By Matthew Schafer
Copyright 2008, All Rights Reserved
For women there are two places that are particularly dangerous because they are where nearly all of crimes against women are committed. These two places are 1.) "Living quarters" or residential settings, and 2.) Parking lots. It is in these areas that women should be the most vigilant because chances are that if they are attacked, robbed, rapped, or murdered it will occur, or at least start, there.
Hands down the most dangerous place for women is in a home or other residential setting. About 55% of attacks on women happen in "living quarters", which include her home, someone else's home, or other place such as a dorm room. In these places the attacker is usually someone the victim knows such as a husband, boyfriend, friend, relative, or general acquaintance. Over half of all violent crimes (which include assaults, forcible robberies, rape, and murder) committed against women happen in residential settings and are committed by people the woman knows; therefore women need to do three things:
1.) Not let your guard down. Many people see their homes as their sanctuary so as soon as they walk into their homes or go into the homes of someone else they think that they're totally safe. It must be realized that, for a woman, homes, apartments, dorm rooms and other residences are the most likely place for them to be attacked.
2.) Watch people for signs of aggression, control, isolation, and/or people trying to get too close to you. Since signs of aggression usually precede an assault you need to watch people for signs that they are becoming aggressive so you can act before an attack happens. Watch for people becoming angry, raising their voice, making fists, making threats, raising their shoulders, lowering their chins, trying to control you, or insulting you. If you notice someone becoming aggressive or controlling with you, even a close friend, then you should immediately remove yourself from the area because an attack my be forthcoming.
What is meant by people trying to get too close to you is both someone trying to get close to you physically as well as someone trying to get close to your life. You want to make sure that you are on the lookout for people standing too close to you or touching you when it is not necessary because often this is someone trying to sike themselves up for someone more, or testing you to see how much you'll let them get away with. If someone is getting too close to you physically you want to make sure that you look them in the eye and firmly and in plain English tell them that it is not appropriate and will not be tolerated. If someone makes a habit of this you should try to distance yourself from them as much as possible because they could become dangerous.
Always take notice if someone is going out of their way to be in your presence or to include themselves in your life. If there is someone who is really trying to be in your life you should definitely take notice. If that person, or another casual acquaintance, suddenly shows up at an opportune moment that should really raise a red flag. An often used tactic by stalkers and serial killers is to pick a "target" (potential victim) and then try to include themselves in their life. They might arrange things in a way that they always ride the elevator with their target or they'll always be in the target's favorite restaurant or hangout during their lunch break. It is being so close to their target without them knowing anything is wrong that is what excites them.
Something else stalkers and serial killers like to do is to create a problem and then conveniently show up to help. A common one is to disable their target's car and then suddenly show up and offer to give them a ride or work on their car. Once the target gets in their car they take them to an isolated area and usually kill them. They might also disable a door at your workplace or the front door to your house and then they show up to save the day. If suddenly an acquaintance shows up at an unexpected or conveniently time it is safer to refuse their help, get someplace safe, and then call someone to come and help you.
"Signs of isolation" means that someone is trying to get you into an isolated area. If you're in your home or in someone else's and there's someone who is trying to get you to go someplace isolated with them, take notice. It could be they're trying to get you to go into the next room, a basement, or out to their car, but if someone is trying to get you to go someplace that is isolated from everyone else it may be because they are planning on assaulting you. The more persistent they are and the more agitated they become if you decline to go with them the more you shouldn't. Read our publication entitled "On Predators" to learn specific strategies that predators use to lure you into vulnerable situations so that they can attack you. Being able to notice when people use these strategies on you could very well save your life.
3.) Practice residential security. If someone is known to you (meaning that they are not a complete stranger) and they are in your home or you're in someone else's, you should watch them for signs of aggression and for signs that they are trying to isolate you, because these usually precede an attack, and you should be able to spot most attacks from people inside your home, but you also have to deal with the criminal element trying to come into your home. To keep your home safe from criminals you should keep all your doors and windows closed and locked even when you're home and install an alarm system and keep it on even when you're home. Criminals know that most people will lock their doors and turn their alarm systems on when they're out but they usually don't when they're home. Criminals know that if they hit your home at they may have locked doors, windows, and an alarm to deal with, but if they break in around dinner time they can usually find on opened or unlocked door or window and the alarm will most likely be off. Also, never open a door for someone unless you know who it is first. It is not a good idea to have a window in your door because people can break it, reach in, and open your door, but you can put in a peep hole. Know who the person is before you open the door; NEVER rely on a little chain to keep you safe because it is easily broken. ALWAYS keep the door shut and locked until you have clearly identified the person(s) on the other side.
For more information on residential security and keeping your home safe from burglars read "Surviving Violence" which can be purchased at www.self-defense-lessons.com.
Although criminals can and do break into homes and assault women, it is far more common for the attacker to be someone that the victim is familiar with. In terms of being attacked by a stranger that is a common criminal, more often then not they'll hunt for and attack their victims in parking lots and parking garages.
Hands down there is one place where more crimes against women are committed than any other, and that place is a parking lot. Criminals commit more attacks against women in parking lots and parking garages than any other single place. The reason for this is simple, parking lots are prime locations for women who are not paying attention to their surroundings.
Parking lots are hunting grounds for criminals and we find time and time again that when a criminal wants money, sex, or just a thrill they go and stake out grocery stores, malls, or their parking lots. They either find a desirable target inside the store or mall and then follow them outside to their car, or they hang around in a parking lot until a desirable target presents themselves. Once they find their target they seemingly come out of nowhere and assault their victim and then run away or push them inside their vehicles and drive away to rob, rape, or murder them elsewhere.
Any time you are about to enter a parking lot you should have a heightened state of awareness. When you drive into a parking lot see if there are any "strange" looking people or groups of people and make sure that you park far away from them. Also try to avoid parking near vans because they will obstruct your view and people could be hiding in them. If you find someone that doesn't look right or if things just feel bad then leave and shop at another store.
When you leave your car to walk into the store first make sure to take a good look around before exiting your car and have pepper spray or another weapon ready. Have any objects like bags or purses in your non-dominate hand and keep your dominate hand free to use your weapon. When you walk towards the store make sure that you don't walk right next to parked cars because people could easily grab you; instead keep about 5 feet between you and any parked car. Keep you head up and constantly be looking around you.. Every 5 to 10 seconds or so scan around 360 degrees to see who is around you. Look to your right, to your left, and behind you. Use the reflection in car and store windows to see around you. Look for shadows of people by cars that you pass. Keep your head up and keep looking around you and not only will you dramatically increase your chances of spotting a criminal, you'll also make yourself a very unattractive target to any criminal that happens to be out looking.
When you're in the store or mall keep an eye on who is around you. Often criminals will stalk their victims before they attack and quite often they do it for an extended period of time. Be on the look out for anyone that appears to be watching you or paying too much attention to you. Also keep the "rule of three" in mind. The "rule of three" simple states that if you see someone once its fine, if you see them again at a different location then you should take notice, but if you see them a third time at another location then chances are that they're following you. Now, it doesn't mean that if you're in line at a store and you turn around three times and see the same person behind you that you have something to worry about. What it means is that if you're in a store and you see someone, then you finish there and drive to another store and see them there, and then you see them again at a third store...chances are that they're following you so you should take notice and be careful.
While residential areas are the number one area for violence against women, and parking lots and parking garages are number two, other "transitional areas" are number three. Transition areas are areas that people have to pass through to get to where they're going; these include parking lots, driveways, hallways, bathrooms, stairwells, alleys, and elevators. Any time you enter any of these you should always stop and look around to see in anyone is watching or following you. Look around and see if anyone is paying too much attention to you and only after to feel that it is "clear" should you enter.
Pay particular attention to public bathrooms, especially in parks and rest areas. Look around carefully while you're still a ways away to see if anyone looks suspicious, then look again just before you go in, and have your pepper spray ready. Criminals are not above hiding in bathrooms and often find it to be a secluded and safe area to assault someone.
Always remain vigilant and make sure that you're constantly looking around you to see who is there. Pay attention to your gut feelings because often they are smarter than you are. When you see someone ask yourself, "Is there something wrong here?", "Does this look suspicious?" and "Do they need to be there or be doing that?" If you pay attention you can usually see someone or something that looks out of place. If you see a man loitering in a parking lot or stairwell, stop and ask yourself those questions and see what answers you get. Often just by paying attention and questioning what's around you, you can see most attacks before they happen.