Sunday, July 1st, 2012

Consider a Self-Defense Course

When it comes to personal safety, I’m pretty paranoid–neurotically so–and there are a lot of things I don’t do because I worry about some really crazy, off-the-wall worse case scenarios that have a 0.001% chance of happening. Some things are common sense: you don’t really want to be walking in a dark alley by yourself in the middle of the night; you don’t want to hitch a ride with someone you don’t know. But too often, we don’t take enough precautionary measures until something does happen. It’s like installing an alarm system after you’ve been robbed. I didn’t want to be that person. I also didn’t want my fear/paranoia to have so much control over my life–I decided to be proactive and take steps to learn more about what I can do to help myself.

Self-defense is not about getting into fights with others; it’s about doing what you can to avoid or extricate yourself from a bad situation, which ranges from general awareness of who you are, your surroundings, and your own abilities to being assertive (not to be confused with aggressive) and making yourself heard clearly to defending yourself from a violent attack.

The local course I took talked about a crime triangle: opportunity, target, and motive/desire. Our instructor said we can only control two of these: we can avoid situations or be aware of potential situations thereby lessening the opportunity, and we can make ourselves a harder target by being aware, changing body language (appearing more confident), and equipped with knowledge of self-defense. I think this is really what I liked most about the course, because it taught me that it’s about gaining knowledge to be in better control of your life.

The course I took helped me understand more about myself, my fears, and my abilities. We covered things like how to use our voice to be assertive so other people would take us seriously (admittedly, nobody in my life would say I have a problem talking or being assertive), how to escape out of wrist grabs, body grabs, chokes, and even some ground grabs/positions, learned what parts of the body are sensitive, and (as women) where our strength comes from. It’s never about fighting and going one-on-one; it’s always about getting out and getting to a safe place.

I’ll also say that actually having people grab you, choke you (not actually compressing windpipes, but the feelings and sensations of having someone’s hands around your throat), and the like is unnerving–but I know how it feels. I now know how it feels so it will be slightly less startling if happens in a real-life situation, and I know a few techniques that might help me escape from them. I continue to practice those techniques, because you want them to become automatic responses.  It’s no different than being aware of your surroundings: how well lit is the area, what time will I be leaving, will I be alone, etc.  The more second nature the behavior becomes, the quicker you can respond, and the more confident you will be when you do.

I’m not an expert on self-defense, which is why I’m not trying to pass on every last bit I learned in a technical sense, but I wanted to pass on the value I received just from taking a short, simple course on it.  It also inspired me to get in better shape, because if I need to run, I want to be able to run, run, and run.  I recommend searching the web for local organizations or courses to take, and if you aren’t able to find one, check with local support groups for victims of domestic violence and/or rape or local police stations for resources. Self-defense can be valuable to both women and men, from kids to adults to seniors.

Self-Defense Resources

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63 thoughts on “Consider a Self-Defense Course

  1. Avatar of Joanna Joanna

    Very interesting, thanks for sharing, Christine!
     
    I also have an awareness of safety issues.  I’m always aware of my surroundings when I’m out and about (but not to the point of being paranoid) and at home, my doors  and windows are always locked.
     
    You have inspired me to take it to the next level and look into taking a self defence course.

  2. Excellent post, Christine. I think everyone should know how to defend themselves.

  3. Avatar of Cat Cat G

    I commend you for writing this on your makeup blog! I think it’s helpful advice. I worked at a women’s center on the university campus when I was an undergraduate and we offered self-defense classes by certified instructors that I thought were amazing and so informative. I always wished we could get every woman who entered through our doors to sign up for a self-defense workshop -and they were free!!

  4. Avatar of Veronica Veronica

    This is an awesome post, and you should feel awesome for posting it.

  5. Avatar of Emily 18thCenturyFox

    So glad you posted this- I’ve been seriously considering this lately. Where I live people rely a but too much on artillery to keep them safe. I would like an alternative that doesn’t require a concealed weapons permit.

  6. Avatar of Etaoin baby in a corner

    This is an interesting post. I would love to do this – sometimes getting taxis home after a night out on my own makes me anxious, although I am conscious of being rational about the situation – since friends of mine get taxis all the time. 

    • Avatar of Amy xamyx

      @baby in a corner You need to be cautious of taxi drivers as well. I had a taxi driver stalk me at work several years ago. Luckily, I worked mainly with men, and they made it clear to him that it was in his best interest to stay off the property.

  7. itscarin

    What prompted this?  It seems so out of place that it makes me think you had a recent scare.  Hope everything is okay.

  8. jktoml

    This is such a great post!  This kind of information is super valuable to give to readers– I imagine that most of us know (or are) survivors of assault.  Just to add to the post, many universities and colleges offer self defense classes for free or a low price.

    • jktoml

      Also, regarding weapons:  remember that anything you use to defend yourself (mace or otherwise) can be taken from you and used against you.  That’s why the best weapon is readiness and self-defense moves.

      •  @jktoml Very true! :)  When I googled around for how women coped with fear of being attacked, a lot of forum posts said they had a gun. Not every situation might have a gun, but if you have one, you’ve definitely escalated the situation and it can be used against you. Shaun and I are going to learn more about guns so that I have some experience with holding, shooting, disarming, etc. because I don’t know anything about them really. I don’t think I’m someone who wants to have one (just a personal choice).

        • Kasey

           @Christine (Temptalia)
           wow, I would have never guessed gun, my job tends to have me lightly dressed and less than protected(not a hooker), so my safety has always been solely in my hands, and I went with a knife, it just slips into the center of my bra and flips open fast so anyone close enough to do damage to me, is with in the range i can do damage back, because it’s been my observation that a gun just tends to escalate the situation, not because of the person holding it but because of how people in general react to them.

        • Avatar of Amy xamyx

          @Kasey @Christine (Temptalia) The thing about a gun (or any weapon) is you *must* be willing to use it, and not hesitate.

        • Kasey

           @xamyx    
           I guess the problem I’ve seen is the second a gun gets involved other people do to, and no matter how willing you are to use it the it’s no longer a single attacker single victim situation, though situation’s i’ve seen might not represent the statistical whole.
          I’ve used guns before, I don’t have an issue with them but at least in the situations i tend to be in they are definatly not the right choice for me.

        • Avatar of Amy xamyx

          @Kasey I just want to clarify what I meant; many times when a “victim” brandishes a weapon, be it a woman or a man, it’s often in that brief moment of hesitation that the weapon could be used against them by the “attacker”. Unless a person is fully *committed* to using said weapon, be it a knife, gun, spray, etc, it should never be revealed.

  9. nacacijin

    This is definitely a good idea for everyone. I carry pepper spray with me the majority of the time, but that’s really only going to be helpful assuming I have the opportunity to reach into my purse. But a friend of mine is a cop and does a few self-defense courses throughout the year and I volunteered to be his ‘assistant’ the next time he puts one on. I definitely recommend looking into these types of things…always better to be safe!

  10. Que

    considering that women are statistically more likely to be assaulted at a family reunion or a birthday party than by a stranger in a dark alley or parking lot (assaults like these are a small sliver of attacks, you’re more likely to be harmed by a friend or family member), self-defense seems to be kind of a crapshoot.
     
    this is nice in theory, but the current narrative of learn self defense always be on your guard etc is a false and damaging one for two reasons, one of which being that it completely ignores that the majority of assaults do not happen like that. another is that once again the onus is put on the potential victim rather than the criminal. we live in a culture where this predatory concept is celebrated and perpetuated, that women and girls are something to have and to do things to, and that assaulting us is merely a shrug in the long run. changing this attitude and starting while boys are young can help with this but you never hear that. it’s always ‘girls it’s up to you to make sure a horrible, violent crime doesn’t happen to you even though it happens because the criminal made that choice on their own’  and not ‘boys, men, don’t rape. don’t assault women. no means no, her being unconscious means no, her freezing up and not being responsive means no, twelve no’s and one timid yes means no, her being drunk means no, anything other than an enthusiastic yes, means NO.’
     
    but that would mean holding men accountable for their actions.
     
    and another thing, commonly known as fight or flight. some people legitimately freeze up in fear. so you know self-defense, you can do things in a controlled environment. that doesn’t mean a damn thing when you’re in a real situation. being threatened like that is completely different than practicing on a punching bag and everyone reacts differently, but there is no wrong way to do so.
     
    here’s the thing. rapists rape. it doesn’t mean a damn what you wear or how you act or what you say or where you are or how strong you are and how many self-defense courses you take, they do it. it happens because they make the decision to commit this crime. they will find a way. keeping up the narrative that women are personally responsible and accountable for the actions of a rapist and the culture that supports it is cruel and a huge factor in why these crimes are grossly underreported and kept silent.
     
    and no, being assaulted is NOT like having a home broken into. the difference being that one is things and stuff, and the other is a living, breathing human being being violated. big difference.

    • Do we not teach ourselves how to drive properly and to learn how to handle emergencies? Do we not practice fire drills or create family emergency plans for what to do in the event of a natural disaster? 
       
      Learning how to defend yourself from any kind of attack doesn’t mean the woman’s at fault or even suggests that the attacker is blameless.  We live in an environment where attacks happen, whether by strangers or by people we know, I don’t see how learning about self-defense and becoming more aware about yourself/environment is damaging. 
       
      Taking a self-defense course is as much about building self-confidence as it is about making you more aware, giving you techniques to get out of grabs, etc.  It helps people learn what is and isn’t okay – it gives them support to know that they can even submit if that’s the safest way for them to come out of it alive – and then to report.
       
      We take so many precautionary measures in all avenues of life from insurance, to where we live, and the like. This is just one more – for life. 
       
      I don’t believe in an all or nothing approach. Education on every level should occur, but it doesn’t mean that educating yourself is worthless. It’s a scary world out there and there are scarier people in it.  I’m not certainly not responsible for a drunk driver careening on the road, but because I’m aware of the cars driving around me, I know to avoid that car.  
       
      I didn’t say being assaulted is like having a home broken to – you completely misread what I said.  I said that we take precautions too LATE – many people don’t install an alarm system in their home until after they’ve been burglarized.  e.g. too many of us don’t look into self-defense until after something happens.

    • jktoml

      There is a constant and strong narrative that victims of sexual assault are somehow responsible for their crimes, it’s true.  However, I am troubled by this comment: “it doesn’t mean [what you do]. it happens because they make the decision to commit this crime. they will find a way”  There is a difference between victim blaming/shaming and disempowering women.  Teaching women that sexual assault is a real possibility and how to protect themselves does not mean that if they fail to defend themselves, it is their fault.  Self defense is not part of the stigmatization of victims.  
       
      But saying that “they will find a way” no matter what is incredibly insulting.  It’s true, victims don’t have control over the situation.  But why do you discourage them from TRYING to gain control?  How is it that saying “well, those moves you learned won’t help you one bit” AT ALL empowers or even SUPPORTS women?
       
      I think we all understand the harsh reality.  Rape culture not only romanticizes and gives lenience towards rape, it also adds hugely to victim blaming.  Frankly, your comment isn’t telling us anything new.  It only seems to be judging women who choose to learn self defense as a comfort.

      •  @jktoml Well-said! :)
         
        It was not my intention to get into all of this in the post – only to convey what taking a self-defense class did for me. I got really tired of letting that paranoia and, essentially, the criminals that do exist, control me on that level. 
         
        What I learned may or may not help me at all in a real life scenario, but I do know that at least I have a few tools in the toolbox that I might be able to use.  Better than nothing, IMO. 

      • Wordnerd

         @jktoml Indeed. In addition, the self-defense skills of asserting your boundaries, using your voice, and acting decisively may have been learned in the context of “a stranger might attack me”, but could turn out to be helpful and empowering in an actual context of “oh my god, this guy who I thought was a friend is acting really skeevy and predatory toward me.”

    • Miss J

      I get nothing from this comment.
       
      I’m not seeing ANYWHERE in Christine’s OP about victim blaming. NO WHERE does she state that if you don’t take a self-defense class or if you don’t do this or that then it is your fault. In any criminal case, IT IS *ONLY* the person committing the crimes fault. POINT BLANK PERIOD.
       
      Learning about self-defense is about having some sort of peace of mind. Does that mean the person taking a self-defnese class will never be attacked. NO, OF COURSE FUCKING NOT. Self-defense is about being aware of surrounding, and learning what attackers typically look for with victims, and then teaching moves that may help in a situation. You are basically writing off self-defense classes as a joke that will never help anyone. I would suggest asking someone who has been attacked that used a technique from a self-defense class what they think and feel about those classes.

    • Avatar of Veronica Veronica

      I agree with your over all point that accountability (especially in regards to sexual violence) is often placed on the victim.  Unfortunately, there’s no quick fix to the gender politics that undermine “no means no.”  I completely agree on striving to change the cultural narrative that tells men that women are responsible for their actions and strips victims of the sympathy and respect they deserve, but since that isn’t happening anytime soon, I’m not going to stop suggesting self-defense as a valuable tool.
       
      Frankly, sexual assault isn’t the only reason to learn self-defense.  I would suggest self-defense for both men and women because life itself is a crap-shot.  You can’t predict what’s going to come your way.  Maybe you will freeze up and the self-defense is rendered moot – and in that case, the victim still deserves to be treated with compassion.  But if there’s a slim chance that self-defense mechanisms kick in at the right moment, it could save your life.

    • Avatar of Terri TerriMcMillanMansfield

      I think “being on your guard” is a smart idea.  For example, I park in a large garage in the city for by job.  Because I am on my guard I have my keys out and ready, I walk down the middle of the garage and even assess the cars next to me to see if they are occupied or not.  If they are, I will go as far as getting in my car on the other side.  Once I am in my car I shut and lock the door immediately.  I learned these things as part of self-defense.  
      I realize that nothing at all is foolproof but shouldn’t we do what we can to help ourselves to the extent that we can?  Being on your guard, to my way of thinking, is neither empowering attackers nor blaming victims.
      I’m just trying to protect myself, and that is the message I took from Christine’s excellent post.

      • Miss J

         @TerriMcMillanMansfield Whenever I walk to my car, I always have my hand on the alarm button!!
         
        Assessing whether the cars around you are occupied or not is a good suggestion. I always check to see if anyone outside if following me to my car or after I get in the car, but I’ve never paid much attention to whether the cars were occupied!

    • frou frou

      Fine, I think we all get the point that you shouldn’t blame the victim or that “the narrative that women are personally responsible and accountable for the actions of a rapist”, etc. is wrong. Of course it is. 
       
      But I don’t think it’s in any way helpful to discourage women from learning some self-defence, or taking note of what might place them at greater risk of harm. 
       
      I also take issue with this: “here’s the thing. rapists rape. it doesn’t mean a damn what you wear or how you act or what you say or where you are or how strong you are and how many self-defense courses you take, they do it. it happens because they make the decision to commit this crime. they will find a way.”
       
      Even if a rapist is determined to rape, as you say, there’s no reason to make it easier for them. There is a big difference between an attempted rape and a successful attempt at rape. We can work to change the current cultural narrative, but again, there’s no reason to discourage efforts to thwart individual instances of violence. 

  11. Avatar of Nell NellRamey

    Good for you Christine. Being prepared never hurt any situation.

  12. lucy

    Great article, thanks for sharing Christine x

  13. LJ777

    This has really made me wake up to how lucky I am to feel safe and confident to be out and about on my own without the paranoia and fear many seem to experience. I really and truly haven’t appreciated the way I naturally feel, so I have to say I’m glad you brought this to my attention – I won’t take it for granted anymore.

  14. Robba

    I’ve been meaning to take a self-defense course.  I know that there is a possibility that something may happen even if one learns self-defense but I like the idea that at least I put up a fight to defend myself instead of just not knowing what to do.  I mean, yes in a real situation, it’s scary and there are different emotions but taking a course is way better than have the situation arise and completely not know what to do at all.  I’m going to take a closer look at this.  Thanks Christine for this post!

  15. sshine0923

    I took Tae Kwon Do for 10 years and it has definitely changed my life. Though, of course, the self defense moves are very important to know and practice, I find what most helped me was the self confidence I gained from it. I worked in a free clinic in one of the most crime ridden parts of Miami and I realized that though I couldn’t change the location of where I had to be everyday,  my ability to be aware of my surroundings, to walk with my shoulders back and head raised high, to look people in the eye as you walk by them, and to ‘appear’ like you can handle any circumstances thrown at you plays a big role of preventing you from becoming a victim.
     
    I would definitely encourage all to look into the self defense classes, and kudos to you Christine, for posting this on this site.
     
    -Sunny.

    • maddy

       @sshine0923 I also took Tae Kwon Do for about 10 years when I lived in Miami–wonder if we went to the same school!  Anyway, I completely agree.  I am who I am today because of the self confidence I gained.  Self defense skills aside, it has helped me with so many things.  Women in legal careers or other professional settings are sometimes criticized for not speaking as assertively as their male counterparts, but I’ve always been commended for this side of my personality.  All that yelling and training helped in more ways than one!

  16. Avatar of Esther EstherKudron

    While I’ve not taken an actual self-defense course, I have a stash of tips and ideas stored away in my mind to (hopefully) help me, should anything ever happen. I’m a tad paranoid, and since moving to the city, that paranoia has come out. It’s unfortunate that I feel like I have to be this way, but there’s unfortunately nothing to do, as I can’t control the actions of others. Kudos to you, Christine, for taking the step and empowering yourself. A little confidence can go a long way sometimes.

  17. Avatar of Jessica Jessica M

    Thank you Christine for posting this on your beauty blog! It’s so important to raise Women’s Safety awareness!

  18. Garianne

    Great post Christine.  I think self defense classes are a great idea.  One other suggestion I would make is a book called “The Gift of Fear: Survival Signals that Protect us from Violence” by Gavin De Becker.  It’s a great book that helps you recognize how we can easily dismiss our intuition - especially women. We’ve all been taught not to go to a laundromat at 3am, not to walk down dark alleys etc…  This book helps to broaden those areas and to make us tune in to our gut instincts.  For example, women are taught to be “nice” and “polite” and that can often lead us to rationalize away our fear.  One example in the book involves an elevator.  You’re waiting for the elevator and when it finally opens, there is someone in it that you immediately get a “bad feeling” about.  Many times, we tell ourselves “don’t be ridiculous” regarding that bad feeling and we’ll get on the elevator.  What we should do – rude or not – is to listen to our instincts and NOT get on the elevator.   Anyway, it’s really about how to recognize a potentially dangerous situation before it happens and how to avoid them.  It’s worth a read.

    • The other day I was waiting for the elevator, and then there was a man who came up and was waiting, too.  I ended up taking the stairs – it was just one of those moments like, “It’s probably fine, but I could use the exercise…”  Thanks for the book recommendation!

      • ms

         @Christine (Temptalia) i read somewhere that it’s safer to take the elevator anyways.  stairs are more unsafe. 

        • It’s probably a combination of location/time/what kind of foot traffic is around there. It can go either way – elevator = trapped box with someone; stairs = could be pushed/abandoned.  The stairs I took were open to the public (as in visible from street level and at any corresponding level), so they weren’t enclosed and other people were going up/down at the time.

    • Miss J

      I get totally skeeved out in an elevator alone with a stranger, especially when it’s something like an elevator in a parking garage. I know most elevators have cameras and emergency buttons, but it just totally freaks me out unless I’m with someone else.

    • NeenaJ

      The book you mentioned, “The Gift of Fear” is one of the most empowering things I’ve ever read.  An absolute must for anyone who is even remotely interested in the topic.

  19. MichelleG325

    I don’t comment on your blog often but after reading this post I had to say something. I commend you for discussing this topic. I live in a very large city and don’t always feel safe alone at night, much like many women I know. My neighborhood isn’t necessarily unsafe but the city alone can at times be a scary place. That doesn’t make us women with low confidence. The reality is attacks happen everyday, whether it’s a friend, family member or stranger. There is absolutely no harm or shame in taking precaution by going to a self defense class that can possibly help save your life if you do happen to me attacked. I never once thought to take a self defense class and you’ve honestly inspired me to do so. 
     
     

  20. jewelz101

    Thank you, Christine! Just because you are paranoid, does not mean you are wrong! Paranoia and fear are our strongest intuition against harm. :o)

    •  @jewelz101 Ah, well, I mean – we’re not talking about intuition so much as just irrational fear – for example, if it’s late at night and I’m home alone. I have a full alarm system and a 60 pound dog to boot (who has a very big, mean-sounding bark), but sometimes I feel paralyzed by fear/paranoia.

  21. Hear, hear! 
     
    I know that it can be hard (or, at least, it is for me) to post about issues that really matter to you, especially when they’re not strictly related to your usual subject matter, so I just wanted to say thank you for posting this. 
     
    There’s a huge difference between victim-blaming and simply encouraging women to be as vigilant as possible, and I think your narrative falls distinctly within the latter category. You can’t change the fact that we live in a society where women are exponentially more likely to be the victims of crimes than the perpetrators of them, but that doesn’t mean you can’t change how appealing you might be as a potential victim. So many of our socialized behaviours are submissive ones, and I think women underestimate how much of a difference mere presentation & prevention can make in a conflict scenario. 
     
    Anyhow, ramble over. It was really good to hear that your self-defence classes helped alleviate your fear — I think it’s good to be wary (not a popular opinion, I know), but it definitely becomes a problem once it’s immobilizing. <3 

  22. Jasmine Valistreri

    Thank you for posting this. I haven’t thought about taking any courses simply because I like to pretend that nothing bad will ever happen to Me. But we’re all someone else to someone else and I think I should get my head out of the ground and sign up for a class or two. :)

  23. Jasmine Valistreri

    This was an inspiring post, but it, and the comments below are bittersweet. It’s great that you’re using your visibility and internet traffic to promote awareness, but the sad part is that is so often a female problem. Anyone who uses the argument that feminism is a lost cause because we already have equality just needs to read this post and these comments to see that there is still a lot to be concerned about.

  24. Avatar of Stefanie Beauty Queen from Mars

    I also want to thank you for this post. So many women are reading it and you use it as a platform to talk about very serious matters – chapeau Christine. 
     
    I only want to add this – to all the girls, PLEASE be always aware that men socially close to you are MUCH more likely to harm you than any stranger on the road! Same for children by the way. 
     
    So even if you think you know someone pretty good, do not totally  let your guard down and listen to your instinct. Of course, self-defense courses are really good to boost your self-confidence and for a few tricks, such as how to get out of being held or grabbed etc.
    But please, do also  look out for signs of abuse in your girlfriends (sudden change of behavior etc.). Her Mr. Nice Guy might not be as nice as he seems. 
     
    Just be aware, OK? Thank you. 

  25. zainab

    One of the big things that leaps out at me from this post is what the course (at least the one Christine took) teaches about situational awareness. Being able to defend yourself physically in the unlikely event of an attack is great, but being able to know what situations to avoid/regulate is gold. 
     
    A lot of the comments talk about this as a female issue, and, whilst I don’t entirely disagree with that I think it is important to remember that men are as likely to be victims of ‘stranger assaults’, though the context might differ. I’ve seen lots of punch-ups and fights at bars or nightclubs that come down to the men involved not being able to diffuse the situation before it turns violent. 
     
    More people should probably take courses like this; thanks Christine for bringing it up anyway. 

  26. AmberPye

    Being equipped with self-defense techniques is good, but really, you can’t know when you will be attacked.
     
    Last year I was walking my dogs at mid-day along a busy bike path. We stopped at a frequented dog field (Not a park, per se, but there were two women and their children in shouting distance, a woman approaching with a dog, and some college students picnicking, and this was after passing multiple people along the path itself, and cars, and etc… You get the picture) and I was assaulted by a man.
     
    Despite all my “Go away” body language, my dogs (Often considered defensive animals) the number of people nearby, the potential traffic that could increase, the close proximity of the police station, the TIME OF DAY. People do not only get assaulted at night, in the dark, alone, while cringing along in fear. They are also assaulted in the daytime, while confidently walking on a beautiful day, surrounded by other people.
     
    There is no knowing. I’ve had guys hoot at me at night while walking through my (Terrible) neighbourhood, and I have less fear of that than I do walking alone down the busy bike path, now.

    •  @AmberPye I’m sorry to hear you were attacked, Amber! My intention was not to say it only happens in the dark and cringing in fear – that is my particular fear and what motivated me to look for ways to control that fear.

      • AmberPye

         @Christine (Temptalia) I hope the course you took gave you some ways to control your fear =) I just wanted to point out something that many people don’t consider when they think about assault: that it can occur in broad daylight, in a “safe” zone. Lots of assaults take place between people who know each other, too, but people still think it’s a nighttime-alone-in-a-bad-area thing. People not knowing that assault can occur when they feel safe is just as dangerous as them not knowing how to defend themselves should they be assaulted.
         
        It shouldn’t be dangerous to not be vigilant all the time =( As much as I hope you feel safer, I wish you didn’t feel you had to take this course at all.

  27. KK

    Kudos to you!  In addition to being a makeup junkie, I’m also a criminal prosecutor–so this makes me happy to read.  The likelihood of random attacks is fairly low, but it’s great to know ways you can help protect yourself from harm.  Personally, I carry a firearm occasionally and keep one in the bedside drawer (I’ve had a full safety course).  I’ve just briefly skimmed the comments, and would only add 1) I don’t see, in my course of work, a lot of female random sexual assault victims–random attacks are actually more motivated by drug addicts, it would seem.  Robberies, etc.  And 2) regarding guns, if you’re not 100% comfortable with one at first (I wasn’t), but are still open to owning one, you should look into a revolver. In my opinion they’re easier to handle, clean, load, and unload.  I have small hands and the semiautomatic slide action guns are harder for me to wrangle with.

  28. cariexx

    Great post, Christine! This is definitely something people need to be thinking about. I’m going off to college next year and I plan on taking a self-defense class so I’ll be safer once I’m out on my own. My granddad took judo and he learned a lot about self-defense (he actually did have to use it to defend himself once) and he’s always encouraged me to be proactive about it.

  29. Lynne

    Ten years ago, on an unseasonably warm Friday in January at 9pm, I was standing on the sidewalk outside my (6′ 6″ male) best friend’s house in Hollywood as he was locking up the front door before we headed off to dinner,  Two guys drove up and within seconds – with neighbors standing around the street often only a few houses away – proceeded to rob us, putting a gun in my mouth (telling me to stop screaming or he’d blow my head off).  They then ordered me to walk away from my friend, who was pushed up against his front door with the gun at the back of his head.  As I walked down that street, thinking I’d be shot in the back and this was where I was going to die, they got back in their car, backed up, opened the car door and grabbed my arm in an attempted kidnapping.  I somehow shook them loose, ran for my life – literally - hurdled over a neighbor’s hedges and stayed hidden in bushes of thorns until they gave up looking for me and drove off.
     
    I’m not telling you all this to scare you.  I just want to offer two pieces of very hard-won advice.
     
    The first is that while self-defense classes are wonderful and empowering for women, and I endorse them wholeheartedly, sometimes no matter how hard you’ve worked, the situation requires brains more than skill.  The guys who robbed us were young, stoned and had nothing to lose.  I would never have admitted it to anyone before that incident but over the years, I’d thought through how I might act and talk my way out of such situations if caught in one.  I taught myself to instinctively pull my arms into my shoulders to let my sleeves cover my jewelry.  I began keeping my credit cards in a case separate from my wallet; believe it or not, the guy who robbed me asked only for my wallet and when I fumbled to take it out, I thought to throw it as far down the sidewalk to separate us.  Somewhere in my head, I had worked out solutions that I somehow remembered to bring forth when I was faced with people for whom all bets and rationale were lost.
     
    And the second point is:  as Christine mentioned in her blog post, the unknown factor is always that stuff can happen, no matter how much you strive to do the right thing.  Before my incident, I never walked down dark streets alone, never left my apartment door unlocked to just pick up the laundry or mail, never drove with my car doors or windows open.  I did everything right.  Privately, I’d look at my girlfriends who left their handbags hanging on the back of restaurant chairs or drove convertibles solo at night and think:  they’ll have a problem, not me.  Aside from the phenomenal fear and sadness I experienced long after the attack, the biggest hurdle I had to overcome - and I ultimately sought out a therapist to help me with it - was why me?   As I learned, that’s a very common reaction, particularly among women.  You can’t control everything.  And if something happens after you’ve done everything right, your efforts still weren’t wasted.
     
    And if I can add a final note, if g-d forbid you ever face such a horrible situation and come through okay physically but not necessarily mentally, you’ll be amazed at how wonderful people can be,  Not the police:  more often than not, they’ll treat you like a number, a minor case for them, and leave you to your own devices,  But so many incredible people, some just acquaintances at work, will step up to the plate and make you feel loved, protected, safe.  I had women I barely knew at work come forward privately, tell me they had survived similar incidents and form a network around me to help me hold onto my sanity.  My best friend’s aunt, who had met me once before, took us in for as long as we wanted to stay with her.  My boss quietly assigned coworkers to follow me home so I felt secure and, later, find excuses to take me out to dinner or the movies.  And one middle-aged male business contact who was normally so gruff that I couldn’t wait to end a phone call with him decided my return to normalcy was his mission.  When I was so phobic that I couldn’t leave my apartment, he literallly came upstairs to my apt door to get my garage door opener…drove his car into our garage and nearly blocked the entrance, pulling up so close that I felt safe…left the car there (!) and came upstairs to escort me down…and took me out to a fancy restaurant I’d been dying to try just about driving up on its sidewalk so I had only two steps to the front door.  And he did that every other week for nearly a year, with no ulterior motive beyond helping me.  A decade later, I remember every single person who showed me such kindness and I adore each of them.
     
    So please take the self-defense classes,  But also please do some thinking in your private time about how you’ll use those lessons but also your fabulous brains and wits to take care of yourself.   

    • Thank you so much for having the courage to share your story with us, Lynne!  It is always sad to hear about such tragic happenings, but it is encouraging to hear stories of survival and it sounds like you’re doing a whole lot more – you’ve found the support you need, taken the steps needed to understand and move on from the event.  Thank you again!

  30. MiettaReynolds

    Thank you so much for this post. This is incredibly important for women in particular and it was very smart of you to post this on a blog where (mostlyl!) women come together. I have always thought about doing a self-defense course, we did some in high school but not enough to really ingrain it in us. After reading this and some stories throughout the comments, I will definitely take the course and maybe even take up some martial arts. Thank you so much Christine. Much love xoxo

  31. Hear hear!  As a rape survivor I want to thank you so much for using a medium that reaches so many women to bring attention to such an important issue.  I’ve never seen another beauty blogger do this, and it sets you apart from the horde.  Just taking a quick break from talking about makeup to get real for a while is both infinitely valuable to your readers and also it highlights your heart and how much you care for the people who follow your blog and your work.  Thank you thank you thank you.  I just wish someone had put me in a course before I was 13.  I hope your advice helps some other woman never have to go through what I’ve got to live with my entire life.  Again, thank you.  I think you saved some lives with this.

  32. Y

    neurotically obsessed over personal safety = over inflated ego/self-importance 

  33. bananacave

    That’s a great idea. I think it’s something good to do every 1-2 years to keep it in mind (kind of like a CPR class).