For rape to succeed, it requires that the victim and perpetrator be alone together and that the weaker person be overpowered by the stronger one. Though men are also raped under certain circumstances, women and children are more often targeted because they are physically weaker.
The worst case scenario would be for a woman to be cornered by a perpetrator in a strange place and attacked without any witnesses or potential rescuers nearby. However, rape more often occurs in familiar places where perpetrators are people known to the victim or who have some kind of social contact and thus have physical access to her. Nevertheless, the element of isolation remains.
Most people forget that before a rape can happen, a process must first take place. Rape is the culmination of that process. There is a window of opportunity wherein you can quickly change the odds to your favor, with a little alertness and quick thinking. Sadly, many are not aware of this and it shows in the statistics.
This doesn’t have to be the case. Here’s what you can do:
1. Carry a weapon. You don’t have to go around brandishing a gun. You can also carry a whistle, a swiss knife, some pepperspray or a stickpin.
2. Make sure that your residence is secure. If people, other than those living under your roof, can get in and out with ease, then something needs fixing. Secure locks, repair gates or door barriers, and establish rules of who can freely get in. Don’t open the door to a stranger if you are alone at home.
3. Be careful when entering or getting out of your car. If you are in an empty parking lot late at night, at least try to park near the guard. Don’t open the car remotely until you are within touching proximity of the door. When you get in, lock the doors quickly and don’t fall into the trap of taking a 5-minute rest or organizing your belongings or falling into some kind of meditation that involves you staring into space, especially when you’ve had a hard day. Immediately locking all doors upon entry should be a habit. If you have a problem with the car, use your mobile phone, stay inside, use emergency flashers and wait for the authorities to arrive.
4. Don’t cut off auditory signals. We often see joggers plugging in their ears to keep the whole world out or passengers wearing their earphones and drifting off to sleep in a public vehicle. Don’t do this. You need all five senses alert and undistracted if you’re going to protect yourself. Running with earphones (unless you are with a group or in a crowd during a marathon) is particularly dangerous. You might find yourself in isolated areas when it’s getting dark without hearing what’s coming behind you. The only other alternative is to outrun your attacker.
5. Pay attention to the shivers. Some people call it instinct. But whatever you call it, when you start feeling uncomfortable, uneasy, or anything remotely weird, get out of the situation immediately. Never mind the embarrassment if you turn out to be wrong. The main goal is to avoid the worst possible scenario.
6. Know your neighbors. Sun Tzu once said:know the enemy. He probably didn’t have rape in mind, but he was spot on when it comes to winning the battle through awareness. In your residential community, make sure that you know the people around you. Some people go by a reputation. Neighbors might be able to pinpoint who the dubious characters are such as drug addicts, thieves, abusive characters and violent people. In one village, one house was actually being rented out by a den of thieves and no one knew about it until an incident occurred and the criminals moved out, leaving unpaid bills in their wake. It pays to be a nosy neighbor.
7. Run to safety. Fleeing from danger is a given, but what most people forget is that it’s better to run towards a safe haven. If you run away with no thought to where you are heading to, you might just be leading your attacker to where he can corner you. Run towards bright lights, public places, gasoline stations, crowds or main roads.
8. Remember that rapists may be people you know. Studies show that majority of rape incidents involve people whom the victims know and possibly have trusted prior to the offense. Women involved in abusive relationships are particularly at risk. Mothers, especially those who work and leave their children behind must be wary of whom they leave their children to. Male relatives may also be potential molesters.
9. Don’t place yourself in an uncompromising situation. Things start innocently before they get worse. But it doesn’t happen instantaneously. If you have a strong sense of situational awareness, you will see what signs can quickly develop into a rape. This means being mentally alert and observant. If you are in a crowd of males with very few females around and booze is flowing, you can opt not to drink alcohol or be careful that no one is putting anything in your drink without you knowing it. If you find yourself trapped in an uncompromising situation, use deceit, make excuses or call the attention of a third party. For example, if you are on a date and locked in a passionate embrace with all signs quickly going towards an end that you’re not prepared for, you can tell your date that you need to go to the bathroom for a quick pee. Say anything that will make you free to run out the door.
10. Don’t use force, when you don’t know what you’re doing. You don’t want to engage a potential rapist in a fight when this is not your best skill. Your job is to get out, fast. But if you must strike back, aim for vulnerable areas such as eyes or groin.
Keep in mind that proactive attitudes don’t make victims. Prevention is key to effective protection.