items vary from place to place. As a result, you should always make sure to research your specific state’s and city’s laws regarding the ownership and use of self-defense items.
3. Practice Safety Everywhere, Even on a Date
- Tell at least one person where you’re going, who you’re going with, and what time you expect to be back by.
- Try to pick a public location for your first couple of dates.
- Drive yourself to the date. While this may seem a little strange, it is a good way to avoid putting yourself in a bad situation. This way, if anything bad were to happen during the date you have the ability to quickly remove yourself from the situation and are not reliant on someone else. If you don’t have a car, try to get a friend or family member to drop you off and pick you up.
- Don’t let your date pressure you into doing anything you are not comfortable with. Stand your ground and don’t hesitate to end the date early if the other party’s actions begin to make you feel at all threatened or unsafe.
4. Make Sure Your Phone Is Always Fully Charged
- Before you go anywhere, make sure your phone is fully charged. If for some reason you are attacked, get injured, become lost, begin to feel sick, need a friend to pick you, or any other number of things, it is vital to have a fully charged phone.
- If you want to be extra safe, you can buy a portable phone charger to take with you. That way you will always have a backup battery in case of emergencies.
5. Be Wary of Strangers
- While your parents may have taught you not to talk to strangers as a kid, a lot has changed since then. Criminals have gotten smarter and are now able to blend into the crowd more easily. However, you can still stay safe by being alert, paying attention to your surroundings, and using common sense.
- Don’t let appearances or stereotypes trick you into feeling a false sense of security. Criminals come in all ages, genders, and races so you should always be wary of strangers no matter what they may look like.
- With the exception of using a ridesharing service like Uber, you should never get into a car with a stranger. You should also never accept food or drinks from any stranger and never put yourself in a situation where you are alone with a stranger.
6. Learn Basic Self-Defense
- Learning a few basic self-defense moves can be the difference between being able to safely protect yourself and not panic in an emergency. Remember, abuse doesn’t always have an age limit.
Resources for Self-Defense Exercises & Safety Tips
8 Self-Defense Moves Every Woman Needs to Know
5 Simple Self-Defense Moves Every Woman Should Know
11 Practical Ways to Be Your Own Bodyguard Everyone Should Know
21 Potentially Life-Saving Safety Tips That Every Woman Should Know
8 Safety Tips for Women, From a Woman Cop
Recognizing the Signs of Human Trafficking
Resources for Victim Support Programs
If you or someone you know is a survivor of sexual violence, here are a few resources that may be helpful.
RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network)
- Website: https://rainn.org/
- Free & Confidential 24/7 National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-HOPE (4673)
- Online Live Chat: https://hotline.rainn.org/online
National Domestic Violence Hotline
- Website: https://www.thehotline.org/
- Free & Confidential 24/7 Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)
- Online Live Chat: https://www.thehotline.org/what-is-live-chat/
Love Is Respect (National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline)
- Website: https://www.loveisrespect.org/
- Free & Confidential 24/7 Hotline: 1-866-331-9474
- Online Live Chat: https://www.loveisrespect.org/for-yourself/contact-us/
Other Resources Include:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Victim Connect Resource Center National Hotlines
National Human Trafficking Hotline
Check out this GirlSpring article on protecting yourself from possible assault.