Following the death of Amy Lord, questions arose in Boston about how to prevent similar attacks in the future.
Gabrielle Rubin founded Female Awareness, a self defense course for women, and offered suggestions for how to become aware, prepared, and confident in the event of an attack. Her advice ranged from avoiding dangerous situations to basic self-defense maneuvers. “Things for the most part happen during transitions, when we’re out and about,’’ Rubin said. When we move from place to place, how we move sends a message to potential attackers. “If we’re focused and aware, we’re not easily on their target,’’ Rubin said. “Attacks begin before it gets physical.’’
The emphasis is on awareness, Rubin said, so avoid distractions and keep your hands free. “We tend to carry a lot of items. They look for people who have their hands occupied,’’ she said. Attackers do not announce themselves, either, so if you are distracted and using headphones, talking on the phone, texting, or e-mailing, you lose peripheral vision and become an easier target. “Nothing’s more important than your safety,’’ Rubin said. If you really need to take that call or respond to that e-mail, move to a safe place. Rubin recommended putting your back to a wall to avoid vulnerability or finding a store or safe space to pause. These suggestions are not just for early morning or late at night, either. “That’s the illusion of safety,’’ Rubin said. Attacks occur at all times of the day, so being alert makes sense at all times.
To move around smarter and avoid potentially dangerous situations, trust your instincts and increase your awareness. Cross the street to avoid suspicious people, fake a phone call, keep your hand on your safety item, or step into a store or safe space.
Avoid distractions—headphones, talking/texting/e-mailing on your phone.
Keep hands free.
Keep your keys accessible — store them in outer pockets, keep them on a carabiner, hook them on the strap of your bag then zip them in. “Don’t be fishing for keys,’’ Rubin said.
Keep your safety items accessible — they come as key chains for a reason. Rubin said anything from mace to small batons or “kubatons’’ can come in handy.
In the face of a potential attack, your reaction impacts the situation. Rubin said people react with fight, flight, or freezing. Fear can take over, and that is normal. “Of course we lock up,’’ she said, but there are ways to turn that fear into anger.
Flip your switch — this person thinks you’re weak, Rubin said, so get angry, not fearful, and stand up to the bullying.
Tap into an alter ego — imagine a character you admire and think what that character would do. “It’s easy for us to put on that hat,’’ Rubin said, because people who are not like that in everyday life can channel a different persona.
Who are you protecting? How would you react if someone you wanted to keep safe was with you?
If an attack comes to fighting, Rubin said, “keep it simple. I’m not trying to beat you up, I’m trying to get away.’’ To do so, here are some tips:
Use your voice — “We want to scream, we want to get attention,’’ Rubin said. Your voice has to have attitude and volume to attract that attention, so use a tone that’s going to make people stop and turn because they can sense urgency. Rubin recommended shouting “fire,’’ whether on the street or in a building. “If I yell ‘fire,’ it’s now your problem, too. If I yell ‘fire,’ every door should open,’’ Rubin said. ‘Help’ or ‘no’ are not always effective, she said, but ‘fire’ tends to require a response.
Practice using safety items — “In a crisis situation is not the time to learn,’’ Rubin said. In that vein, having these items accessible and having practiced gives you an advantage in escaping a bad situation.
Practice yelling — test out your urgent tone on crowds to find out what it takes to get someone’s attention, Rubin said.
Simple defensive techniques — It’s not about the strength, it’s about the speed. If you can react quickly, sharp movements can distract an attacker long enough for you to extricate yourself. Face strikes cause pain and take away an attacker’s breathing, hearing, or eyesight capabilities. Poke the person’s eyes and throat, taking aim at fleshy and bony parts. Thrusting your palm heel to an attacker’s nose, swatting the ears, striking below the waist, and focusing on what’s free, not what’s grabbed, can help as well. If they use their hands, use your feet to kick or stomp, Rubin said.
Practicing these tactics can boost confidence, Rubin said. Practice using your safety items, practice yelling, and practice your fake phone calls. “I’m a big fan of the invisible friend,’’ Rubin said. Though some people may feel safer on an actual phone call, a fake one gives you the power to control a situation, she said. Use your tone and words for the benefit of your potential attacker to create the illusion that you are not a target. Imply that you are about to meet someone on the next corner, if you’re on a street, or just inside an apartment, if you’re near a building.
Words also come in handy for the “flight’’ option, Rubin said, and you don’t even need to fake a phone call. If you come upon something suspicious, verbalize that you’ve forgotten something — milk, your wallet, anything — and do an about face. If you feel someone is following you, fake an emergency phone call and say, “I’ll be right there’’ (again, with urgency), then run. If you run without faking that call, Rubin said, an attacker is likely to sense fear and follow you.