We shouldn’t have to do this. But we do.
We shouldn’t have to be constantly worrying about our safety. And we especially shouldn’t be blamed for not being “prepared enough” or for simply “making bad decisions” when we get attacked on the streets. But the hard truth is that we are all at risk when we walk alone at night, and with the high price of convenience, sometimes, we don’t have much of a choice. Whether others understand that the party who should be condemned is the criminals who are out to mug, kidnap, rape, or kill us is important – but secondary. Our primary concern is protecting ourselves. These are some of the ways we can do that.
Travel in pairs or packs whenever possible
You are more likely to be the target of crime when you’re alone, so whenever you can, have a buddy or go with a group. If you’re coming from school or work, find out who lives in your area, and if their schedule is similar to yours, make arrangements to head home together. If you can’t find anyone at school or work to travel with, try asking your partner, friends, or neighbors.
Have at least one person who always knows where you are. Check in with a partner, parent, sibling, co-worker, or friend anytime you’re going somewhere unfamiliar. Tracking apps like Life360 can make this easier. Messenger and some other instant messaging apps allow you to do live location sharing with selected people or groups, too.
Be aware of your surroundings
This is especially important when the path you take is not well-lit, and when there are no crowds nearby. In situations like this, don’t have earbuds in both ears if you’re listening to music, and keep an eye out for any person or group that might be following you. Don’t dawdle. Get to your destination or at least a well-lit path as quickly as you can.
If you think someone is following you in a van or other car, go inside an establishment and stay somewhere where there are other people. If there are no open establishments nearby, turn around and run in the direction you came from. A car will need to maneuver to change directions. This will give you time to put distance between you and find someplace to stay.
Use tools for self-defense
Many of these can be purchased online or at a hardware store or specialty store. Carry at least one with you at all times, most especially at night.
Pepper spray or mace
Pepper spray is an inflammatory agent made to sting an attacker’s eyes and incapacitate them. Mace is an irritant similar to tear gas. Either of them will work well against someone trying to grab you, especially if you spray them directly in their eyes. This is a first choice for many women because you can use it to protect yourself even if the attacker is farther than arm’s length away. Available at some True Value and Ace Hardware branches.
Stun gun or tactical flashlight
These are electroshock weapons that administer an electric shock on contact. Some stun guns are built into flashlights. In my experience, these are preferable because they’re easier to maneuver and serve the dual purpose of acting as a weapon and lighting your way.
Compact knives are easy to buy and send a very strong message. If you prefer something more discreet, you can also invest in a pen knife. Keep in mind, however, that if you carry a knife, you may not be allowed to board at certain train stations or enter some buildings.
If you don’t feel comfortable carrying a weapon…
You can make your own pepper spray and put it in any spray/mister bottle. Boil salt water and allow it to cool, then put it in the bottle and leave some room for slices of sili or jalapeño. You can also add lemon juice and rubbing alcohol to the mix. Alternatively, carry a pen or slip your keys between your fingers so that you can stab or slice an attacker.
Personal alarms are available online and in some shops. You can attach them to your key chain or your bag and hit the button if you’re in danger to set off a loud alarm. This is also a good option for children.
How to ward off an attack
Some attackers will be discouraged if you tell them that you have a weapon or that you’re on the phone with the police or a loved one. Do not worry about being polite. If they are following you, tell them that you see them and you know. If they make a move towards you or if you see them draw a weapon, shout for help and take off as quickly as possible.
If they touch you, hit them where it hurts. Some of the parts of the body most sensitive to attack are the eyes, throat, and groin. Strike, claw, and grab at whatever you can reach. If you’re face to face with them, use the base of your palm to hit their nose. Strike from below, pushing upwards.
That said, you do not want to engage with an attacker. If you’ve hit them hard enough that they let you go, make a run for it. You don’t need to completely incapacitate them. Your goal is to get away from them.
What should I do after an attack or attempted attack?
File a police report as soon as you can. If you were physically and/or sexually assaulted, take photos and cooperate with the police and hospital to gather evidence before getting cleaned up. It will be painful and difficult. You will not feel like doing it. But it will make your case stronger and potentially help identify your attacker if they weren’t caught.
|National Emergency Hotline||911|
|Philippine National Police|
Ask someone you are comfortable with to stay with you. Reach out to friends and family if you want to talk about what happened. If you prefer to talk to someone you don’t know or if you feel that you need professional help, you can seek counseling. Click through for more information on the following:
The National Center for Mental Health – Women & Children Protection Unit (Mandaluyong)
Likhaan Center for Women’s Health (Tondo, Manila, Pasay, Navotas, Bulacan, Eastern Samar)